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Updated 5/26/13 by Dave Grubb

National Awards: Carolyn Chase

There is no doubt that Carolyn Chase is one of the most proactive, clear thinking, articulate forces for environmental protection in the history of conservation activism in San Diego County. Her efforts have greatly contributed to raising public awareness of environmental issues and the success of coalitions working for conservation.

As a San Diego Chapter Chair, among many achievements, she led the Chapter political process that resulted in ballot endorsements for two complex "smart growth" projects which included detailed habitat corridors and designs, funding for transit alternatives, and requirements for the inclusion of "green building" features in both projects which exceeded the minimum requirements for pollution reduction and energy efficiency at the time.

She founded and remains on the editorial staff of a leading, environmentally focused monthly news magazine, "The San Diego Earth Times". Through this medium, she disseminates information on current issues of critical importance, explores each controversial side and challenges city and county officials to enforce or create environmental protections for the city's master planning guidelines. Her regular column "Cut to the Chase" in a local business paper, the San Diego Daily Transcript, raises the consciousness of a highly literate segment of our population on matters relating to such items as Sprawl and Smart Growth and helps define what businesses can do to improve their practices.

Her issue oriented email lists both educate the public and builds a responsive network of people who attend hearings and speak out before local agencies and governmental boards. This includes setting up a listserv for our Chapter's important project called "Canyons Network" to help protect our much beloved canyons from new roads and other encroachments.

Carolyn's lobbying efforts with the City government and other interest groups recently resulted in permanently blocking off a mile-long segment of Sorrento Valley Road which runs adjacent to a coastal wetlands and Torrey Pines State Reserve. She identified the major concerns for the media, and during the Mayoral race it became a defining issue of difference between the two candidates. In the end, the City Council voted overwhelmingly to close the road and remove it from the City's General Plan. Probably no other battle is as difficult - or as symbolic - as attempting to actually close a Circulation Road favored by the local Chamber of Commerce and the near-by Biotech industries.

There is much more. Because of our burgeoning population, the demands for strategic planning have become vital. Carolyn has been on the front bench in this process to develop a new "TransitFirst" concept for our region that has the potential to create a transit system to reduce dependence on the car by matching land-use and alternative transportation options. Early in the deliberations, she authored pivotal comments to the Regional Transportation Planning Board and helped remove sprawl-inducing roads and protected heavy use rush hour lanes.

Several months ago, Carolyn was chosen to chair a very important Citizen's Advisory Committee on the Environment. This group meets regularly to bring issues before the Mayor and his staff. This level of influence is evident in some of the strong supportive stands the Mayor has made since coming to office. Subsequently, she was asked to serve on the City's Inclusionary Housing Network Group which envisions an authority designed to support housing projects in appropriate locations to meet the criteria for affordability in urban areas.

In the past, Carolyn served as Chair of the City's Waste Management Advisory board and on the City's Waste Reduction Task force, helping to support and lobby for funds to expand recycling and waste diversion programs.

Her work with the San Diego Taxpayers Association has led to an inclusion of environmental concerns as they look at a new "holistic" approach to applications for public funds. This approach elevates environmental issues to the same level of importance as more traditional allocations such as freeways have been given. This new policy will be tested in the near future as a larger portion of the distribution of a local sales tax should be more equally divided between transportation funding and the smarter growth funding for public transit access, water quality improvement and allocations for open space acquisition and maintenance.

Each year, Carolyn oversees the organization and implementation of San Diego's wonderful Earth Day celebration in our renowned Balboa Park. This activity alone requires hundreds of hours of coordination with many committees and hundreds of volunteers. As part of Earth Day, she founded the EARTH Awards in recognition of "Environmental And Restoration That Helps" activities that raises the visibility of worthy projects, businesses, individuals and youth doing their part.

At a recent Earth Day Proclamation ceremony in the halls of the County Administration building, Carolyn made the bold declaration, "Every day is Earth Day". No stronger attribute can be heaped on any one person then that they have earned their place in the hearts of their community. Such can be said of Carolyn Chase.

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