Local government policy goals must strike a delicate balance. They should be inspirational and aspirational, yet be reasonably achievable. They must also commit to help achieve California’s ambitious statewide resource and environmental policy goals, yet be tailored to local considerations and priorities.

At a minimum, a general plan should commit to compliance with state policy goals and objectives – this is the baseline for a green general plan. However, the California Sustainability Alliance and the Department of Conservation’s Emerald California program encourage setting reach goals that exceed statutory requirements. In either case, a city should tailor goals and implementation approaches to its unique mix of local resources, assets, and challenges, to create a customized plan that reflects the community.

Local governments must also consider the scope of their planning process. Different measures will necessarily apply to different segments of the community, all of which require consideration: city operations, residents, businesses, and regional or statewide organizations. Additionally, local governments have several methods by which they can affect change: leading by example, influencing the community, and leveraging local authority. Balanced utilization of each of these three methods is essential to holistic policy. Finally, local governments should consider all types of measures available, including: planning, standards-setting, purchasing, and financing.

The chart below illustrates how sustainability measures impacting various segments of the community can utilize each of the methods available to local governments. Note that the most high-impact measures are not necessarily the most costly; rather, upstream measures tend to have a significant impact yet cost relatively little.

Common measures by leadership method