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You Made a Difference!
by Robert Fortunato on March 9th, 2014 No Comments

Thanks to all of you, an unprecedented 20 people spoke at Friday’s Strategic Planning session, 164 people signed the petition and 10 people wrote letters to council in support of Hermosa Beach being the first city to harvest as much renewable energy as it uses.  Even though we could not get the votes to be first, in the end the councilmembers voted TWO of the top five priorities to be Carbon Neutral related (municipal carbon neutrality, General Plan low carbon future).  You all should be very proud of the work you did in helping to solidify the City’s commitment to Carbon Neutrality in the interest of improving our community’s economy, efficiency, health and ecology.    You made a real difference!

It has been a pleasure working with and getting to know the hundreds of people who are supporting this initiative.  We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of your for your fearlessness and your ability to get past misperceptions to make things happen.  As a result of this experience, Monica and I are also honored to call many of you true friends.  We would also like to thank our concilmembers Nanette Barragan and Hany Fangary for taking an early leadership position on this issue and educating themselves in order to clearly articulate the benefits of it.

There are many things we accomplished together in this last push before the strategic planning meeting.  The City Council missed by one vote the commitment to be the first CN city in Southern California, but together we educated thousands of people and dozens of businesses to understand:

  • Carbon neutrality is simply a way to harvest as much renewable energy as we use.  It will help government, business and everyone who touches Hermosa Beach be more efficient, save money and reduce harmful effects of pollution on our health and our environment.
  • Being the first CN city is a way to brand and differentiate Hermosa in a way that attracts business, tourists, investment and like minded residents.  It can not only help the city increase revenue, but through the lens of carbon neutrality the city can reduce costs.  Organizations are understanding that CN is the new proxy for efficiency in not only buildings but operations as well.
  • Hermosa Beach has a strategic advantage in being the first CN city.  Because of our town’s small size, advantageous climate, lack of heavy industry and disruptive culture we can be first and take the benefits that come with it.

Thanks to all of you, our Mayor, Michael DiVirgilio revisited and reaffirmed the very well written commitment he made to Carbon Neutrality in 2010 (with the exception of the sentence that said first).  Correspondingly, our City Manager, Tom Bakaly, committed to fully supporting the Mayor’s commitment on Carbon Neutrality.

This effort also allowed us to learn that the business community is not against CN, but really just doesn’t yet know what it is or how they can fully benefit from it. We can certainly help them dispel the myths and use CN to improve their profitability, branding and the brand of the city.

Lastly, we would like to hear from you on how this might move forward.  Several people have commented that we have started a movement that we can all aspire to and be part of.  Others have stepped forward from very different parts of our community who want to continue the work.  Please let us know your thoughts.

Thanks again,


From: Robert Fortunato []
Sent: Wednesday, March 05, 2014 8:41 AM
To: ‘’
Subject: Last Chance to be First – You can still make Hermosa Beach the first carbon neutral city – only three days left!

Good Morning,

Friday is the last chance Hermosa Beach has to commit to being the first Carbon Neutral City in Southern California and reap the economic, health and environmental benefits that go with it. 

The vote is on Friday morning, so please make your voices heard so we don’t miss this opportunity!

You can make the difference three ways:

  1. Sign the petition “Hermosa Beach City Council: Commit to Make Hermosa Beach 1st Carbon Neutral City”  Let’s blow away the 100 signatures goal  You can read more and sign the petition here:
  2. By EOD Thursday write our councilmembers and copy the city clerk so your letter can go on file for Friday’s meeting.  The email addresses are:;;;;; 
  3. On Friday morning, step up to the podium in City Council chambers at 9am during public comments and let them know that they can do this and have our support.  As you can see, public input is first on the agenda

Below is the letter I sent to the city council.  An edited version went to the local papers:; and

Thanks again for all your support in making our town better than the best little beach city,


From: Robert Fortunato []
Sent: Tuesday, March 04, 2014 9:04 AM
To: ‘Michael DiVirgilio’; ‘’; ‘’; ‘’; ‘’
Cc: ‘Tom Bakaly’; ‘Ken Robertson’; ‘Pamela Townsend’; ‘’
Subject: Investment, Jobs and questions answered re Carbon Neutrality

Honorable Mayor DiVirgilio, Councilmembers and Staff,

Hopefully you can see that the groundswell of support for being the first Carbon Neutral city is accelerating.  People from all parts of the city are stepping forward to get involved.  

In addition, the business community is paying attention.  I had a conversation with a leader within a Fortune 500 Global company last week.  He was interested in what we are doing on the Carbon Neutral front.  It matched what they are aspiring to be as a company.  He also said that they are looking for a place to test some advanced green technology that would bring jobs and investment into a community.  Because of its small size and reputation as an innovator, he saw Hermosa Beach as an ideal place, from a technological and branding perspective.  He had just one question before moving forward: “Is your leadership committed to being the first Carbon Neutral City?”  Without that commitment he was not interested in moving forward with us.

As you can see your commitment to being first (not just “leading edge” as it is currently articulated in the draft goals) during Friday’s strategic planning session is critical – or these opportunities will go elsewhere. 

Lastly, I received a legitimate question from someone I respect and wanted to pass along my response (below):


I appreciated your question – and it is the right question.  “If Carbon Neutrality has been a priority for the last two years, why has nothing been done and what will be different this time?”  So if you would indulge me, I made some notes below that may be helpful.

1.      In previous years, there was a commitment, but no: timeline, resources, plan to get there, technical expertise, broad based community support or pressing need to move this forward.

a.       Timeline – Making the commitment to being first sets the timeline now that other communities have CN timelines that we can benchmark.  When we first started, we were out in front and council could not commit to a timeline.  The current “leading edge” language that is in the draft goal will not set the aggressive timeline that will help to brand the city in a way that attracts investment, businesses, tourists and like minded residents.  We can do this now. Accountability needs to be established – an aggressive timeline with deliverable objectives is essential for this to happen.

b.      Resources and Plan – The $410k grant we received from the Strategic Growth Council to do a CN overlay to the general plan takes care of the resources and the plan.  It just needs the commitment to be first to direct the plan toward an aggressive goal. This is a unique opportunity that we need to act on now because all that money will have been spent by midyear 2015.

c.       Technical Expertise – Many City Carbon Neutral plans have been written since we first committed to being CN.  Those plans articulate all the different ways a city like ours could get there.  There is still some innovation required, but compared to when we first made this commitment in 2010, the business world has embraced this concept and has brought forward many affordable technical and financing solutions that will help us get this accomplished.

d.      Broad Based Community Support – As you can see, community involvement has been activated by the oil project, the community dialogue and the CN initiative.   Unless you, and other rational business people like you get involved, all that momentum will die quickly.  You are a respected business leader in our community and instrumental in harnessing that momentum for a greater purpose.  Likewise, supporters have a great framework for how to get this done and are willing to help.

e.       Pressing Need – I have not taken a position on the oil project and genuinely wanted to be open to all the information coming forward.  But seeing the EIR, Economic and Health presentations this week, the likelihood of that being an economic stimulus to our community is very low – and we have a crumbling infrastructure and $17.5 million dollars to repay.  So now that we are pretty clear that no one is coming to save us, isn’t it time to harness our own resources to save ourselves?  The CN initiative is one of the few things that can help us do that.

There is really no downside to being first.  What is the worst that would happen – we get 80% of the way there?  Let’s make a real attempt to fulfilling that noble commitment this city made a number of years ago.

We will certainly be better off than if we didn’t try.  Is that what we will tell our kids.  We were afraid to try?  By applying a CN initiative our community will create decades of positive change for our City. We will look back in 40 years, our children will look back in 40 years, and we will be grateful that we had the courage and the leaders to move in this direction. 

Please let me know if you have additional questions.

Thanks again for being open to the dialogue – and for making this town better than the best little beach city,


Lastly, I wanted to express my continued support for making Hermosa Beach the first Carbon Neutral city in Southern California at the March 4th planning session for the following reasons:

·         The Carbon Neutral movement is a way to brand and differentiate Hermosa in a way that attracts business, tourists, investment and like minded residents.  It can not only help the city increase revenue, but through the lens of carbon neutrality the city can reduce costs.  Organizations are understanding that CN is the new proxy for efficiency in not only buildings but operations as well.

·         Being first brings with it a sense of urgency that will motivate us to maximize our resources.  The city is in year two of a 3 year grant for $410K to do a carbon neutral overlay to the general plan and about to solidify its strategic goals for the year.  Unless we act now to focus that money and strategy on being the first carbon neutral city, we will forever lose that branding opportunity.

·         This Carbon Neutral movement is entirely consistent with our culture as Hermosans.  We’ve always been the leader in what’s cool.  As innovators and iconoclasts we have championed west coast jazz at the lighthouse, the beat movement at the Either Or Bookstore, surfing, skateboarding, volleyball, punk rock, beach tennis.  Carbon Neutral is just the next logical progression for the innovative Hermosa Beach.

·         Hermosa Beach is uniquely positioned to be the first Carbon Neutral city.  It is an ideal test bed for all kinds of new technologies.  Because of our town’s small size, advantageous climate, lack of heavy industry and disruptive culture we can be first and take the benefits that come with it.

·         This Carbon Neutral movement will allow us to renew our brand and reinvent city operations; but without your support we will be lose this unique opportunity and our ability to be competitive with our larger and wealthier beach cities to our north and south


Robert Fortunato

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