Watsonville Climate Action & Adaptation Plan

CAAP Slideshow main bg

Cities are on the front lines when it comes to climate change, thus leading the world in reducing carbon emissions through proactive policies and the adoption of clean technologies. The City of Watsonville is embarking on an important effort for climate action, adaptation, and restoration over the next decade. The 2030 Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) will chart a clear path to address the risks and challenges Watsonville could face, such as sea-level rise, increased temperatures, heavier and more intense storms, air pollution, increased health problems and increased strain on an already impacted water supply.

In order to meet the City’s climate goals, the CAAP includes three types of initiatives:

  • Climate action refers to actions taken to reduce emissions. Examples include transitioning to low-carbon energy sources, such as solar or wind energy.  

  • Climate adaptation, on the other hand, refers to preparing for the impact climate change is already having on our communities, such as increased droughts, wildfires, and flooding. 

  • Climate restoration consists of goals and actions that draw excess carbon out of the atmosphere and help restore balance to ecological systems, such as tree-planting and regenerative agricultural practices.

Climate Action: Reducing our Emissions 

Watsonville’s GHG emissions stem from four main sources:

  • Watsonville EmissionsTransportation: Gas-powered cars and trucks 

  • Natural Gas: Heating our buildings, cooking, hot water 

  • Electricity Use: From non-renewable energy sources such as coal and gas 

  • Food Waste Disposal: Food waste sent to the landfill  breaks down and creates methane (a greenhouse gas)

The majority of our Climate Action and Adaptation Plan is devoted to defining projects and programs that will reduce our carbon emissions in these four sectors. The table below summarizes these programs:

CAAP Strategies and Programs
Percent of Solution
Facilitating Electric Vehicle (EV) Infrastructure
  • EV Master Plan
  • Public-private partnerships
  • Charging-station-friendly codes
Equitability — Getting People into EVs
  • Requires significant outside funding (State and Federal grants)
  • Partnerships with non-profits and Central Coast Community Energy (3Ce)
 Electrify City Fleet
Active Transportation — More walking and biking Trails
  • Updates to the city-wide Bike & Trails Master Plan
  • E-bike-share program 
Community Trip Reduction
  • Carpool Programs (Green Busines Program)
  • Promoting the use of mass transit
  • Smart growth - Downtown Specific Plan
Building Electrification — Natural gas phase-out
  • All new buildings to be all-electric
  • Electric-only ordinance for new development
  • Retrofit existing buildings to be all-electric (add solar where possible)
    • Biggest program  — will take 20-30 years
    • Requires significant State and Federal funding
    • Next Steps:
      • Develop Retrofit Master Plan
        • Inventory of existing buildings
      • Identify partners for implementation
Green Energy and Energy Efficiency
  • Shift more customers (50%)  to 3CE Prime (100% Renewable Energy)
    • Advocacy and partnership with 3CE
    • Significant Outreach Effort
    • Request rates for low-income
Energy-efficiency retrofits
  • With partners such as Central Coast Energy Services
Food Waste Program
  • Food waste collection from all residents and businesses
  • Backyard Home Composting program
  • Edible Food Redistribution Program
    • Reduces food wasted by stores and restaurants

Climate Adaptation

Climate adaptation focuses on strategies for energy and agricultural resilience to address issues such as the strain on our electrical grid as a result of increasing temperatures and reduced agricultural productivity and food security due to droughts.

The climate adaptation component builds on the City’s 2020 Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (LHMP), which outlines plans and programs to prepare for natural disasters for Watsonville and addresses the vulnerability of critical infrastructure through mitigation measures. 

Climate Adaptation Measures
Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (LHMP)
  • Preparing for flooding and wildfires
  • Preparing for extreme heat and sea-level rise
Agricultural and Food Resilience
  • Buy-local programs
  • Community gardens
Energy Resilience
  • Grid improvements
  • Power backups at critical City facilities
  • Microgrid at the City's Wastewater Treatment Plant

"Climate Change is sometimes misunderstood as being about changes in the weather. In reality, it is about changes in our very way of life." 

— Paul Polman

Climate Restoration

In addition to reducing our emissions, Climate Restoration is a necessary part of addressing climate change. Restoring natural systems facilitates the removal of carbon dioxide from the air, supports clean water and healthy soils and acknowledges that humans are part of a global ecosystem that must be sustained for the survival of humans and many other forms of life. 

Carbon sequestration on natural and working lands has been identified as a priority pathway for greenhouse gas reductions.

Reimagining our social and economic systems are also important to avoid practices that lead to climate change. Future CAAP updates will include additional strategies that the City will pursue to advance climate restoration.

Climate Restoration and Sequestriation: Removing CO2 from the Air
Carbon Sequestration
  • Tree-planting
  • Regenerative agricultural practices
Healthy Ecosystems
  • Habitat restoration
  • Water quality programs
Equitable Green Recovery
  • Green job creation (solar installation, building electrification jobs)
  • Green infrastructure (i.e. rain gardens, permeable pavement, green parking and street trees)

The CAAP Plan and Appendices, Initial Study and Negative Declaration, and Proposed General Plan Amendment can be accessed via the links below.    

Public Engagement
To shape the kind of Watsonville we want to build in the future, it is critical to hear from our community. By better understanding how each sector of the community is being affected, we can better plan and prepare to address these issues.   Stakeholder and community engagement was an essential part of the CAAP development process. The City developed a Public Engagement Plan to document how residents and stakeholders were engaged, and included the development of a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) to advise the City on how best to engage and solicit input from the public.

Community Input

The outreach process consists of two community surveys (digital and physical). The first climate survey was open for a month July to August, and it was to inform residents of the Climate Action planning process and to get a sense of our communities’ concerns in regards to climate change. Please click here to view the first climate survey results. 

The second follow-up survey was open from early November to late December 2020. The purpose of the second survey was to get community input on their level of support for some of the specific proposed climate strategies. The survey gave our residents an opportunity to prioritize the actions they want the City to take and help identify what opportunities for funding City staff need to apply to implement the selected strategies.
Please click here to view the second climate survey results.

CEQUA Compliance
The CAAP will be assessed for impacts in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), documented in an Initial Study and Negative Declaration

General Plan Amendment
The General Plan will be updated with an amendment to include the goals of the CAAP in the City planning process, further strengthening the City’s commitment to Climate Action.

CAAP Implementation

The CAAP identifies a pathway for implementation. An interdepartmental team of City staff, in collaboration with the CAC, will be responsible for maintaining momentum and ensuring implementation of CAAP strategies, measures, and supporting efforts. Staff will provide annual implementation progress reports and a GHG inventory update  every 2 years to track our progress. Staff will also prepare CAAP updates at least every 5 years to incorporate ongoing changes in legislation, technology, economy, policy, and human behaviors.

This CAAP is a call to action to residents, community organizations, and businesses to take an active part in Watsonville’s transition to a low-carbon future. In this process, the City hopes to foster a vibrant economy, increase resiliency, and promote a sustainable community for future generations.

Climate Action Plan Progress Report 2015-2018 

The City’s first Climate Action Plan was adopted by Council in 2015 and since then, many accomplishments have been made in transportation, energy, water conservation, wastewater, solid waste, and green building. 

One of the most significant reductions in our GHG emissions was due to Watsonville’s participation in the Monterey Bay Community Power project, which has been providing the community with 100% carbon-free and renewable energy since 2018. Other improvements include converting traffic signals and street lights to energy-saving LED’s; adding green bike lanes and trails; and installing solar panels on city facilities.  The full progress report is available below and it showcases how Watsonville accomplished a 21.7% GHG reduction.  This progress was made possible thanks to everyone’s actions and sustained commitment to keep us moving towards a more “climate-friendly” Watsonville.