Supervisors propose more sustainable operations in county government

Plaque held up pronouncing San Diego Botanical Garden Day
Saturday was San Diego Botanical Garden Day in the county and was celebrated at the Encinitas facility with a plaque presentation. Shown left to right are San Diego Botanic Garden President and CEO Ari Novy, San Diego Canyonlands Executive Director Clayton Tschudy, A Growing Passion TV show host Nan Sterman and Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer.
(Courtesy of office of Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer)

Board of Supervisors will consider steps to preserve Southern California native plants and discuss the creation of an office of sustainability on May 5.


More native plants could be protected and county government programs would have a renewed focus on sustainability under proposals that will go before the Board of Supervisors next month.

Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer presented details of the proposals Saturday morning, April 24, at San Diego Botanic Garden, where she was joined by Ari Novy, president and CEO of the garden and former executive director of the U.S. Botanical Garden. While at the Encinitas facility, Lawson-Remer also presented Novy with a plaque proclaiming April 24 as San Diego Botanic Garden Day.

Lawson-Remer said three proposals will go before the board on May 5. One, proposed with Chairman Nathan Fletcher, would create a comprehensive native plants landscaping policy.

Another proposal she co-wrote with Supervisor Nora Vargas will ask all county departments to create their own sustainability plans. A third, co-written with Fletcher, would look at how the county keeps track of its sustainability efforts, possibly leading to the creation of a office of sustainability.

Lawson-Remer said creating a comprehensive native plants landscaping policy is needed to help the fragile and threatened ecosystem of Southern California.

“San Diego County has 1,700 native plants, which is the most of any county in California,” she said. “Our biodiversity is a really, really important resource for our community and future generations, and these native plants are quite fragile. This is a difficult ecosystem, and if we don’t invest in making sure we’re preserving their opportunity to flourish, it’s easy for them to get crowded out and for that species diversity to collapse really quickly.”

Novy said climate change, invasive species and development already are threatening some local species such as the Encinitas Baccharis, which he said is found in very few places.

“Unfortunately, the Del Mar Manzanita likes to grow exactly where people like to build their houses,” he said about another threatened species.

About 20 percent to 40 percent of all plant species worldwide, as well as in San Diego County, are threatened, Novy said.

Lawson-Remer said a comprehensive policy on native plant landscaping will have broad benefits beyond just saving any particular plant.

“When we talk about maintaining San Diego’s ecosystem, the native plant diversity is really the linchpin of that,” she said.

Lawson-Remer said the proposal to ask all departments to create their own sustainability plan could result in savings on many levels throughout the county.

“You’re going to have some departments decide to print less paper, some departments looking at electric vehicles,” she said. “You might have some departments look at how to source food locally. You’re going to get a lot of big ideas as part of our sustainability program.

“We’re not just talking about climate,” she continued. “We’re talking about ecosystems. We’re talking about food systems. And we’re talking about protecting our beaches and coastlines, open space, and really safeguarding the natural resources of our planet for future generations. And we’re also talking about environmental justice and equity and ensuring that these resources are wildly shared.”

In a related proposal, Lawson-Remer said the board would ask for an examination of the county’s structure to see if sustainability is integrated in how business is done in all departments.

“We have all these sprawling programs across the county, and we don’t have a sustainability czar or a sustainability office to really keep track of how we’re centering sustainability in our operations,” she said.

Earlier this year, the board unanimously supported Lawson-Remer’s proposals to address climate change, making San Diego the largest county in the United States to commit to Zero Carbon by 2035.

— Gary Warth is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune