Case Study: Chula Vista's Sustainable Communities Program

The City of Chula Vista’s Sustainable Communities Program provides resources to stakeholders such as developers, contractors and permit applicants to improve compliance with energy efficiency and green building codes and to promote construction of sustainable buildings. 

“Sustainability is simply part of the way the City of Chula Vista does business.” 
- Brendan Reed, Environmental Resource Manager

Background

Chula Vista has long been a leader in sustainability. It adopted its first climate action plan in 2000 and has a history of proactively engaging stakeholders around energy and climate actions. The city has been recognized with numerous awards, including a Climate Leadership Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a Beacon Spotlight Award for electricity and natural gas savings from the Institute for Local Government and Statewide Energy Efficiency Collaborative and an Energy Showcase Award from San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E).

In 2006, the city entered into a local government partnership with SDG&E to support California’s long-term energy efficiency strategic plan. One component of the partnership is the Sustainable Communities Program.

Funding

Funding for the local government partnership and its energy efficiency efforts comes from California ratepayers via SDG&E. In addition to funding the Sustainable Communities Program, the partnership has allowed Chula Vista to upgrade city facilities with more efficient HVAC systems, replace street lights with high-efficiency LED fixtures and promote water and energy saving opportunities in businesses and homes.

“This was a good short introduction to the new codes. Well worth the trip and time.”
- Local contractor

Impact

The city has employed a variety of outreach strategies to educate stakeholders. In 2014, it conducted nine workshops for city staff and five workshops for architects, developers and contractors on topics such as zero net energy building strategies, energy codes, permitting and clean energy incentives. A unique innovation has been the city’s “Code Coach,” an expert who staffs a public-facing Sustainability Desk one day per week to provide guidance to permit applicants and building department staff on California’s Building Energy Efficiency Standards (Title 24, Part 6) and the  Green Building Standards (Title 24, Part 11; CalGreen). The program also has generated educational resources and tools including permitting fact sheets for over-the-counter energy and water efficiency measures, application checklists and clearer information on the city’s development services website.

The staff has found the tools, training and Code Coach service particularly valuable because the latest version of Title 24, Part 6 is more complex than they initially realized. The city has recognized that a well-trained building department increases compliance with the energy efficiency standards and helps move the entire community toward more sustainable development through ongoing education at the permit desk. Better-informed staff members are able to address applicant needs expeditiously and with fewer applicant return visits, helping to keep costs down. The city plans to expand the Code Coach service and offer more training opportunities as the code continues toward requiring zero net energy new homes in 2020 and zero net energy commercial buildings in 2030.