County Supervisors Approve Operational Overhaul to Prioritize Sustainability

News Date

SAN DIEGO — The County Board of Supervisors today approved a package of policies to restructure County operations to focus on sustainability, and provide residents and businesses new tools to expand natural habitat. Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer partnered with Chair Nathan Fletcher and Vice Chair Nora Vargas on various pieces of the legislation.  

“Having a board led by people as committed to environmental justice as my colleagues Supervisors Fletcher and Vargas is transformational for our region,” Supervisor Lawson-Remer said. “Sustainability is not just something we need in our communities, but also in how local government works. This legislative package will restructure the County with sustainability as a focus, make climate action a part of our culture and daily operations, and provide new tools for residents and businesses to live more sustainably.” 

The board approved three separate items to begin reorganizing County departments around sustainability, to require that each County department develop a sustainability plan, and to create a comprehensive native plant policy to preserve the region’s biodiversity. With more than 1,700 native species, San Diego is the most biodiverse county in the United States, with more native species than some states.   

“The Board of Supervisors values natural resources, sustainability and environmental justice. Restructuring our county government to best meet these objectives will improve San Diego County, which is among the most biodiverse regions in the world. We have much to treasure and enjoy, and I thank my Environmental Advisory Committee for bringing this idea to our office,” said Chair Fletcher. “In addition, the adoption of a future native plant landscaping plan will create habitat for insects, endangered species, and aid in our water conservation and stormwater efforts. These immediate actions will provide long-term benefits and drive us towards our collective goal of developing environmentally just and conscientious practices in our County.”

“I’m proud our board supports centering sustainability plans within our county departments. It’s important that as the third largest job provider in the region, the County of San Diego leads by example as we evaluate our day-to-day operations and push for environmental justice policies for our communities,” Vice Chair Vargas said. 

The native plant landscaping policy, proposed by Chair Fletcher and Supervisor Lawson-Remer, aims to help individuals and businesses install, maintain, and enjoy vegetation that supports San Diego’s natural environment. Native plants provide habitat for wildlife that non-native species don’t, while also helping to increase drought tolerance, reduce water consumption, and further to the County’s climate action strategy. The policy will establish best practices, incentives for retrofits, and equity-based resources and training to ensure diverse participation among landscaping professionals and residents. It will be developed in collaboration with the public and the San Diego Regional Biological Working Group, with the goal of completing a draft policy for approval by the end of the year. 

A second proposal by Chair Fletcher and Supervisor Lawson-Remer seeks to improve coordination among County departments to achieve the agency’s sustainability goals. From reducing waste to managing stormwater to procuring energy, the responsibility to manage sustainability projects is spread across several County departments. The board directed County staff to assess its current structure, and work with an expert to develop an organizational model that promotes a comprehensive approach to climate action and environmental protection. Staff will bring recommendations to the board within 270 days.

The board also approved a recommendation from Vice Chair Vargas and Supervisor Lawson-Remer to direct all County departments to develop and implement sustainability plans. Each plan would assess existing sustainability practices and identify new ways to shrink the agency’s carbon footprint. Departments would also coordinate with the County Office of Equity and Racial Justice to ensure environmental justice goals are being met. Each department is expected to produce a sustainability plan within six months and provide annual updates to demonstrate progress.

Earlier this year, Vice Chair Vargas and Supervisor Lawson-Remer won unanimous support for proposals to address the climate crisis, including making San Diego the largest county in the United States to commit to Zero Carbon by 2035.