Sacramento is not generally regarded as a sustainable region – it has grown in a sprawling pattern much like Los Angeles. However, Sacramento’s integration of more sustainable regional planning and small-scale improvements slowly reverses its previous reputation.
The city was chosen from a 30-applicant pool as a “solar city” for its development of solar energy policies and received a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to use toward putting photovoltaic systems on buildings. Solar parking meters can already be found in some areas of inner Sacramento, but this additional funding helps color Sacramento’s reputation a deeper shade of green.
City officials have also announced plans with the community college system to start a solar technician program and create a “green collar” job force. This addition to the solar panel project will be instrumental in helping the economic development of local communities, as green collar jobs are both environmentally and socially beneficial in offering renewable energy, job skills and job placement.
However $200,000 is a miniscule advance for such a lofty project. Sacramento will most likely get little outside help and must be self-motivated in itspursuit of achieving greener city life. This independent effort rings true at the local level – the city has been rezoning for higher density as well as making specific areas more conducive to having solar access. The general plan update for Sacramento includes many other sustainable components, such as increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy, as well as prioritizing urban infill over new growth.
Despite all the efforts in energy efficiency and planning, transportation is the most important issue to resolve in order for the city to function more sustainably. Inner city public transportation is still limited, and presents difficulty for commuters coming from the suburbs. In most regions of Sacramento outside of its core, it is crucial to own an automobile. It is commendable, though, that Sacramento is thinking about how to integrate neighboring areas into its master sustainability agenda. This needs to be addressed through better routes of public transportation to reduce automobile use between the city of Sacramento, outer suburbs and even the Bay Area.