Manhattan Beach, The South Bay’s Greenest City

obama-is-new-green Happy New Year!

I hope you’re as happy and energized as I am about Obama’s impending Presidency and his game-changing energy and environmental appointments. If you’re not, then you’re probably part of the problems we’ve been having and your unhappiness is something I can live with.

The Creative Greenius says you can now expect a bold United States policy on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, a rapid shift away from carbon-based fuels to renewables and a science-based approach to water policy and other critical resources.  In fact, you can bank on our country  following the green lead that’s been set here in California.  And again, if that bugs you – so much the better.  Change is but mere weeks away.

It’s all coming eight years later than it should, but the Climate Change Calvary has now arrived and they’re riding hard and fast.

More about what all that means to you, and your family and your job to come in our next Creative Greenius post, but first let me tell you what’s happening in Manhattan Beach, California just a few miles up Pacific Coast Highway from my home.

(c) Steven R. Thompson. Used with permission of California Seascapes

When it comes to progressive cities they don’t get any greener or more environmentally responsible than Berkeley, California up north.  The Greenius says that Santa Monica is the Berkeley of Southern California and Manhattan Beach is the Santa Monica of the South Bay.  The South Bay being of course the neck of the woods I write these posts in.

I’m a huge fan of their 2007 publication, mb-enviro-pub1Working Toward A Greater, Greener Manhattan Beach” and I’ve been learning a great deal from their city’s presentations at the South Bay Green Task Force meetings I attend.

So it was an easy yes for me when Sona Kalapura,  the Environmental Programs Manager for Manhattan Beach, invited me to attend 2008’s final meeting of the Manhattan Beach Environmental Task Force held just one week before Christmas.

Knowing that the Manager of Planning & Water Resources for West Basin Municipal Water District was the guest speaker and that the citizen subcommittees would be making their year end presentations was the whipped cream on the milkshake for me… Hey – some people dig football, others like to play video games, still other get their jollies by shopping.  But your Creative Greenius gets his kicks from task force happenings.  I was so in.

Sure I’d love to be on an equivalent Torrance Green Task Force here in the city I’ve called home for almost 16 years now, but there isn’t one yet.  I’ve applied for a post on the city’s Environmental Quality and Energy Saving Commission, but it looks like there won’t be an opening there till 2011.  So I do what I can.

Manhattan Beach Mayor Pro Tem and green dynamo, Portia Cohen started the Task Force’s monthly public session with some news of her city’s latest environmental achievements:

  • Fees for solar panel installation have now been waived to encourage residents to go solar and the permit process has been streamlined.
  • Both the City Police and Fire chiefs are now driving city owned alternative fuel vehicles.
  • The new city taxi franchise agreement calls for alternative fuel or high mileage vehicles to replace 25% of the fleet.
  • The drought is causing the city to push water conservation and discuss possible penalties.
  • Manhattan Beach’s plastic bag ban is stalled by a court injunction brought by the bag manufacturers.logo_wbmwd

Fernando Paludi, from the West Basin Municipal Water District gave a detailed and sobering presentation on where Manhattan Beach’s water comes from, why there’s much less available now and why the future looks drier and more expensive than ever.

Their story is no different from any other city’s.  There’s no good news anywhere on the water horizon.


As you may recall (but who could blame you if you forgot in all the hubub of the primaries and the Lakers being in the NBA Finals and all) Governator Arnold declared a statewide drought in June of 2008.  The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California then declared a water supply alert – urging all of Southern California to achieve extraordinary conservation in order to protect our water storage reserves.

Last year we had the fourth driest spring on record, after a record dry year. The Colorado River, where we used to get a lot of our water, is also suffering from eight years of dry weather with its two major reservoirs down to 50% of their capacity. California State reservoir water levels are also falling dramatically.  The before and after photos Fernando showed were dramatic and kind of scary.


On top of these weather droughts, we have a regulatory drought on water coming from northern California to southern California. Most of the water Southern California needs comes from the northern California. Our northern California water has been cut 30% to protect the environment and Delta smelt fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta.

drought20pixBecause we are dependent on an outside water supply and that supply is being seriously constricted while also going up in cost, it is imperative that we learn to use less water and use it more wisely.

That’s the message Fernando delivered, but it wasn’t shocking news to this well informed group of citizen environmentalists.  They had insightful questions and they had presentations of their own to give.

The Task Force has four subcommittees –

Each of them delivered an update on their group’s progress in the areas they’ve been tasked to explore and report on: the Development of a Climate Action Plan; Water Conservation and Storm Water Management Issues;Waste Reduction and Recycling; and Sustainable (“Green”) Design.  I was impressed with the quality of the presenters and their presentations.

City Staff from the the Manhattan Beach City Manager’s Office, and the Community Development and Public Works departments, all assist the Task Force in their work.   These folks are serious about their responsibilities and their presentations were thorough and insightful. Although the commitment is serious, the camaraderie and positive attitude in the room were tangible.  It was fun to observe it all but it would have been a lot more fun to be an active participant.

I know Hermosa Beach, another South Bay city between mine and Manhattan Beach is now in the process of choosing citizens for it’s own environmental task force and it’s only a matter of time before Torrance does likewise and gives citizens like me the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to greening our city.  I’ll be ready when they are.


3 thoughts on “Manhattan Beach, The South Bay’s Greenest City

  1. Joe,
    Wonderful job! Thanks for the insight and please keep up the good work. Please tell me your take on putting in artificial grass to decrease water use. Thanks!

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