Academics & Faculty

UCLA environmental researchers release citywide plan, call on candidates to adopt

Environmental experts at UCLA, frustrated by years of Los Angeles making piecemeal progress or announcing 20-year proposals that could be undone by a new political regime, have created a citywide environmental sustainability plan that local leaders can accomplish in just two four-year terms.

The researchers released their Vision 2021 LA plan today and called on the current mayoral and City Council candidates to adopt it as part of their platforms.

"Vision 2021 LA: A Model Sustainability Agenda for Los Angeles' Next Mayor and City Council" is the first comprehensive environmental plan for the city of Los Angeles and addresses all the major impacts the city has on the environment — from energy, air and water to environmental justice and the green economy. It contains 11 target areas, 24 goals and hundreds of benchmarks to ensure accountability. The authors drew on existing Los Angeles city plans, as well as the environmental sustainability plans of other U.S. cities and of academics and environmental professionals.

The report was developed by professors and researchers at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, the UCLA School of Law's Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment, and the law school's Evan Frankel Environmental Law and Policy Program. Vision 2021 LA includes input and reality checks from dozens of current and former city leaders, and top environmental thinkers and practitioners. The goals are ambitious but feasible for politicians constrained by two four-year terms, the researchers said.

"There's never been a comprehensive environmental sustainability plan for Los Angeles," said co-author Mark Gold, a UCLA professor, associate director of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and former president of the local nonprofit Heal the Bay. "We hope that Vision 2021 LA serves as the basis of candidate discussion on the immediate environmental future of Los Angeles. The plan is an ambitious vision that creates measurable accountability within a time frame that a single mayoral administration and Council can tackle."

Vision 2021 LA seeks to turn Los Angeles into the greenest big city in the nation, with a heavy focus on decarbonization, or reducing the city's carbon footprint. Three key goals are in the areas of climate change, energy use and water use. Vision 2021 LA calls for weaning the city off of coal, moving the city's Department of Water and Power to 40 percent renewable energy sources and sourcing almost a third of Los Angeles' water locally.

"Our plan would set the city on the path to sustainability by cleaning our air and water, greening our energy supply, supporting better transportation and creating a resilient built environment," said co-author Cara Horowitz, a professor and executive director of UCLA's Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment.

Los Angeles still needs to work toward long-term environmental sustainability goals, Horowitz said, but an eight-year plan puts the city on that track within a time frame relevant to local government, Horowitz added.

"We have to prepare for a changing climate that will reach into every neighborhood, from an increase in the number of days above 95 degrees to a less reliable water supply," she said. "And the beauty is that reducing our contribution to climate change also makes us better prepared for and more resilient to climate change."

"One thing that's really special about our plan is that we've offered ways to measure progress toward every target and assigned the appropriate city department or agency to take responsibility for each target," said co-author Megan Herzog, an Emmett/Frankel fellow in environmental law and policy at UCLA. "The public will know if these targets have been achieved because they can measure them and know who's responsible."

In addition to Gold, Horowitz and Herzog, authors of the plan include Stephanie Pincetl, an urban environmental professor and director of UCLA's California Center for Sustainable Communities; Sean Hecht, an environmental law professor and executive director of the UCLA School of Law's Environmental Law Center; Katie Mika, a researcher at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability; and Xiao Zhang, a researcher at the UCLA Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment.

Some of the most important goals of Vision 2021 LA include: 
  • Eliminating the Department of Water and Power's use of coal.
  • Moving the DWP to 40 percent renewable energy.
  • Sourcing 32 percent of Los Angeles' water locally.
  • Implementing a low-impact development approach citywide to clean up polluted waters and enhance local water supplies.
  • Piloting "green zones" in neighborhoods like Wilmington, Pacoima and Boyle Heights with disproportionate levels of pollution. Green zones would bar new pollution sources in sensitive areas such as schools and offer incentives to attract green businesses.
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 30 percent below 1990 levels.
  • Reducing per-capita water use to 100 gallons per day.
  • Diverting at least 87 percent of waste from landfills.
  • Adding 4 million square feet of solar-reflecting cool roofs to cut indoor cooling costs and reduce the city's heat sink effect.
  • Transitioning 85 percent of the municipal vehicle fleet to zero-emission or alternative-fuel vehicles.
"This is a starting point," Horowitz said. "There will be people who think we're not going far enough and those who think we're going too far, but it's crucial to get people talking. Angelenos care a lot about making their neighborhoods more livable, and this is the time for people to tell the mayoral and city council candidates what a sustainable Los Angeles should look like."
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