San Luis Obispo County’s Local Adaptation Outcomes
Planning Pool authors, Daniella F. and Dylan M. are at the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference in Charlotte, NC, for the next few days. We’re going to be liveblogging the more interesting conference proceedings. You can follow us on twitter @planningpool or with the hashtag #np4sg2011
San Luis Obispo County in California is a politically conservative area that was challenged in drafting and implementing a climate change adaptation plan. Faced with resource cuts and shortages and climate change disbelievers, the County struggled to create an effective adaptation plan.
The speakers, Kate Meis and Supervisor Jim Patterson outlined a number of factors that contributed to the strategy’s success:
- Utilizing current opportunities- general plan updates and community plan, state and federal funding, planning and zoning to outline no build areas. For example, California’s AB32 gives local government. Lot of support to plan for climate change.
- Overcoming uncertainty about climate change impacts and data by phasing implementation- there were a number of low hanging fruits that had to be done anyways and others that ought to be done to prepare for climate change. Then as climate change data becomes more certain, more challenging tasks can be undertaken.
- Strategic Messaging- San Luis Obispo County, having a more conservative culture, framed climate change mitigation planning in popular topics, like air quality improvement, water conservation, public health, economic development, and other local issues.
- Local Champions- The County made sure that local officials were on board from the beginning, using the media to promote the project and its supporters. The County felt that it wasn’t enough to have just the regional government, city manager, and key staff on board. Buy in from elected officials was key.
- Getting the right people at the table- As the process unfolded, the county found that some people that ought to be at the table were not involved yet. So, there were some challenges bringing new stakeholders into the process and getting their buy in at a late stage.
Like all conference proceedings, the presentation was a bit short on the “how’s.” For example, how do we get elected officials to buy in? Also, during the Q&A, attendees challenged the presenters to speak more specifically about how they formulated their strategy, what data and tools they used, and how the plans address vulnerable communities and communities of color.
Personal note- I’ve been to a couple of climate change related conferences and this was the first one where the audience was more than hungry for “how do we do this” and bordering on anger for “why aren’t we doing more?” Also, there seems to be a lot of communities that are framing climate change within public health, because matters of life and death have more political traction. It was also concerning to hear an ICLEI representative talk about the lack of good and consistent data about climate change and the lack of precision in modeling the local impacts of climate change.