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Xicheng District Sister Cities Conference – Committed to Sustainability Beijing

On June 21, 2010, Mayor Bogaard kicked off a planning and economic development seminar in Xicheng District, Beijing, a Sister City since October, 1999, with the following report on the City’s “Green City Action Plan”. Others from the City made panel presentations on volunteerism, planning and development programs, public information practices, and the Sister Cities program. The visit was organized by the Pasadena Sister Cities Committee for interested persons who themselves paid the travel expenses.


To our hosts here in Xicheng District and to all who are here: I bring greetings from the City of Pasadena.

I would like to ask all of the members of the Pasadena delegation to stand and to join with me in extending cordial greetings to our friends in Xicheng District.

It is an honor to provide information about the City of Pasadena and its “Green City Action Plan”. This plan, adopted in 2006, is built upon the framework of the 2005 United Nations Urban Environmental Accords—and is intended to guide the City’s procedures, practices and operations in the direction of sustainability.

The City of Pasadena

Pasadena is located in southern California, on the west coast of the United States of America, and it was incorporated as a city in 1886, not long after the founding of the City of Los Angeles. By comparison, the City of San Francisco was founded in 1856, soon after the famous discovery of gold in northern California. It is fair to say that throughout its history, California has been viewed as a land of golden opportunity, and Pasadena has benefited from that reputation and from strong leaders at the beginning of its history.

For example, soon after the City’s incorporation, a school was established for teaching engineering and that school grew and developed into what is now the world famous California Institute of Technology. In the 1920s, the City Hall was completed as well as the Public Library and the Civic Auditorium. These buildings are all in excellent condition today and are used for the same important purposes for which they were first constructed nearly 100 years ago.

Pasadena’s population is about 145,000 people. Based on the population count in 2000, Pasadena has approximately 35% persons of Hispanic and Latino origin; 12% persons of African origin; 10% persons of Asian background; and the balance are Caucasians. The latter group has its history and heritage primarily in Europe, but in other parts of the world as well. For example, Pasadena has a population of Armenian Americans of about 10,000 persons, and has a small but closely knit community of Muslims, who contribute significantly to the community.

The growth of Pasadena’s population has been moderate, moving from about 130,000 in 1980 to about 145,000 persons at present.

Pasadena enjoys a strong local economy, elegant neighborhoods of single-family homes and many trees, many historic landmarks, such as the Rose Bowl, the Colorado Street Bridge and the famous Civic Center, and schools, colleges, museums and art galleries, as well as theaters and symphonies and orchestras. The City is known as a center for business, employment, professional services of all kinds, arts and culture, and education. It serves a region surrounding the City with total population of approximately 800,000 people. Employment is available in Pasadena to approximately 110,000 persons.

Pasadena’s budget is in excess of $700 million per year, including the operations of an electric utility, a water utility and a convention center that draws a large number of meetings, conventions and visitors to the City. The principal sources of revenue, in addition to charges for electricity and water and fees for City services, are sales taxes, real property taxes, and taxes imposed on the use of utilities such as gas, telephones, water, and electricity.

I took office as Mayor in 1999 following a spirited election in which there were 10 candidates. My duties include conducting public weekly meetings of the City Council. During these meetings, I deliberate with seven elected Councilmembers as we address the many challenging issues facing Pasadena. We also hear testimony from concerned citizens. Our job is to consider legislative options to promote the public good and to pass laws and regulations that help our community to grow and thrive.

A Commitment for Sustainability

All of us are aware of the environmental challenges posed by cities: speaking globally, cities and the urban regions surrounding them occupy only about 3% of the earth’s surface, but their residents consume more than 75% of the world’s natural resources. In the United States, over-reliance on the automobile has contributed to urban sprawl, pollution and traffic congestion.

The issues to be addressed in the movement to sustainability include sufficient energy to meet the needs of a growing and active world; obtaining energy from domestic sources within the United States to reduce reliance on foreign countries; reducing the so-called “carbon footprint” which contributes to climate change; and, of course, environmental stewardship so that the natural resources of the world continue to be available to serve succeeding generations.

In the overall, we are talking about quality of life for the current population and for future generations as well. The challenge is to expand transportation options, to improve air quality and to make the use of land more efficient.

The problem of sustainability is at the same time local and global. In 2006, Pasadena decided to make a commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability, recognizing that it is necessary to start this effort on a local level even though the problem can be solved only if communities and countries around the world make similar commitments.

When Pasadena took this action, it became the 200th city in the United States to adopt a “Green City Action Plan”; at this point in time, the total number of American cities involved is over 1000.

California Global Warming Law

The Pasadena plan was adopted in the same year that California became the first state in our country to adopt legislation designed to reduce global warming and to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.

This state legislation represents the most far-reaching regulatory initiative ever attempted in California history. Under the law, the state’s emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere, must drop 15% by the year 2020 and much more than that over the years. The greenhouse emissions in 2020 would be equal, and not exceed, greenhouse gas emissions that existed in the year 1990.

New California regulations require using solar, wind and other renewable power; cutting carbon intensity of gasoline; promoting electric cars; encouraging urban development within existing centers instead of expanding urban living into open space and mountains; and imposing energy saving measures in home building, manufacturing and other sectors of the economy.

The Green City Action Plan

Turning to our Green City Action Plan, the purpose of the plan is to create Pasadena as a “sustainable city”. Sustainable cities are designed to preserve natural resources and enhance the quality of life by, among other things, encouraging transit, cycling and walking. In broad terms, this is accomplished through a mix of land uses, compact building design, walkable neighborhoods, preserving and expanding open space and parks, and providing a range of transportation and housing choices.

Our Plan covers seven areas of City activities and imposes requirements for reduced use of natural resources, increased energy efficiency, and the development of renewable energy sources. The areas covered by the Plan are: waste reduction and recycling; protecting and increasing trees; conserving water; establishing public transportation such as buses and trains as an alternative to using automobiles; using “green” materials in building construction and new designs for greater efficiency; eliminating toxics; and improving air quality.

The plan is intended to be implemented over 10 years, with progress being verified each year. Copies of the report about Pasadena’s work under this plan for 2010 are available to those who are interested, and the information is also available on the internet at

The Current Situation

A few weeks ago, I attended a celebration of Earth Day in Pasadena, which marked the 40th year of rallies, meetings and presentations to promote sustainability. On the first Earth Day, millions of environmental activists gathered on college campuses and in major cities holding rallies, that helped galvanize actions of an historic scale—including passage of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, and creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

At that time, 1970, the challenge of environmental pollution was obvious, because one could see it, smell it and taste it. The air and many rivers were polluted and waste from a style of active living was all too evident. Today, the issues are more subtle and more difficult to address, because they pertain to trends that are global in scale. They are things like climate change and ocean acidification.

The political climate has changed as well, with a battered economy making it harder to build support for policies that could raise prices, cost jobs or slow economic growth. These issues—global warming, ocean pollution, carbon-based energy systems—are more obtuse and remote.

It is interesting that the political discussion today about global warming, recognizing the difficult economic climate, is not based on environmental protection and public health, but on job creation and national security. But regardless of how the issues are publicly debated, I believe the world now understands that global warming is a serious threat to our quality of life and the well being of future generations, and am confident that efforts will continue to address the challenge of sustainability from this point on in history.


In closing, I thank you for this opportunity. Pasadena is committed to being a sustainable city, and I know that there is much to learn about how to accomplish this goal. I hope there will be future opportunities for us in Pasadena to confer with our friends in Xicheng District on the question of sustainability and many other issues facing our community.