January 11, 2023 - From the January, 2023 issue

Green New Deal Ordinances Adopted on Mayor Garcetti’s Last Day in Office

On his final day in office, Former Mayor Eric Garcetti signed a series of ordinances implementing key provisions of LA’s Green New Deal including banning polystyrene, expanding the single-use plastic ban, banning natural gas in new construction, and phasing out oil drilling in the city. In these excerpted remarks, the former Mayor, as well as LA City Council President Paul Krekorian, CD4 Councilmember Nithya Raman, and outgoing CD5 Councilmember Paul Koretz discuss the Garcetti administration’s environmental and sustainability legacy and recognize key staff—eg. City CSO Lauren Faber O’Connor, Koretz' Environmental Deputy Andy Shrader, as well as the Mayor's YouthCouncil for their role in accelerating the city of LA’s green transition. In addition, the policymakers look ahead at what the future holds in the coming years, including LA100’s promise for a full transition to renewable power by 2035.


“… Mayor [Garcetti], you left a legacy that really has set the example for the rest of the nation. In fact, not just the rest of the nation, through your work in C40 and so many other capacities, really what we're doing here in Los Angeles has an impact on global policy.” -Paul Krekorian

Eric Garcetti: In the 1920s, Los Angeles produced about 25 percent of all the oil in the world. This was an oil town. Those of us who grew up here remember going to the Dodger game and watching oil wells when you came back. Or you’d drive through Culver City and South Los Angeles and see those in Wilmington. Same here in Echo Park and in historic Filipinotown. We look at that history now and wonder how it could have been different if we had powered our growth in a different way.

We're standing on what was actually an oil drilling site that the city remediated. In 2011, as a City Councilmember, I worked with our federal partners and developed this into a neighborhood park, listening to neighbors who said they wanted a green space. There were 12 parks in Council District 13 when we started, we left with 36. We were relentless in finding every scrap of land and every bit of funding and begging past Mayors and Councilmembers—we sometimes have to do that now.

For the children who play here, the students at the Alliance Charter School just down the street, they continue to have a front row seat to these oil fields that are here; that smell; that sound; all the health impacts of oil drilling. This will soon be in the past. We are phasing out oil drilling, banning fossil fuels from new buildings, and getting rid of Styrofoam and reducing our reliance on single use plastics in Los Angeles.

These five ordinances that we're signing here together are game changers, and to the people who are here: you are all game changers as well. I hope you can breathe in this moment. Those of us who are activists are always see there's so much more to be done. We're stressed out about what's not complete. I beg you to take a day to celebrate and to feel the history of this moment here today. With these five ordinances that are signed today, we're committing to a future where we keep fossil fuels are in the ground where they belong; not to the buildings we live in or the products that we have.

The work that we're doing today is nothing short of breathless. Two decades ago, when I became a Councilmember, LADWP was 2 percent renewable energy. Today it is more than 63 percent. By the end of this decade, that will be 97 percent and 100 percent by 2035. This is a city that used to steal water, but now we've reduced our water imports by 54 percent. We're going to recycle 100 percent of our water. Drought doesn't stress us; it focuses us. A city that's known for its pollution and its snarled traffic will be one that's making historic investments in 13 different segments, from bikes to electric buses to rail and electric vehicle infrastructure.

Today, we take another great leap forward; a step that will add to the work of doing LA's Green New Deal. I've been asked  a thousand times what am I proudest of. I say I don’t know and change my answer every time. Then, I finally said the Green New Deal because we stuck 445 initiatives in there. Why choose just one when I can choose all 445 to get us to carbon neutrality, to prevent 1,650 premature deaths, to save $16 billion, to create 400,000 green jobs, and to center equity at the heart of everything we do.

We’re also focusing on the people who are displaced. We’re not just saying, “Look, there's net new jobs, who cares who loses theirs.” We're actually focusing on the individuals who today derive their livelihoods from the fossil fuel industry to make sure the transition is just and something that helps them land even better jobs in the new green economy. We’re bringing together labor groups, industry leaders, tribal leaders, tribal nations, state and local government entities, academic institutions, environmental justice leaders, youth leaders, and workforce development experts.

I want to thank those folks that are here from that taskforce. The taskforce has worked tirelessly over the last year to develop a transition strategy for workers and the communities that will be impacted by our policies to phase out oil extraction. It includes specific recommendations for how we'll turn this environmental imperative into an economic opportunity and how we'll transition legacy fossil fuel jobs into solar panel installers, EV technicians and give our children and grandchildren that future that they deserve.

I'm so excited to be here today. This is one of those moments. Seriously, in 21 years, this ranks up there in a single handful of most significant moments I have been a part of.

 

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Paul Krekorian: Wow, Mayor Garcetti. Talk about pushing through the finish line and working until the last day. I am telling you, after such an extraordinary record of environmental leadership, Mayor, you left a legacy that really has set the example for the rest of the nation. In fact, not just the rest of the nation, through your work in C40 and so many other capacities, really what we're doing here in Los Angeles has an impact on global policy. The leadership that you've shown here, Mayor Garcetti, not only as mayor, but before that as councilmember, literally has changed the face of Los Angeles and the face of the world when it comes to our awareness of the environmental challenges before us. Thank you on behalf of all of us and the generations not even born yet.

I guess we should also say that there's never an end to this journey. We each keep passing the baton to the next person. We are able to breathe deeply, as the mayor said, here on this spot because of the work that was done before in remediating this spot. Hopefully in neighborhoods across Los Angeles in a few years, they will be able to breathe deeply too in their own parks that aren't contaminated by oil and gas drilling anymore because of the work that we did here today. In future generations, they will get to enjoy that, just as we enjoy the work of those that came before.

I remember growing up in the San Fernando Valley in the ‘60s and ‘70s. I remember what it was like to go swimming in the summer and to literally feel my lungs hurt from the air pollution. I remember when we would get smog alerts that said it wasn't safe to go and play outside. There were restrictions on school activities because of the air quality.

Because of the work of millions of unknown, unnamed activists and because of the work of successions of policymakers over the course of years, we've seen the bending of that arc. We've seen how much that's changed. We see the impacts and the benefits that came from that work that came before, and we don't recognize it often enough.

As the mayor said, often all of us who make policy see the crisis that's immediately before us. We see the thing that is outrageous today that we have to respond to. We don't often enough look backwards to think how far we've come and how much progress we've made. This is one of those moments that I hope each and every one of you who are here will think back upon years from now when you tell others to whom you're passing the baton that this was a moment that really made a difference for all of us.

Think of what brings these three issues together: we've taken on maybe the most powerful and most destructive industry on Earth with these three initiatives. The Mayor mentioned LA100. Thank you for recognizing that work that we continue to do on LA100. As we continue to make progress on reducing the demand for fossil fuels in creating electricity and reducing the demand for fossil fuels in powering our transportation, we continue now to reduce the demand for fossil fuels in powering our built environment.

So, this is a moment where I think we can all take pride that we said “no more”. No more are we going to accept business as usual when it comes to single-use plastic. No more are we going to allow buildings to be dependent upon fossil fuels. No more, at long last, will people in neighborhoods around this city have to raise their kids right next to an active oil drilling site. No more are they going to have to walk past pump jacks as they're getting to their neighborhood park. No more are they going to have to worry when they sit down for dinner that the fumes from those local extraction sites are going to cause their kids to suffer from emphysema or cancer or god knows what other impact. No more, starting today, thanks to your work and the work of leaders like Eric Garcetti, Paul Koretz, Nithya Raman, Mitch O’Farrell, and others on this council.

I also do want to just take one minute to thank all of the city employees who are here as well. Policy makers like to go and do press conferences and this and that. They leave the hard work to our city employees or general managers. In some cities, those bureaucracies may be resistant to change. They may think, “this is not how we do it”. That's not the way our city employees act, especially in the Garcetti administration, in taking these tasks on. From LA100 right on down, they've taken these challenges on and made them real. Thank you to all of you.

 

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Nithya Raman: Thank you so much to Mayor Garcetti for the opportunity to join you here today to sign these incredible ordinances into law to advance a more sustainable Los Angeles. I am so deeply honored to be able to share this final moment of signing new laws of your administration with you.

It is such a particularly exciting moment for my office. As the mayor mentioned, we worked really hard on new building decarbonization. My staff, and Josh Nuni, led the way from my office, worked with so many people from the Mayor's office who are here. The mayor himself held meetings and made calls to push it forward. It was an incredible labor of love from across the city. All that's left today is your signature, Mayor Garcetti.

Today is an incredibly important first step, but all of you who are here today--the advocates and the people who pushed us to make these steps--know that this is just the first step around building decarbonization. The harder work of retrofitting existing buildings is ahead of us.

In a city where a housing and homelessness crisis is crippling us, we know that we cannot make those steps to retrofitting existing buildings in a way that penalizes the poorest and most vulnerable renters. We cannot extract more from Los Angeles renters at this time.

Yet we must meet those goals. That is going to be tough, but what gives me hope today is that everything that is being signed today was also tough. Everything that is being signed today took work, took negotiation, took compromise, and took all of us coming together and hammering out what would work, what would make sense, what would be just, what would be equitable, and what would be right for Los Angeles.

You enabled us to dream of what was once impossible. I feel very, very humbled to be here with all of you today, watching these new ordinances being signed and with all of these great leaders behind me standing in partnership to push Los Angeles into the future. Thank you.

 

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Paul Koretz:

… With Mayor Garcetti’s incredible leadership with C40 cities and the climate mayors, we were one of the first and the most notable city to declare a climate emergency. With some organizing efforts there now, almost 2,300 cities have declared climate emergencies. We have an informal network of cities that really are following our every move here in Los Angeles, which has always been my goal from the beginning.

If we're ever going to deal with climate change, it's really not going to be done by countries. It's really going to be done by cities across the world. What we do here, if we just did it here, would be a big deal, but it wouldn't be that big a deal. The big deal is Los Angeles is the most watched city and we do it with the reputation of the car-conscious city that we are and the polluting city that we are. If we can do it here, it can be done anywhere, and it will be done everywhere.

It's really been astonishing what we've done in the last week. Any politician or any city could call a lengthy career great if you could accomplish the things we've done in one week.

We're a little behind the curve on Styrofoam. We started this effort about 10 years ago. We battled a lot of lobbyists who are well connected, and good friends of mine, admittedly. That has helped to stave this off, but we are finally here, especially on the Councilmember O’Farrell’s watch, who has been the best environmental champion.

Sorry he’s not here, and I'm sorry he didn't want anyone to speak on his behalf at his going away event yesterday. If I had had the chance to speak, I would say that the O’Farrell era of chairing this committee that has made a massive difference. We've never had a chair like him to focus, develop the expertise, and be incredibly well-staffed that moved one thing after another in a short period of time. I'd like to recognize him here today.

We're making a real dent in plastic production. As was mentioned, it's critically important because the oil industry is going to reduce, over time, their oil production for transportation. We know that’s got to happen. It's got to happen for our world’s survival, but they're trying to not slow down production by ramping up plastic. They have spent billions to create more plastic production facilities. They have to find market, so they've got to make everything out of plastic that's possible. Certainly, plastic bags and Styrofoam are where their future is. That has to be a future that we don't allow to happen. We have taken big steps to do that.

We've probably also surprised a lot of people around the world when we began down the road with the stuff we're recognizing today: to ban oil drilling in the City of Los Angeles. No new wells and an amortization period, which is a maximum of 20 years. I hope it'll be a lot shorter than that. Then, we can clean up this city.

Really, my efforts have been active since 2013 on this specific issue in Los Angeles. although I fought oil drilling since I was a teenager. I was organizing against offshore oil drilling in the Santa Monica Bay and up and down the coast. I was proud to pull a couple of stunts, including bidding on an oil lease. A group of us that had no money got $9,000 together between 30 people. We bidded on a tiny, environmentally shaky oil lease that we knew nobody else would bid, and we got it. We did a press conference afterwards announcing that we were going to do it with a diver and a spoon. We made it look so ridiculous.

Fast forward to today, we are taking a huge step again. If Los Angeles, one of the cities that was founded on a massive amount of oil drilling, can put a halt to it, other cities can follow suit. We can push to keep it in the ground and forever keep it in the ground.

With building decarbonization, we've been working for several years with stakeholders to get to the point where they were comfortable with a motion that would deal with both new buildings and retrofitting existing buildings. We knew outreach to do the existing buildings would take several more months. With Councilmember Raman’s push to get this part done and all her incredible work and the work of her staff, we're here. We're knocking out the new buildings. I know I can trust her to continue to push this along, with my other remaining environmentally-focused colleagues, and it will not be long before we decarbonize all buildings in the city.

Combined with a significant move forward on the wildlife corridors after about ten years working on that, thank you to the Planning Department and the Planning Commission. That was incredible. I think this helps cap what has to be the most amazing week of environmental progress that the city has ever made, and probably that any city has ever made anywhere in the world.

This is very exciting. I thank all of our incredible staffs, and all of our incredible activists and leaders. It's just so wonderful to see on my last day of government, after first getting elected in 1988, just a little while ago.

Mayor Garcetti: And by the way, let me also pause to thank my team for their late hours that they would sit down with the Mayor’s Youth Council and bring in real experts. It wasn't just like, “Oh, thank you for serving on this, you're one day going to do something about this.” They were given the same expertise—I mean, experts we didn’t even share with the City Council sometimes. And so, I want to thank Lauren Faber O’Connor, city’s Chief Sustainability Officer, for all she’s done.

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© 2023 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.