VISTA — By next spring, the city of Vista will have its first citizen-led commission devoted entirely to local environmental matters.
The commission’s specific responsibilities will be to develop an annual work plan, review updates to the city’s Climate Action Plan, explore funding opportunities to achieve local environmental goals and provide a public forum for residents to express concerns or suggestions regarding environment and climate matters.
Recruitment for the seven-person commission will take place in early 2024 as part of the city’s annual recruitment process for all city boards and commissions. Members will be appointed from the pool of applicants by the City Council, and terms will begin April 1.
“I’m very excited about it. It’s a long time overdue, and I do think a lot of good things will come from this,” said Councilmember Dan O’Donnell.
Several Vista residents began pushing for an environmental commission after seeing the success of the Encinitas Environmental Commission, which was established in 2014.
North County climate activist Joe Houde, a Vista resident and chair of both the North County Climate Change Alliance (NCCCA) and Sierra Club North County Group, began requesting the creation of a commission at each council meeting starting at the beginning of 2023.
With just one administrator currently managing Vista’s Climate Action Plan, Houde said a commission of residents helping the city achieve its climate goals will be extremely beneficial. He said the current status of climate change is “code red for humanity,” and that everyone needs to be doing their part to help out.
“The core idea was to ask the city to let citizens participate and bring more energy to our climate action problems because, frankly, we have a much bigger problem than the staff is able to take on,” Houde said. “You’ve got citizens willing to donate their time, effort and knowledge to help the community — why would you turn it down?”
Other residents involved in climate action, such as Nanci Oeschle and Janis Jones, have noted that a commission could help the city implement new measures in support of the environment, such as the 2021 single-use plastic ban, as well as educate the community.
“There’s a wealth of things the commission could do to support the city council and the staff,” Jones said in September.
As with the planning, parks and recreation, and traffic commissions, the environmental commission will serve as an advisory body to the City Council, meaning members can vote whether to recommend or not recommend items.
While the appointment process is still some months away, Councilmember Corrina Contreras said she is looking forward to nominating someone from her district, and that she would like to see accommodations made for Spanish-speaking applicants.
“I look forward to talking to my residents in District 1,” Contreras said. “We’ve got a lot of champions of the environment over there.”
Apart from Encinitas, a few other cities in the region have local bodies dedicated to the environment. These include an environmental commission in the city of San Diego, the Climate Action Commission in Solana Beach and the Del Mar Sustainability Advisory Committee.
“As a climate activist for a number of years now, I believe it’s just crucial that we get every city — at every level of government in fact — involved in taking meaningful and urgent action,” said Houde. “It’s encouraging that we have a city council that listened, and is willing to say, ‘OK, let’s do this together.’”
Meeting dates and times for the environmental commission remain to be decided. Application information will be made available on the city’s Board and Commissions page at cityofvista.com/city-hall/city-clerk/online-resources/boards-commissions.