The Next Four Years: A Time to Work on the Environment

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May 29, 2013 in Environment

Now that the L.A. mayoral race is over, its winner, Eric Garcetti, has much to do to help advance an environmental agenda for Los Angeles. He has a strong record of environmental protection and I’m confident that as mayor he can lead the City to a big and bold vision of environmental sustainability. There are several major issues L.A. will need to address during the next four years. A comprehensive report prepared by UCLA serves as a more in depth analysis than this blog can undertake, but here are some of the major issues that Mayor Garcetti should undertake.

Waste

This next year is going to be critical to advancing a future that relies less on landfills and more on reducing, reusing and recycling. Of immediate priority, Eric Garcetti needs to push hard with the City Council to vote on the single-use plastic bag ban ordinance, although this issue should be wrapped up before he even takes office. The mayor should then set as an immediate priority overseeing the transition from the current open permit system for waste collection at apartment buildings and businesses to an exclusive franchise system with strong standards. With this transition, the mayor should explore how to expand job creation through the recycling and reuse industries.

Transportation

The next four years will be chock full of transportation issues. Los Angeles is undergoing one of the nation’s largest transformations of its transit system. Mayor Garcetti needs to continue Mayor Villaraigosa’s legacy and continue to push this system’s expansion that provides alternatives to driving on congested roads.  One particular component that should be explored is how to ignite and dramatically expand a bus rapid transit system in Los Angeles and enhance the current bus system. Sometimes the bus system gets lost in the shuffle as the focus on rail construction remains a priority. The mayor should also pursue the concept of Mobility Hubs and expand the use of information technology to make riding transit easier.

On the land use end, there needs to be a big push towards smart and just transit oriented development. The Los Angeles region will have many new transit stations built in the upcoming decades. We need to ensure dense development that both encourages transit ridership and discourages displacement of core transit riders. This will entail maximizing our investments in transit infrastructure by having the appropriate land uses around them incentivize a mix of affordable housing, commercial retail use and community-serving businesses.

On freight, there will be several issues in the coming years. Community health should be at the forefront of any freight discussion. Despite some progress in cleaning up the Port of Los Angeles over the last decade, there is still a lot more work to be done. Most important, there is a consensus amongst our air quality planners that our freight system needs to move to zero emissions technologies in order to meet federal and state clean air standards. The next mayor needs to appoint a harbor commission whose primary focus should be making this happen. If the region wants to be a leader in freight, it needs to be the leader in advancing zero emissions technologies and most importantly deploying these technologies to scale.

L.A. River and Parks

Another important venture over the upcoming years will be advancing the restoration of the L.A. River and enhancing parks. There has been a lot of great work done to improve the L.A. River, but there is a lot more work to be carried out. We also need to expand parks and open spaces because Mayor Garcetti should advance a big and bold vision of parks and open space ranging from parklets and alley transformations to large urban parks. In particular, this should focus on equitable distribution of parks and open space because many neighborhoods in the City have inadequate access to parks and open space.

Water

As always, water is a huge issue for Los Angeles. The mayor should focus on local projects and green infrastructure to help ensure we obtain more of our water from local sources. In addition, Mayor Garcetti should play an active role in addressing the Bay Delta issues related to infrastructure. The mayor should endorse the portfolio approach endorsed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups.

Energy

There is a lot of work that needs to be done to address energy issues. The L.A. Department of Water and Power should enhance its efforts to promote efficiency. In addition, it should work to achieve the 33 percent renewable statewide requirement by 2020.

There are likely many other issues ahead. But, even with this list, Mayor Garcetti has an ambitious task in the next four years. I’m confident that the environmental community is looking forward to collaborating with him in making Los Angeles the greenest big city in the nation.

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