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Oceanside considers hiring climate action plan coordinator

Oceanside — In two months, the City Council will consider creating a new position responsible for implementing the city’s Climate Action Plan goals.

On Feb. 14, the council directed staff to expedite the hiring process and present a proposal to hire a climate action plan coordinator at the April budgetary workshop.

The coordinator position would primarily focus on implementing strategies supporting the city’s Climate Action Plan, including applying for grants tailored toward environmental and sustainable goals.

The Climate Action Plan, approved in 2019 as part of the General Plan Update, is designed to help the city meet the state’s goals for reducing emissions by implementing short-term measures.

The plan sets the city’s renewable energy procurement goal at 75% by 2030 and includes reduction measures targeting energy and buildings, water and wastewater, solid waste, transportation, land use, agriculture, and forestry.

However, most of the council rejected Councilmember Eric Joyce’s request to create a Sustainability and Climate Action Plan Commission to update and monitor CAP progress and formulate policy recommendations on sustainable practices.

If approved, the commission would have been formed after hiring a new climate action plan coordinator.

Joyce argued that such a commission was necessary to maximize grant opportunities for updating the city’s infrastructure with sustainable approaches, emphasizing the urgency before grant application deadlines. Mayor Esther Sanchez supported Joyce’s proposal.

“Sadly, we’ve already missed out on some funding sources,” Joyce said. “There’s no time to waste.”

Deputy Mayor Ryan Keim and Councilmember Rick Robinson were unconvinced that a commission would be more efficient than necessary, citing concerns about additional staff time and energy.

“I think we’re putting the cart before the horse,” Keim said.

City Manager Jonathan Borrego wanted to onboard the new coordinator before assigning oversight to a municipal commission.

Joyce’s motion failed 2-3, with Councilmember Peter Weiss, Robinson and Keim opposed.

Several members of the public spoke in favor of both establishing a climate-related commission and hiring a coordinator, highlighting the slow progress of the Climate Action Plan since its approval five years ago.

“No one can be satisfied with the slow implementation of the CAP,” said Oceanside resident Diane Nygaard. “The City Council hoped it could be achieved without committing resources, but we’re a city with lean staffing, and adding a new program with changing regulations that require coordination across departments and agencies competes with other demands.”

Oceanside resident Richard Newton cautioned the city about spending “vast sums of money” on “something that might not occur or be settled” regarding climate change impacts.

According to the city’s webpage, the last update to the Climate Action Plan was on Aug. 25, 2020.

Borrego said staff has not entirely ignored the plan, noting that the city’s Water Utilities Department is pursuing strategies to support local climate goals.

“We actively monitor grants, but it requires significant staff time,” Borrego said. “If we hired a CAP administrator, one of their duties would be to diligently pursue grants.”

Nygaard and others said that nearby cities like Carlsbad, San Marcos and Vista already have sustainable and climate action plan coordinators.

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