The environment didn’t fare too well under city of San Diego officials in 2012, but at least most elected officials improved their scores in the Environmental Quality Report Card when compared to 2011’s pitiful performance. Notably, the average grade in 2011 was a measly D+.

The average grade for 2012 rose to a C. That’s not something to brag about, but at least it’s a passing grade. Almost everyone did better in 2012, with the exception of then-Mayor Jerry Sanders:

The entire City Council improved its ranking by voting unanimously on numerous positive environmental issues, including the Water Policy Implementation Task Force, approving the purchase of emergency generators for sewage pump stations, accepting the recycled water study, blocking the Quail Brush energy project, approving the California Property Assessed Clean Energy financing program and dedicating park and recreation lands.

It was City Councilman David Alvarez, however, who earned the top grade in 2012 by casting a vote in opposition on two controversial environmental issues: approval of the Convention Center expansion environmental review and a contract for legal services to continue the city’s evasion of environmental review for fireworks and special event permitting. Notably, the city’s vote on the Convention Center expansion — which was largely in the press because of its questionable financing and economic viability — is now being held up because of the Coastal Commission’s concern over environmental impacts, including sea level rise.

In 2012, environmental groups made a commitment to increase their communication with the council in the hopes of improving the city’s environmental stewardship. We’ll continue to reach out to our elected officials to let them know not only which votes are important, but why they make such an impact on our environment.

Some of those issues are no secret, but they’re important enough to highlight here. First on the list is the forthcoming Climate Mitigation and Adaptation Plan. The previous version under Sanders was more of what we’ve come to expect from don’t actually address climate change. It’s not shocking in light of Sanders’ report card grades. Hopefully the council moves forward with an enforceable plan that truly addresses climate change.

Another issue on the horizon is the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant waiver, which is once again a focal point as the application deadline looms and the city slowly advances indirect (or direct) potable reuse. The city’s current pursuit of this economically and environmentally superior water source is promising and, although it’s been a love fest so far, environmentalists (and the Coastal Commission for that matter) are prepared to take the city on if it tries to squeeze in another waiver without an enforceable commitment to indirect (or direct) potable reuse development that includes meaningful milestones.

The city is long past due in updating many of its community plans, including Barrio Logan’s. The council’s priority should be providing Barrio Logan residents with the opportunity for a clean environment since this community is in ranked in the top 1-to-5 percent of communities in the entire state for environmental justice challenges (i.e. health hazards).

Lastly, the Regional Water Quality Control Board just approved a new storm water permit for the region, which could potentially bring us one step closer to lifting the 72-hour ban on entering the water after it rains. The cities typically band together to appeal every new storm water permit and it doesn’t look like this permit will be an exception. Hopefully the city of San Diego will reconsider its apparent commitment to fight against clean water, and instead take a leadership role in implementing the permit in a way that sets a positive precedent for the rest of the county.

You can download the full report on the League of Conservation Voters San Diego website.

Livia Borak is the president of League of Conservation Voters San Diego.

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