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Urban Sustainability of Santa Monica, California

Updated on April 15, 2020
Rhylee Suyom profile image

Rhylee Suyom has hopped in three different worlds: the academe, the corporate, and the media. He enjoys being with nature and his family.


Urban Sustainability of Santa Monica, California

As the population grow every year, the environment also has less space to offer for occupancy. Every place gets crowded, not just of people but also of cars coming and going, different stores offering variety of products, all kinds of factories and everything that contributes to pollution. It seems man cannot exist in the world without destroying it as well. There are resources which continue to decrease and are not even replenished. Sustainability pertains to the ability of the world to sustain its resources. It can also be defined as actively living without depleting resources for the next generation to survive. When people talk about urban sustainability it means being able to build buildings and structures in cities without getting rid of the trees or running out of resources. There are also challenges existent in an urban environment which is not present in other urban areas. But as each city grows or expands in area so does the land decreases in terms of availability for other occupants. That is why it is now common to see among cities with limited land area different building which are built higher than the rest just to be able to provide space for other people. Growth in area of the cities also means reducing the area of the suburbs wherein the edges or boundaries between cities and the suburbs are also drawn further and further apart. This is the biggest challenge in urban development, so it does in urban sustainability (Urban Cities, Sustainable Goals).

The Sustainable Effort in California

Based on the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, the State Law of California specifically established a comprehensive program that aims to fight global warming. The said program targets to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from all possible sources around the state. But how does the state ensure that this is implemented? The State of California serves as the leader in the energy efficiency standards and environment protection. They have identified the harmful gases like carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur, hexafluoride, hydroflourocarbons and perflourocarbons as listed also in the Kyoto Protocol (Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006).

Santa Monica and the Power of its Community

Santa Monica enables itself to utilize the power of the community in order to enhance the resources and prevent causing harm to the natural environment and health of the community while social and economic benefits are generated. As the guiding principle of the city effective and sustainable decisions may be achieved and this are outlined in their Concept of Sustainability Guides City Policy. The city considers it their ultimate priority to protect, preserve and restore the natural environment. The value of environmental quality, economic health and social equity are all mutually dependent. In making decisions long term implication on the sustainability of Santa Monica is considered. They have emphasized on community awareness, responsibility, participation and education as key elements in achieving a sustainable community. To strengthen their sustainability policies Santa Monica, give due recognition on the partnership and linkage it has established with regional, national, and global communities. In terms of program implementation, they choose first the issues which are most important to the community and the most cost-effective policies are likewise selected. As they believed there is no need to spend so much just to ensure the success of the program. To control the negative impact on the environment the city commits to strict procurement decisions and collaborate with cross-sector partners to achieve the desired sustainable goals. Policy makers are guided by the precautionary measures as they design and plan for the complementary framework of the sustainability plan. And finally, Santa Monica commits itself in protecting and ensuring the sustainable rights of its residents, natural communities and ecosystems (Office of Sustainability and the Environment).

'Santa Monica enables itself to utilize the power of the community in order to enhance the resources and prevent causing harm to the natural environment and health of the community while social and economic benefits are generated.'

As a sign of their commitment to urban sustainability, Santa Monica has crafted their Climate Action Plan which reflects their course of action towards reducing the gas emissions that contribute to greenhouse effects. Since 1990 until 2015 they have set their targets from 15% to 20% below the levels in 1990. This was achieved through the effort of the City departments and divisions as well as the cooperative efforts of the local utilities and State government. Every member of the community from residents to business owners and regional partners, each took part to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions by adopting energy efficiency measures. Some of the specific actions done include the mandatory adoption of solar ordinance and water projects initiated by the Property Assessed Clean Energy program. This has saved the city a total of 279, 106 kWh. LEED solar and EV charging plus a thousand bike parking spaces have also been noticeable in the city. The city also had a Bulky Item Collection and Move In/Move Out Program, HHW collection which reduced the 100, 000 lbs. collected wastes from landfills annually. There is also a bike share system, reduction on water usage thus decreasing also the demand for imported water needs. With the 586 trees planted during the Expo and Esplanade projects there has been a significant reduction in methane emission resulting to energy efficiency project savings (Environment, 2015).

Given the significant reduction on gas emissions the city government of Santa Monica continue its work until it achieves the target of 80% reduction of carbon emissions until the year 2030. Now the Climate Action Plan focuses on three major sectors: zero net carbon buildings, zero waste and sustainable mobility. In terms of resiliency Climate Adaptation emphasized on climate ready community, water self-sufficiency, coastal flooding preparedness and low carbon food and ecosystems. And until today the plan is being modified in order to include the measures and information to keep the action plan relevant and updated to the emerging needs of the community (Office of Sustainability and the Environment).

Comparing the situation of Santa Monica and their action towards urban sustainability with our municipality there are similarities and differences. The action plan of Santa Monica is more specific and detailed. While looking at our municipality’s plan of action it was mainly talking about counter checking of the community’s condition with the EPA standards. There is also establishment of the carbon neutrality target for government operations, creation of short-term goals, production of multiple-city wide and municipal inventories of GHG, the information contained on recently released progress reports, and inclusion of adaptation strategies for health and social services.

The focus and emphasis of our community in its sustainability plan deals with the proper disposal of waste, waste reduction, reduce, reuse, and recycle. It makes a difference when there is a community project that would compel people to adopt in order to contribute on the reduction of gas emissions. Sustainability cannot be achieved by merely looking at the facts and figures from the report. Targets must also be set specifically in order to determine whether the municipality was able to meet the standards.

But at least our municipality has included in its plan the innovations on building and structural design which are more sustainable and utilizes materials which has minimal impact on climate change. Most of the structure being built now around town is environment friendly, meaning some already uses modern lighting system that promotes energy conservation. Bodies of water are also cleaned and maintained in order to keep possible supply of clean water and lessen the reliance on commercially produced supplies. It is refreshing when there are still trees around the town to give a breather amidst the tall buildings. It is considered in the building design now around town that trees should not be cut down even when there are improvements on the roads or even when building houses, the architect finds a way to incorporate in the design the existing natural resources.

Personal Reflection

It is interesting to note that there is already a growing awareness of the condition of the environment and how resources are depleted. As people move into the modernization and urbanization it is still important to consider the condition of the natural resources and how man’s actions harm the environment. People yearn for more space when there is just limited space, then man thought of building taller buildings. The streets get crowded by too many pedestrians and vehicles the response is to widen the roads at the expense of cutting down trees. Man does not care that much of the consequences for as long as he gets what he wants and enjoys the products of modernization and technology. People get instant gratification and satisfaction from different products without being too conscious that these are made of harmful ingredients and add more to the pollutants in the air.

It is good to know when the state, the community and the business owners understood the impact of urbanization and collaborates to minimize the harmful effects. But if it will only be the residents or business owners, there won’t be any successful plan of action not until the state supports it through laws, policies and programs. Cities and suburbs differ in their situation, respond to their needs in different ways but it must be realized by everyone we all share the same world, the same earth and if one would work to save it while the rest waste it then there is no point in pursuing sustainability projects. It must be a unified effort, maybe not with the same course of action but at least everyone needs to act his part in order to achieve urban sustainability.


Environment, O. o. (2015). City of Santa Monica: Climate Action Plan. Santa Monica: City of Santa Monica.

Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. (n.d.). Retrieved November 19, 2019, from Source Watch:

Office of Sustainability and the Environment. (n.d.). Retrieved November 19, 2019, from City of Santa Monica:

URBAN CITIES, SUSTAINABLE GOALS. (n.d.). Retrieved November 19, 2019, from Global Platform for Sustainable Cities:


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