LA's ambitious sustainability plan targets economic and equality issues

Wed, 2015-04-15 06:00 -- Doug Peeples

When Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti took the wraps off the city’s new multi-faceted sustainability plan, it was clear that he wasn’t going to be timid about dealing with the city’s increasing temperatures and growing population density.

The new 20-year plan has three primary components: reduce the amount of imported water used, reach higher air quality levels and curb greenhouse gas emissions. The "Sustainable City Plan" -- referred to as the ‘pLAn' -- addresses those issues in a number of ways. It also includes a performance dashboard to track progress.

Quoted in the Los Angeles Daily News, Garcetti’s lead advisor on sustainability said the plan zeroes in on the “economic and equality” issues that confront a city trying to deal with the challenges of higher temperatures and a growing population.

"How do we have a city where people thrive, rather than just be accommodated? That means we have to help the environment, we have a robust economy and we create an equal opportunity for every Angeleno." He added that the city anticipates an additional 500,000 residents by 2035.

The plan’s short-term goals, scheduled for completion by 2017, include a 65-station bicycle sharing system, 20,000 new green jobs, a dramatic increase in the city’s solar power resources and the addition of 1,000 electric vehicle charging stations.

The long view
Garcetti believes the city can increase its solar power capacity to provide electricity for 400,000 homes by 2035, reduce the number of rent-burdened dwellings (households that pay 30% or more of their income on rent) over the next 10 years, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.

Also, Garcetti said he plans to use the pLAn in city management. Performance reviews of general managers of the city’s departments will include how well they are working toward achieving plan goals.

Dealing with the drought
Angelenos have also been asked to conserve water, in part because of the historic drought parching the state and because of the city’s heavy reliance on imported water. The city now gets about 85% of its water from outside sources. The sustainability plan calls for the city to provide 50% of its water from local sources by 2035 through a variety of measures such as recycling, capturing storm water and other methods.

Another 2035 goal is that 75% of residents will live within a half-mile of a park or other open green space. The shorter term goal is that 56% will within two years.

The plan has received praise overall as well as for some of its specific components. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a Council Advisor, was extremely supportive. In a statement released following Garcetti’s announcement, EDF commented “The leadership exhibited today by the City of Los Angeles and Mayor Garcetti serves as a model for the rest of the country that major American cities can and should play a vital role in fighting climate change and building a clean energy economy.”

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Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.

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