Coastal erosion. Creeping shorelines. Storm-induced flooding. Climate change is posing an immediate threat to the abundance of biodiversity in Santa Cruz. Climate change only continues to worsen. The three most recently elected City Council members all ran with environmental issues as part of their  platforms. 

City on a Hill Press spoke with two of the new members about their plans to combat climate change locally. 

When you ran for City Council, you ran with environmental issues as part of your platform. Why did you feel that was important? 

Donna Meyers:
The environment and climate change are key issues we, as local government, cannot lose track of in our policy focus. The environment includes issues such as water supply and water quality, preserving our habitats and species and protecting the biodiversity that is so unique to our region. Climate change causes pressure on our ecosystems and will disrupt resources we need to survive including water, food systems and biodiversity. We must act to adapt as a community and lessen greenhouse gas emissions. 

Justin Cummings:
We understand that climate change is something that’s real. A lot of the impacts like salt water intrusion, sea level rise, intensity of wave action, water availability and fires are going to have a big impact on our community moving forward as we continue to grow. We need to be conscious of how changes in our environment are going to affect us and what we can do to help mitigate those changes.

What do you feel is the biggest environmental issue we face in Santa Cruz? 

Climate change will create landscape scale change to Santa Cruz including sea level rise impacts, such as inundating areas where people currently live, our water supply sources and our infrastructure, such as how we process our wastewater. 

It’s hard to pick just one environmental issue. There are so many that are on equal playing fields. Drought, sea level rise, salt water intrusion and fires are all big issues in Santa Cruz. 

How do you feel Santa Cruz is impacting climate change in positive or negative ways?

Santa Cruz is ahead of the game in some ways — identifying and planning for necessary adaptation actions and informing our community and conducting planning for reduction of GHG [emissions] both in city facilities and for our larger community. Encouraging bike, pedestrian and transit for travel, providing safer bike routes and assisting with solar are all examples of how the city is working on climate changes goals. Also, helping people live closer to employment areas and creating walkable neighborhoods are important to reducing GHG emissions.

We’re moving forward with trying to get more people to bike and bus. We were recorded as the second highest bike commuting rate in the U.S. In addition to that, we’re trying to get more people on buses and trying to improve recycling and water-use efficiency throughout our city.

Are you currently working on any environmental based projects with the city council? 

I will be working on plastics reduction for ocean conservation, water supply and climate change adaptation issues in the coming months. I will be working with Save Our Shores and the County of Santa Cruz in efforts to reduce plastic contamination into Monterey Bay. Working with Council Member Sandy Brown, we will include both reduction activities as well as education and outreach efforts in time for Earth Day. Water supply efforts will center around actions following a study session with our Water Commission and necessary planning to identify a permanent option for drought contingency. This work will include outreach to constituents served by our water system and education about preferred options. I will approach climate adaptation in my appointed seat on the Environmental Policy Committee of the League of California Cities. 

I’m getting ready to work on a project with Donna Myers and Cynthia Matthews on offshore oil drilling. We haven’t really started on it yet, but it’s pretty much trying to keep offshore oil drilling off the coast of Santa Cruz. 

What do you have planned for the future regarding environmental policy? 

I would like to continue to reduce GHG emissions through transportation and urban planning and finalize the future for our water supply options including preserving native fish populations. I serve on the METRO Transit Board and I see bus transit as key to reducing GHG emissions in the future combined with other Transportation Demand Management actions. Our native fish populations will depend on choosing a drought supply project that provides adequate water for fisheries on the north coast and in the San Lorenzo River. 

I’m going to be working with Tiffany Wise-West [Sustainability and Climate Action Manager of Santa Cruz]. We’re going to be on a Climate Action Task Force and we’re trying to build sustainability more firmly into the city and work on how we move forward regarding sustainability. We can reduce our carbon footprint in all the activities we do. It’s really important to reduce our carbon footprint as much as we possibly can and hope that cities throughout the United States will also continue to do so.

Drew Glover was unable to respond in time for publication. He said his time has been occupied combating the houseless crisis in Santa Cruz.