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San Diego's climate change plan flying blind, auditor says

Taxpayers and city council in the dark re potential costs

Mayor Todd Gloria and the council's Democratic majority are wrestling with a yawning Covid-19-caused deficit
Mayor Todd Gloria and the council's Democratic majority are wrestling with a yawning Covid-19-caused deficit

San Diego's so-called Climate Action Plan, frequently ballyhooed by ex-mayor Kevin Faulconer as part of his self-styled middle-of-the-road campaign to become California governor, lacks city council accountability and risks unknown expenses for taxpayers per a new report by city auditor Andy Hanau.

Ostensibly intended to cut the City's greenhouse gases in half by 2035, the plan as administered under the city’s Sustainability department is a costly empty vessel, the February 18 performance audit says.

"Despite several attempts, the City has not yet developed a fiscal planning document to project the future costs of implementing the actions necessary to meet the [Climate Action Plan's target], says a key finding of the report.

"Implementation cost estimates would need to be based on implementation plans, but these plans do not currently exist."

Consistent with the former mayor's reluctance to share information with the public, the audit notes, "there is no City requirement for [Climate Action Plan] Annual Reports to be presented to the full City Council."

As a result, the council is largely in the dark, the document says.

"In response to our survey of Council Offices, only one of the eight responding Council Offices indicated that they receive enough information regarding the [Climate Action Plan] 's implementation progress."

Additionally, the report says, "There is no City requirement for City Council Staff Reports to specify how an item helps to implement or support" the climate plan.

While new Democratic mayor Todd Gloria and the council's Democratic majority are wrestling with a yawning Covid-19-caused deficit, there is virtually no way to check the City's burgeoning bureaucracy, per the report.

"The Sustainability Department does not currently have authority or mechanisms to hold departments accountable for [Climate Action Plan] implementation and may require additional staffing to effectively carry out its duties."

Auditors determined that cities throughout the state have come up with better ways of monitoring climate issues, including "written progress reports to City decision-makers" and "utilization of climate action plans in the budget process" in Los Angeles.

San Diego's deficiencies have negatively impacted both budgets and results, the report says.

"A 2020 report by the Brookings Institution ranked the City of Los Angeles as having the largest percentage decrease in [Green House Gas] emissions; the City and County of San Francisco as having the second-largest decrease, and the City of San Diego as having the sixth-largest decrease."

But a truly functioning climate action effort won't come cheap, based on the audit's findings in other jurisdictions.

"Los Angeles has a Chief Sustainability Officer, Deputy Chief Sustainability Officer, and a Sustainability Team housed in the Mayor's Office, as well as Departmental Chief Sustainability Officers at each of the departments involved in the implementation of Los Angeles' Sustainable City pLAn."

"Further, to ensure accountability and departmental alignment with the pLAn, Los Angeles requires all General Managers, heads of departments/offices, and commissions of the city government to provide updates and regular written reports on achieving and exceeding the outcomes in the pLAn to the Mayor."

Thus, getting up to speed at San Diego's city hall may require new hiring, colliding with post-Covid19 budget reductions, the audit says,

"Sustainability has only 4.00 [Full Time Employees] that are able to work on [Climate Action Plan]-related activities," according to the document.

"Therefore, Sustainability could benefit from completing a staffing analysis to determine whether additional staff resources are needed to effectively carry out the department's duties and to implement the recommendations of this report."

A February 17 memo from the City's Chief Sustainability Officer Erik Caldwell did not challenge the audit's findings but offered no ringing assurance of speedy reform.

"We anticipate adoption of the [Climate Action Plan] implementation plan in August of 2022, with full completion of this recommendation by December 2022," says the memo.

"Although full implementation will not occur for some time, the Sustainability Department will docket the [Climate Action Plan] annual monitoring reports for presentation to the full City Council annually during the month of March."

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Mayor Todd Gloria and the council's Democratic majority are wrestling with a yawning Covid-19-caused deficit
Mayor Todd Gloria and the council's Democratic majority are wrestling with a yawning Covid-19-caused deficit

San Diego's so-called Climate Action Plan, frequently ballyhooed by ex-mayor Kevin Faulconer as part of his self-styled middle-of-the-road campaign to become California governor, lacks city council accountability and risks unknown expenses for taxpayers per a new report by city auditor Andy Hanau.

Ostensibly intended to cut the City's greenhouse gases in half by 2035, the plan as administered under the city’s Sustainability department is a costly empty vessel, the February 18 performance audit says.

"Despite several attempts, the City has not yet developed a fiscal planning document to project the future costs of implementing the actions necessary to meet the [Climate Action Plan's target], says a key finding of the report.

"Implementation cost estimates would need to be based on implementation plans, but these plans do not currently exist."

Consistent with the former mayor's reluctance to share information with the public, the audit notes, "there is no City requirement for [Climate Action Plan] Annual Reports to be presented to the full City Council."

As a result, the council is largely in the dark, the document says.

"In response to our survey of Council Offices, only one of the eight responding Council Offices indicated that they receive enough information regarding the [Climate Action Plan] 's implementation progress."

Additionally, the report says, "There is no City requirement for City Council Staff Reports to specify how an item helps to implement or support" the climate plan.

While new Democratic mayor Todd Gloria and the council's Democratic majority are wrestling with a yawning Covid-19-caused deficit, there is virtually no way to check the City's burgeoning bureaucracy, per the report.

"The Sustainability Department does not currently have authority or mechanisms to hold departments accountable for [Climate Action Plan] implementation and may require additional staffing to effectively carry out its duties."

Auditors determined that cities throughout the state have come up with better ways of monitoring climate issues, including "written progress reports to City decision-makers" and "utilization of climate action plans in the budget process" in Los Angeles.

San Diego's deficiencies have negatively impacted both budgets and results, the report says.

"A 2020 report by the Brookings Institution ranked the City of Los Angeles as having the largest percentage decrease in [Green House Gas] emissions; the City and County of San Francisco as having the second-largest decrease, and the City of San Diego as having the sixth-largest decrease."

But a truly functioning climate action effort won't come cheap, based on the audit's findings in other jurisdictions.

"Los Angeles has a Chief Sustainability Officer, Deputy Chief Sustainability Officer, and a Sustainability Team housed in the Mayor's Office, as well as Departmental Chief Sustainability Officers at each of the departments involved in the implementation of Los Angeles' Sustainable City pLAn."

"Further, to ensure accountability and departmental alignment with the pLAn, Los Angeles requires all General Managers, heads of departments/offices, and commissions of the city government to provide updates and regular written reports on achieving and exceeding the outcomes in the pLAn to the Mayor."

Thus, getting up to speed at San Diego's city hall may require new hiring, colliding with post-Covid19 budget reductions, the audit says,

"Sustainability has only 4.00 [Full Time Employees] that are able to work on [Climate Action Plan]-related activities," according to the document.

"Therefore, Sustainability could benefit from completing a staffing analysis to determine whether additional staff resources are needed to effectively carry out the department's duties and to implement the recommendations of this report."

A February 17 memo from the City's Chief Sustainability Officer Erik Caldwell did not challenge the audit's findings but offered no ringing assurance of speedy reform.

"We anticipate adoption of the [Climate Action Plan] implementation plan in August of 2022, with full completion of this recommendation by December 2022," says the memo.

"Although full implementation will not occur for some time, the Sustainability Department will docket the [Climate Action Plan] annual monitoring reports for presentation to the full City Council annually during the month of March."

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Comments
2

No oversight, no performance measures, no accountability.

Proof that the City's "Climate Action Plan" is nothing more than a mantra invoked to justify every community plan-busting scheme on behalf of developers from Complete Communities to Plan Hillcrest.

Feb. 22, 2021

Webmaster: thanks in advance for fixing this

Feb. 23, 2021

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