Walter Kanzler, media and outreach chairman of the American Institute of Architects, said the Pacific Beach and Mission Beach “eco districts” will be some of the first in California and around the country, but that the direction the plans take rely on the community.
“An eco district is really just a community that’s committed to sustainable principles around energy efficiency, water quality, quality of life and habitat restoration,” Kanzler said. “Communities, just like a specific individual project, they have unique characteristics. The amazing thing about this Pacific Beach, Mission Beach area is the wrapped-around Mission Bay Park.”
Kanzler said the wetlands, estuaries and river systems that work together and flow into the ocean make water quality a major issue. Finding better ways to manage stormwater runoff and dry-weather runoff can divert pollution from the bay and ocean, creating a healthier environment for both people and wildlife.
Long-term sea-level rise and climate change are also major issues for the coastal communities and efforts to protect oceanfront properties need to start now to ensure their safety in the future, he said.
Restoring natural habitats, creating public spaces, building better bike routes and easing traffic congestion are some other issues the eco district plan addresses.
Kanzler said there are already a number of individual sustainability projects planned in the area, including a sustainable model block designed with lighting efficiency, renewable energy and native plantings. However, achieving sustainability on a large scale will take a communitywide effort, said advocates.
“It’s a big enough community that you can kind of get your arms around it, but it’s also small enough that you can organize these kinds of town hall meetings and get a core group of people together that can follow these things,” Kanzler said. “Our goal is not to just have the meetings and then produce a report. It’s to have the meetings and inspire people to really want to continue down a road of finding certain things that they’re really excited about and that they want to do in the community.”
Kanzler said it all starts with education and engaging in conversations. At the meeting on June 29, neighbors are encouraged to come with their thoughts and questions. Renowned environmentalist and sustainable architect Bob Berkebile will attend the meeting to answer questions and help guide the discussion.
“Until you participate in it, you don’t really know what the outcome can be, and somebody like Bob Berkebile can help shape that conversation so people really do get it,” Kanzler said. “I know for sure that this effort is going to bring up a lot of visions that people are really going to create for themselves. What we’re trying to do is get the people in the community to say, ‘This is what we want. This is what matters to us the most.’ And then, by harvesting that information, we’ll be able to create that into some big ideas.”
Kanzler said the big ideas of the future can start with small efforts today. Getting into the habit of recycling and reducing waste is something everyone can do to build a more sustainable future.
“We understand that there are going to be barriers to success with something like this, and the main one is engaging with people so they feel like they have a vested interest in it,” Kanzler said.
“When there’s a natural disaster, everyone shows up, but with this, there’s really a limited sense of urgency and the difficulty with things like climate change are they happen so slowly that it’s kind of sneaking up on us,” he said.
To learn more, call Kristen Victor at (619) 318-8682, or visit beautifulpb.com/ECOdistrict project.