Balancing Environmental, Economic, and Social Equity Components
Sustainability entails aligning the built environment and socioeconomic activities with nature’s constraints and opportunities. Central to this concept is meeting both present and future needs through a balance of three components: maintenance of a healthy and equitable society, protection of the environment, and ongoing prosperity of the local economy. These components are interrelated and equally important in achieving a sustainable community. Ultimately, one component should not succeed at the expense of another, so a key issue is how to balance these components over the life of the General Plan. The three components of sustainability, and how they are addressed in this General Plan, are defined below:
Environmental sustainability is accomplished by reducing the impact of human activities on the natural systems that support the community. A major component of protecting the environment is the wise utilization of land. Focusing Chico’s growth within the Sphere of Influence will reduce pressure to develop at the community’s edges where it would impact agricultural lands and foothills. Growth consistent with the Land Use Diagram and policies in the General Plan will result in reduced impacts on the environment, reduced contributions to global climate change, reduced reliance on oil and other fossil-fuel sources, and decreased consumption of natural resources. Strategies in this General Plan for protecting the environment include promoting compact, walkable, infill and mixed-use development; focusing redevelopment along transit corridors and at other central locations; protecting sensitive habitat, open space and agricultural lands; promoting the efficient use of energy and resources; improving local air and water quality; directing waste diversion and reduction; and establishing energy and water conservation measures in building, landscaping, and municipal operations.
A sustainable economy is strong and resilient, environmentally conscientious, and accessible to the entire community. To be sustainable, Chico’s economy must be diverse in order to provide stability through economic cycles. There must be jobs for a skilled local workforce in traditional, as well as green, business sectors. It must generate tax revenue to fund quality public services for the community and must continue to grow base-level businesses that export products and import revenue. Strategies in the General Plan that promote a sustainable economy reside primarily in the Economic Development Element and include fostering a positive climate for economic development, providing an adequate supply of land, ensuring the readiness of physical conditions to support development, targeting public investment to help attract investment and support local prosperity, promoting local goods and services; creating partnerships within the region to generate jobs, and ensuring a quality of life that makes Chico a desirable place to invest.
For the purposes of this General Plan, social equity means fair access to housing, transportation, jobs, education, and recreation, and access for all residents to fully participate in the political and cultural life of the community. Social equity is closely connected to the other two sustainability components of economic vitality and environmental protection. It both depends on and supports a local, diverse economy that provides a wide range of work and volunteer opportunities for people of all ages and skills and a healthy environment with clean air and water, open spaces to recreate, and protection from potential hazards. Strategies in this General Plan that promote social equity include ensuring adequate housing for all age and income levels; providing an open government that values public participation; celebrating arts and cultures; assisting the more vulnerable members of the community; supporting the development and preservation of complete neighborhoods, promoting public health through protection from hazards and the provision of a safe multimodal circulation system; and providing parks and quality public services to all members of the community.
To gauge progress toward reaching its sustainability goals, the City will develop and annually evaluate sustainability indicators. The indicators will be selected for their ability to be both easily understood and quantifiable. Maintenance of the indicators will be adaptive, so adjustments can be made if their monitoring reveals the need.
Sustainability in Decision-Making
Creating and maintaining a sustainable community will require incorporating sustainable principles into the City's everyday actions and decisions, monitoring progress, and adapting to changing conditions and new information. The General Plan has incorporated sustainable principles into every element; therefore, decisions that are consistent with the goals and policies of the Plan will advance the overarching goal of sustainability. Individual decisions and actions that the City takes are not expected to equally balance the three components of sustainability. Instead, the combination of decision-making consistent with the General Plan and implementing actions identified in the General Plan will, through time, result in a balanced and sustainable Chico.