For the 13 city and regional planning students enrolled in the two-quarter long community planning laboratory, success in the classroom means saving the world.
The class (CRP 410, 411) works in conjunction with the city of San Luis Obispo to draft a climate plan. The plan ultimately hopes to serve as a guide for the city and voters for climate reduction. In exchange, the students gain experience and an edge for getting jobs.
Kim Murray, deputy director for community development for the city of San Luis Obispo, has worked with the class since September. Murray spoke to the merit of the city and regional planning class.
“These are a dedicated bunch of students,” she said. “Their professional, hard working and energetic.”
The students practice what they preach. They arrive to class using alternative transportation, drink water from canteens, interact nearly in the dark (the room is lit mostly by window light) and rarely take notes on paper.
Their instructor is city and regional planning assistant professor Adrienne Greve. This is the second year Greve has been conducting a climate action plan. The first year the class worked with the city of Benicia. Their policy was ultimately adopted by Benicia to identify ways in which the city can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Greve said.
“That doesn’t often happen to students,” she said. “It was an amazing first try, really.”
From the first day, Greve instructs her class to prepare a draft of a climate action plan.
“Our aim is to identify climate mitigation and adaptation strategies that make sense of a given city’s needs, current policy setting and emissions sources,” Greve said.
The class is broken up into two subtopics: a topic team and a task team. Topics are largely based on the student’s interests, which include broad areas of environmentalism such as alternative transportation, water and energy use.
Throughout the process, they have contact with the city and community members.
“It’s a great experience for students to get involved and see what public workshops are like, how you handle public input and how the political processes help shape the project,” Murray said.
To further involve the community, the class, led by the outreach team, has conducted three booths at Farmers’ Market to get strategies for climate change. They also held two public meetings for input and participated with sixth grade students from Los Ranchos Elementary School for an additional perspective.
The elementary school students came up with unique ideas said city and regional planning senior Jonelle Fournet-Collazos.
“One girl suggested turning parking lots into forests, one boy suggested making a fast food drive-thru for bikes and one girl suggested having a celebrity, like Fergie, on a bus so people would ride,” Fournet-Collazos said.
At the second public meeting, San Luis Obispo citizens voted on which ways they thought was best for the city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Popular examples included expanding the availability and frequency of bus routes, creating more walkable neighborhoods, and creating a “cash for grass” program for replacing lawns with water efficient landscaping.
At the meeting, Monica Kittinger, a city and regional planning senior, spoke on ways to increase parks and open space.
“I know climate change is real, I’d rather be part of the solution than the problem,” she said. “It’s rewarding to be environmentally conscious and to work with the city.”
At the end of the quarter, the climate team will have a final draft of their action plan for review by the city.
“This augments all the technology, training and great background Cal Poly trains students for,” Murray said. “I would do it again in a heartbeat.”