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Mayor unveils 'ambitious' plan to make LA greener

On Wednesday, Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled his office’s “Sustainable City Plan,” a document that outlines sweeping goals for environmental improvements that the city will aim to achieve during the next 20 years.

A year in the works, the 108-page plan covers planned improvements in 14 areas: water, solar, energy-efficient buildings, carbon and climate, waste, housing, mobility, green jobs, earthquake preparedness, air quality, environmental justice, urban ecosystem health, neighborhood livability, and encouraging other cities to follow suit.

It includes the long-term goals of obtaining half our water from local sources, increasing enough solar generation to power nearly 400,000 homes, diverting the vast majority of waste from landfills, and reducing the number of rent-burdened households by 20 percent. It also pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

The plan also details a suite of short-term goals to be achieved by the end of 2017, including a bike-sharing system with at least 65 stations and 1,000 bikes; the creation of 20,000 green jobs; the installation of more than 1,000 electronic vehicle charging stations for public use; and the requirement that all city farmers' markets accept EBT as a form of payment.

Despite the seemingly ambitious nature of many of the goals, officials who oversaw the plan said they are within reach.

“This is an ambitious and achievable plan. It’s an actionable roadmap, if you will, to improve Los Angeles. Our 2017 outcomes are focused on those results we know we can deliver over the next two years,” said Matt Petersen, chief sustainability officer for the mayor.

One of the more innovative of the ideas may be the appointment of 18 chief sustainability officers who will oversee progress within city departments.

“We don’t want an environmental affairs department where we stovepipe this issue,” Petersen said. “This is not just an environmental plan. This is an economic, equity and environmental plan to help transform Los Angeles over the next 20 years.”

Petersen said that he hopes some of the officers will be in place by the summer and that the rest will be working within the year.

Some of the plan’s loftier long-term goals will require a dose of good fortune if they are to be achieved by 2035. The mayor’s call to gain 50 percent of water from local sources does not include water funneled from the Owens Valley via the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

Also, the plan calls for at least 50 percent of waste and recyclables to be reused or repurposed within the county. That kind of manufacturing capability is limited by the fact that much of that material is currently sent to China and other markets.

Petersen said that he has received indication that more companies are interested in performing those services locally.

“Some companies recycle hard drives, some companies make cardboard boxes from 100 percent recycled feedstock. They want to do business here,” he said. “It’s an important market. They see that feedstock, those recycled materials, as an opportunity for inputs into their goods, and we’re excited that they want to be part of our economy.”

Of the goals the plan sets, Petersen said that improvement targets in climate change and water (specifically the drought) are the most likely to make him lose sleep. Still, he said he’s excited that plan is finally being released.

“Then really the hard work begins of implementing the plan and working with everyone to achieve these goals,” Petersen said.