In recent years, there has been a noticeable trend of people relocating to cities and towns that offer a high quality of life. Certainly, drivers such as a lower cost of living, vast open space, and a top-notch school systems come to mind right away. What is perhaps less obvious is a deep desire to reside in communities governed by formal sustainability plans that not only encourage but function as a result of layperson involvement. The City of Temecula (population 115,000) is a shining star in this regard and people are noticing.
While smaller cities can boast, perhaps, greater versatility over their larger counterparts, rarely does this make much of a difference without the right type of leadership. Fortunately for Temecula, City Council Member, Dr. Matt Rahn, has emerged as such leader. And, he is adamant that Temecula’s 10-year Quality of Life Master Plan is at the forefront of every decision the city makes.
This really gets to the heart of the city’s brand that incorporates a three-tiered balanced approach of community, economy, and environment. As Rahn states,
“Our identity is wine country. Last year we did $1.1 billion in regional tourism. With that, you want a wine country that doesn’t have air pollution, that has a clean watershed, good transportation infrastructure. Our plan informs all of our decisions to ensure the identity and integrity of our community.”
When Rahn came onto the Council in 2014, Temecula was 85% built out. Ensuring the last 15% is managed judiciously, continues to be his priority. This includes a stringent growth management plan whereby they hold, for example, “developers’ feet to the fire” if they, for instance, seek a conditional land use permit. He adds,
“We have to be very careful with the last parcels we have. The decisions we make today, will have lasting effects on our community in the future.”
To help Temecula reach even greater heights is Kansas City based clean energy company, BioStar Renewables (BioStar). David Smart, who leads direct sales for BioStar was the company’s initial connection to the City of Temecula through a research project with San Diego University and the Santa Margarita Eco Reserve to identify opportunities to use solar for habitat restoration and enhancement. Smart reflected,
“Cities are brands too. They need to look at how they balance improving the planet, reducing costs, keeping an attractive lifestyle and healthy growth.”
This initial project resulted in BioStar’s 2017 development of Temecula’s solar power generating facility which has benefitted the city through an initial 10% reduced cost of electricity not to mention an increased savings over time as traditional electricity rates continue to rise. Smart remarks,
“Creating intelligent and feasible solutions integrating solar with the City of Temecula has helped the city to roll energy credits to municipal partners thereby saving money and creating a cleaner place to live. We are incredibly proud to have spearheaded this project and to see the positive effect it has had on the city of Temecula.”
In 2019, BioStar financed the San Bernardino Waste-to-Energy Project which converted food waste to renewable energy, helping divert 93,850 tons annually from landfills and helping meet California’s stringent legal requirements on the disposal of organics. BioStar manages and facilitates every aspect of the process from collection and pre-processing to digestion and energy generation. Click here to learn more about the San Bernardino project.
“Converting organics to energy is increasingly becoming a must for municipalities. We are thrilled by the success of this project and look forward to replicating our model throughout the region and beyond to have a lasting impact on a wider geographic region. As a critical infrastructure company, we are helping cities make these strategic decisions now so they are fully equipped and prepared for potential systemic disruptions."
Rahn echoes Smart’s sentiments and adds,
“As California law is changing and we not only have to increase our diversion ratios, the organics are becoming a huge issue. Anything that can be done to address the organic waste is a massive step forward.”
The City of Temecula, through leadership and strategic partnerships such as the one with BioStar as well as its priorities, values, and inclusion has created a powerful model for municipalities both large and small. It is certainly worth paying attention to see if others follow suit not only in California but across this great nation.