Environmental Issues Raised in L.A. Mayoral, City Council Races

Of the many suggestions, UCLA researchers advocate getting Angelenos to make about one-third of their trips by walking, biking, or using public transit. | Photo: LADOT Bike Blog/Flickr/Creative Commons License

UCLA researchers hoping to induce mayoral and City Council candidates to spend more time discussing long-term sustainability in political races dominated by fiscal and economic issues today released a sweeping environmental blueprint to turn Los Angeles into a green metropolis.

The 85-page report, titled "Vision 2021 LA: A Model Environmental Sustainability Agenda for Los Angeles' Next Mayor and City Council," details goals and deadlines in 11 areas, including energy and climate, transportation, water and waste, among others. It calls on the city to adopt a sustainability plan by 2014 and review it every other year.

"These are realistic, sustainable goals that the city has the capacity to do in an eight-year period, two mayoral terms," said Megan Herzog, an Emmett/Frankel Fellow in Environmental Law and Policy at UCLA and one of the plan's seven authors. "We're looking at ideas where the funding is available, with implementation measures that could be deployed right away. These are shovel-ready projects."

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The plan aims to bring "siloed" environmental and planning goals in various city departments under one overarching city plan to increase accountability, Herzog said.

"The problem is that the public doesn't have good metrics for measuring whether the city has achieved its goals," she said. "Siloed thinking can only take us so far."

New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, Portland, and neighboring Santa Monica have city-wide sustainability plans.

Among Vision 21's most ambitious goals are to eliminate coal as a source of electricity for the city by 2021. Today, coal is the source for about 39 percent of the city's electric supply.

The report calls for generating 32 percent of the city's water needs locally through increased use of recycled water, capturing stormwater, and conservation. Only about 11 percent of the city's water is generated locally.

Mark Gold, associate director of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and another of the plan's authors, said the rest of Los Angeles County does very well at recycling water, but "Los Angeles is like a donut hole of poor water recycling. That needs to change."

The plan also calls for diverting 87 percent of the city's trash from landfills by 2021, a significant increase over the current 65 percent diversion rate. The authors also advocate getting Angelenos to make about one-third of their trips by walking, biking, or using public transit.

"These proposals are right on the money, and I've already led the way by nearly tripling the number of parks in my district, authoring the nation's largest green building ordinance, and working with UCLA to make Los Angeles the nation's largest city with a solar Feed-in Tariff program," said City Councilman Eric Garcetti, who is running for mayor. "As mayor, I look forward to continuing my work with universities, environmental organizations, and communities to make L.A. the global leader in environmental sustainability and innovation."

City Controller Wendy Greuel, another mayoral candidate, also claimed the mantle of environmental stewardship.

"Los Angeles has already undergone a remarkable transformation from a polluting city of the past towards a livable, sustainable city of the future, including many of the issues I've been a leader on -- from leading the city in securing over 1,200 acres of open space in perpetuity to improving the city's transportation system and creating a road map for a more effective Department of Transportation," Greuel said. "Vision 2021 provides a specific and detailed road map of where we've come up short. I look forward to working with our visionary best minds to make Los Angeles a world model for sustainable urban living."

The plan's authors called on all the mayoral candidates to use Vision 21 to guide their environmental platforms and to discuss its goals at a Dec. 15 debate, the first of the election cycle scheduled to be broadcast live by ABC7.

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