By Sam Catanzaro
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last week unanimously adopted the OurCounty Sustainability Plan, one of the boldest, most comprehensive regional approach to sustainability ever issued by a county in the United States.
The plan, drafted over the course of two years with the help of nearly 1,000 community and expert stakeholders from every part of the County, sets forth an ambitious agenda that looks to transform the region in the years and decades ahead.
Recognizing the urgency of existing regional challenges and the climate crisis, the plan aims to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement by creating a fossil-fuel-free Los Angeles County within the next three decades. It includes nearly 160 health-focused strategies centering on communities that have been disproportionately affected by environmental pollution for decades.
“At its heart, this plan is both a call to action and a commitment to future generations,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who, with Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, sponsored the motion to create the County’s Chief Sustainability Office, which led to the development of the plan. “This is our unequivocal statement that climate change is real, and that our County will not stand around waiting for the federal government to wake up and create the policies and programs needed to address it.
Unlike other sustainability plans, the OurCounty plan is unique in its regional focus as it moves to confront a wide range of environmental, social and economic challenges.
“The OurCounty Sustainability Plan charts a path forward to not only confront climate change and pollution, but to do so in ways that also address other challenges, like traffic, the housing affordability crisis, and longstanding inequality,” said Board of Supervisors Chair Janice Hahn. “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. These false choices force us to think small when the real solutions are so much bigger.”
“This Sustainability Plan takes a strategic approach to improving the health and quality of life in communities across Los Angeles County,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “The demand for more affordable housing, well-paying jobs, healthier living, and clean and green transportation are all intertwined. Collectively, we must pursue bold and holistic strategies if we are serious about prioritizing the sustainability of our region.”
Overall, OurCounty proposes to make Los Angeles County a more equitable, prosperous and resilient region in the years ahead. The plan’s goals and milestones include:
- Powering unincorporated areas and County facilities with 100% renewable energy by 2025
- Increasing urban tree canopy coverage by 15% by 2035
- Diverting more than 95% of waste from landfills
- Developing land-use tools to limit new development in high climate-hazard areas
- Phasing out single-use plastic by 2025 to ensure a cleaner ocean and less landfill waste
- Cutting back on imported water by sourcing 80 percent of water locally by 2045
- Ensuring that all residents have safe and clean drinking water, and that rivers, lakes and the ocean meet federal water quality standards
- Leading efforts to make sure that at least 65% of new housing is built within 1/2 mile of high frequency transit by 2035
- Supporting construction of more than half a million affordable housing units by 2045 to improve public health and community sustainability
The County will not be making these changes alone, but in concert with the region’s cities and residents.
“Our future depends not just on the County’s actions, but also on the 88 cities of Los Angeles County stepping up to the plate to collectively help achieve the strategic plan’s vision for sustainability,” said Chief Executive Officer Sachi A. Hamai. “We look forward to building and growing these partnerships as we work toward common goals on behalf of all the communities we serve.”