Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Report from Los Angeles in the Year 2030: A Green Justice City

From 2007-2030 Los Angeles made dramatic changes both making it a green city and a city dedicated to social justice. Los Angeles as the Green Justice City was inspired Los Angeles' progressive social movements of the 1990s. Tens of community activists, policy analysts, and academics worked together for two years from 1999-2000 to produce ideas from the grass-roots for a new city. In 2001 they presented "A Policy Agenda for the Next LA" based on LA's progressive social movements and then published as the Appendix in the book The Next Los Angeles.

The grass-roots people involved with creating The Next Los Angeles clearly understood that any greening of Los Angeles has to be combined with increasing social justice in the city. They also called for economic development in their report, refusing to see any conflict between a green city and a prosperous one without the hunger, the sweatshops, and the tenements of the late 1990s. They had double vision--justice with ecology. Their vision directly led to such transformations that created the Los Angeles of the Year 2030: from a city whose buildings wasted energy and water to a city composed of 100% green buildings; from a city whose open space was largely toxic abandoned industrial sites turned into a network of parks; from a city with thousands hungry to a population without hunger eating 50% locally produced, organic food.

In 2005 after Hurricane Katrina demolished New Orleans, global warming was finally recognized as a danger for any coastal city like L.A. In 2001 70% of LA's energy came from coal and nuclear power which pollute the environment and contribute to global warming. Secondly, LA is a desert city which stole its water in 1911 from the Owens Valley and still pumped much of its water from hundreds of miles away in 2001.

The Next Los Angles recommend and the city adopted in 2008 a Municipal Buildings Policy to redesign all city-owned buildings including all school buildings to reduce energy and water. In Santa Monica the city had built Colorado Court, a 44-unit affordable housing building which produced its own energy. Colorado Court was the prototype for the green buildings --every building with solar panels on top to produce electricity, greywater system to use water for irrigations, rain barrels to collect rainwater, and recycle bins. In 2008 Los Angeles had adopted the Sustainable Building Act to reduce energy and water use for all new buildings, to use recycled materials, and to reduce toxins in older buildings.

Andy Lipkis from TreePeople, which had planted a million trees worldwide, had in 2006 recommended rain barrels all over the city to collect rain which is then used. The city adopted the Rain Conversation Act also in 2010. By 2030, all buildings in Southern California were green: they produced 90% of their own electricity; they used little water; they recycled 90% of their waste. The remaining 90% of electricity came from the cities' electrical grid using wind and geothermal power. In 2030 the cities' buildings used 0 energy from polluting sources.

The City Council also decided to give startup money in 2008 for factories to build solar panels and rain barrels in South Central, where 50,000 jobs factory jobs were lost in the 1980s. They passed a law that these jobs have to be unionzed with livable wages. In 2006 Los Angeles had the largest manufacturing center in the country, so the new factories to green the city's buildings added onto LA's economy as well as saved Los Angeles money in less spending on water and power. Mass producing solar panels lowered the cost tremendously. The city used state money to have a publicly funded public works project GreeeWorks like the WPA of the New Deal program to retrofit all LA buildings.

Los Angeles in 2006 had many toxic industrial sites as well as less parks than any other major city. The Cornfields, a 32-acre polluted rail yard near Chinatown and the Los Angeles River, had been designated as a new park just north of Los Angeles. In the late 1990s neighborhood activists in Chinatown combined with white environmentalists in Friends of the Los Angeles River to get the Cornfields not developed with factories or shops but set aside as a park. The Next Los Angeles had found out that much open land remaining in the city were toxic brownfields like the Cornfields, so they argued the city should clean the brownfield sites, involving neighboring communities in how these sites will be used after they are cleaned up using the Cornfields as a prototype..

In 2009 the city passed the Brownfields Conversion Act, focusing first on park-poor low-income neighborhoods with brownfield sites that were turned into parks or community gardens. Neighborhood activists got the city to open up more parks as well as get more funding going to parks--both improving existing parks and building new ones. Friend of the Los Angeles River's (FOLAR) plan to green the concrete-river was adopted in 2008, so along the river the city built parks, community gardens, bike paths, walkways, and then housing and tourist hotels on both sides of the park land as Eric Own Moss Architects had suggested in their plan that won the award for History Channel's competition. Beginning in 2010 bike paths were also built across the city that go from park to park. The city went from park poor to park rich.

The Next Los Angeles had argued that the city government should end hunger in Los Angeles, one of the wealthiest cities in the globe. In 2008 the city had adopted a food program with three goals: end hunger in Los Angeles; lower energy costs for making food; and ensure healthier food to lessen diseases caused by obesity and polluted food. In the last few months of 2006 and throughout 2007 people were continually getting sick from contaminated foods produced in industrialized farms and factories.

In developing the new food policies of the year 2008, city historians recalled when the city was much smaller in the 1st half of the 20th century, much of Los Angeles County was one of the richest agricultural lands in the nation including a huge amount of orchards. With water, almost anything grow here. Mayor Villaraigoas announced in 2006 a plan to plant a million trees--but the plan was changed in 2008 to make half of the trees fruit trees, particularly citrus. Once Hollywood Boulevard had orange trees, and again starting in 2010 orange trees were planted on this street. Most fruit trees were planted, however, in residential neighborhoods with neighbor sharing for their block fruit trees. The city also started 20 new community gardens. Fruit trees and community gardens provided food.

For food scarce neighborhoods the city adopted The Next Los Angeles’s recommendations to build "four new full-service markets and four new farmer's markets" in Southcentral L.A. The city also adopted a policy to support small, locally-owned restaurants as well as truck and street vendors. The city offered credit for street vendors and helped them produce clean, healthy food as the project at Mama's Hot Tamales Cafe had first helped street vendors in McArthur Park. Los Angeles ended all subsides to fast-food restaurants. In the omnibus Food Safety Act of 2009 all children who needed it got free breakfast and lunch of organic, locally produced foods. All school cafeterias, inspired by the Berkeley, served organic local produce bought from local farmers. By 2030 1/2 of the cities foods again came from local sources: farms, orchards, or community gardens.

The Metro transportation arranged bus routes to help people get to markets. The city helped out farmers by supporting farmer's markets with using the city's insurance and using city's buildings as spaces as well as letting farmer's markets accept food stamps. Food poisoning was reduced after the federal government adopted stringent new laws policing the food industry and more people shifted to eating local food. Also, the city supported unionization through the food industry, so in 2009-2010 farm workers and restaurant workers were unionized, joining the unions of supermarket clerks in one huge food union. Workers in the food union got livable wages as well as health insurance through the state-mandated health insurance passed in 2009. By 2015 hunger was abolished in Los Angeles as the first goal was met. By 2025 energy transport costs were lessened. By 2030 rates for obesity in the city had reduced remarkably.

The city also made huge changes in its transportation system and in housing, but these two vitally important issues will be dealt with in the next section of the report.

No comments: