Lake Oswego's Climate Action Plan nears the finish line
Lake Oswego Sustainability Network member Duke Castle and City Sustainability Advisory Board co-chair Eliot Metzger say they're almost ready to take the wraps off the final draft of Lake Oswego's Climate Action Plan, following a yearlong development process.
The two sustainability advocates pitched the idea of a Climate Action Plan to the City Council in January 2017 on behalf of their respective organizations. The idea was met with a mix of enthusiastic, cautious and skeptical reactions from councilors, but the group ultimately agreed to add the creation of a climate plan to its list of 2017 goals.
Some of the councilors expressed concern when City Sustainability and Management Analyst Jenny Slepian discovered that other cities had spent upwards of $200,000 in consulting fees to develop their own plans, but Castle and other LOSN members pledged to collectively donate 1,000 hours of their time to help develop the Lake Oswego plan in-house instead.
"I think we hit the 1,000 hours pretty easily," he says now, looking back at the development process.
Castle says LOSN and SAB have been at the center of the effort, but it ultimately expanded to include many other City advisory boards and a large number of City staff. SAB meetings only took place bimonthly, Metzger says, so the project had to have a separate working group that met on an as-needed basis.
City Councilor Jeff Gudman served as the council liaison to the SAB this year, and he urged the group to put an emphasis on actionable items. Other councilors had expressed similar direction at the start of the project, and it's something Castle and Metzger say the development group took to heart.
"It was very clear to us that they wanted actions, not just a plan," Castle says. "So that's what they're getting."
The close-to-final version of the plan focuses on 10 high-level recommendations spread across four "action areas." Metzger says the group views the document as more of a summary of possible actions rather than a sequential plan; the idea is that future City officials will be able to use the document as a guide and source of ideas when developing new policies.
"What we'd love to see is this become something the City Council looks at again each year," he says.
The four action areas are Transportation and Connectivity; Buildings and Energy; Consumption (Food and Materials); and Resources and Resilience. Each one includes two or three recommended actions, such as electrifying transportation or cutting food waste in half.
The plan also recognizes three distinct actors: City government, the Lake Oswego School District and community groups. Each recommended action is further broken down into multiple suggestions for how each of the three overall groups can take action.
In the example of electrifying transportation, the plan encourages the City to facilitate the construction of additional public electric vehicle charging stations and procure EVs for its own vehicle pool. Meanwhile, the school district is encouraged to pursue the acquisition of electric buses, and community groups are encouraged to promote the public adoption of EVs through public events, demonstrations and literature.
Castle says the goal is to allow specific groups to claim "ownership" of certain tasks, making them more likely to be brought to fruition. Lake Oswego's Watershed Council, for example, has expressed interest in working with LOSN on the issue of tree planting.
"Somebody has to feel responsible for it," Castle says.
The plan concludes with a section about implementation strategies, discussing the ownership concept and making recommendations. It also recommends that the City communicate progress on climate issues using a currently-in-development "quality of life dashboard" online tool, as well as periodic assessments of the greenhouse gas emissions that would likely be generated by the City's development plans.
In the long term, Castle says he hopes to see the City take ownership of the plan and process, both because cities tend to be large contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and because the City as an institution will likely outlive most of its residents.
Castle says the writers followed a suggestion from City Manager Scott Lazenby to keep the main plan limited to six pages, making it easy to quickly digest. For anyone looking to dive deeper into a particular topic, there will also be a roughly 50-page appendix section with more detailed information.
SAB and LOSN members are still making final tweaks to the current version of the plan ahead of this weekend's City Council goal-setting retreat, where councilors will get an opportunity to discuss the plan and offer more detailed feedback. But the councilors have already gotten a chance to review an early draft, and the responses have generally been positive.
Castle says he hopes the council will pass a resolution endorsing a final version of the plan at some point in late January or February.