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‘Sustainability plan’ launched to tackle environment, housing

City News Service | 8/9/2019, midnight

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors this week adopted a regional “sustainability plan” that sets aggressive goals for everything from climate change to affordable housing.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said the plan represents “one of the most consequential undertakings” of the board.

Chief Sustainability Officer Gary Gero said it is designed to make the county “healthier, more livable, economically stronger, more equitable, and more resilient.”

Gero and his team have coordinated with representatives and residents from the 88 cities within the county, looking to agree on regional solutions for problems such as climate crisis, air and water pollution, water supply, the urban heat island effect and transportation.

“This plan sets some very, very ambitious goals,” Gero told the board.

A dozen high-level goals cover issues ranging from healthy communities and equitable land use to safe and affordable transportation and eliminating the use of fossil fuels. The 37 strategies and 159 action items for implementation are tied to targets such as achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, sourcing 80 percent of the county’s water supply locally by 2045, diverting more than 95 percent of waste from landfills, and building 65 percent of new housing within a half-mile of high-frequency transit by 2035.

Kuehl underlined the county’s commitment to tackling climate change and the plan’s intent to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement, despite the federal government’s withdrawal from that agreement.

“Global climate change is one of those seemingly intractable issues ... it feels kind of too big to solve,” Kuehl said, adding would take on the problem “one step at a time ... methodically, fearlessly, intelligently.”

Gero acknowledged that not everyone loves the plan, including oil industry representatives who warned him that phasing out fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy will cost the county too many good jobs.

Supervisor Janice Hahn called that a false choice.

“We don’t have to choose between clean air and good jobs, or between investing in a greener economy and an economy that works for everyone, or even between preserving local ecosystems and building abundant housing that our residents can afford,” Hahn said. “These false choices force us to think small when the real solutions are so much bigger.”

Gero said he expects oil industry jobs would be replaced by others, pointing to the region’s potential future as the center of zero-emission vehicle manufacture, for example.

Union representatives were largely supportive, though at least one expressed concerns.

Calling oil company jobs among the best available in the South Bay for industrial workers, David Campbell of United Steelworkers Local 675 said the county would need to carefully navigate a transition to renewable energy to make sure everyone is treated fairly.

“I need support in educating my own members (about) what exactly is the path for them and their future,” Campbell told the board. “Unless they understand it, (their reaction) will be fear.”

Some business interests spoke out in support of the plan, including the Los Angeles Business Council.

Southern California Gas Co. representative Andy Carrasco said the utility is committed to becoming the cleanest natural gas utility in the country and said Los Angeles County could transition to 100 percent renewable natural gas by 2025 by utilizing organic waste.

“We’re ready to partner,” Carrasco told the board.

More than 70 people signed up to address the supervisors, and the majority said they were in favor of the plan.