Glendale is a step closer to forming a sustainability commission, with municipal staff members working on an ordinance to craft the panel at the direction of the City Council, which voted Tuesday on the matter.
Though the potential commission’s goals aren’t yet set, David Jones, who was recently hired as Glendale’s first sustainability officer, suggested that it serve as an advisory board to the council on a variety of environmental subjects.
Jones told council members that the commission could advise on topics including transportation, biodiversity, responses to climate change, air quality and environmental justice. Similar commissions in nearby cities, including Burbank and Pasadena, commonly help guide their city councils on these subjects, he explained, and also tend to handle community education.
The commission, Jones proposed, could consist of five members appointed by the council to four-year terms, with a three-term limit. He added that the panel could also include two student non-voting members appointed by the commission to one-year terms.
Councilman Daniel Brotman, who co-founded the Glendale Environmental Coalition, voiced enthusiasm for the potential commission, suggesting that it be given a small budget so it could give grants to community groups.
“I’m very, very excited that we’re at this point,” he said. “We’ve done some good things here at Glendale but we still have a lot of work ahead.”
“I don’t want a commission that just hears reports and nods their heads,” he added.
But some voiced concerns that its purview would overlap with that of other city panels, such as the Glendale Water and Power Commission.
“I don’t think it does a service to those commissions that have their defined role,” said Councilman Ara Najarian. “I don’t want a commission that’s got its hand in everyone else’s commission. I think that’s a recipe for trouble.”
That concern was shared by Mayor Vrej Agajanian, who worried that without clear guidelines on the potential commission’s responsibilities, the city’s panels could become confused about “who’s responsible for what.”
Brotman disagreed, arguing that there was little issue in having different commissions view topics from alternate angles.
“The reality is that sustainability cuts across everything we do,” he said. “There’s really no way to draw bright lines.”
Assistant City Manager Roubik Golanian explained that the scope of the proposed commission, on which the council requested a report in June, remains in flux, with staff members expected to return to the council with a fine-tuned plan for the Sustainability Commission at some point in the future.
Proposed duties of the commission include advising the council on recycling initiatives and renewable energy sources, as well as pursuing the participation of local businesses and interest groups in creating solutions, according to a staff report submitted to the council.
“It will give our community environmentalists freedom to do the research, form ideas, make suggestions,” said Councilwoman Paula Devine. “But at the same time, this commission will have the tempered approach and have a process that will be an advisory arm for council and for [Jones].”