Now is the Time to Create a More Just, Sustainable L.A.
March 9, 2017
Written by: Yvette Lopez-Ledesma, Deputy Director Pacoima Beautiful
For a few seconds imagine a Los Angeles with enough resources to put it on the path towards improving traffic, reducing homelessness, increasing housing stock and affordability and addressing the lack of quality recreational space. Now imagine that the agencies responsible for implementing these measures increased their public participation efforts and used inclusive, greener, sustainable, forward-thinking practices. According to the Los Angeles County Recorder, 77.5% of Los Angeles County voters did not vote for Donald Trump. However, they did vote for local progressive measures. Measure M, the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan; Measure A, the Safe, Clean Neighborhood Parks, Open Space, Beaches, Rivers Protection and Water Conservation Measure ; Measure JJJ otherwise known as Build a Better L.A. ; Measure HHH the Homelessness Reduction and Prevention, Housing and Facilities Bond, the Countywide Measure H Homeless - these all passed with more than 60% of the vote. This could mean that sprawling, traffic-clogged L.A. could potentially become a model for sustainable development.
While the Trump administration is using fear and raids to separate our families and communities we must be aware that infrastructure has the potential to be the ultimate unifier between both Republicans and Democrats across the nation, in particular in regions like Los Angeles and Atlanta where Trump didn’t win. In these regions where people voted in new transportation measures, low-income communities of color have long been adversely impacted by poorly-planned infrastructure projects. This is why as Angelinos and supporters of these measures we must also be aware of local implementation timelines as we prepare to shape their outcomes.
For those of us working at the intersection of urban planning and environmental justice in Los Angeles, the passing of these measures has many in the field thinking about the steps that need to be taken to ensure successful implementation, as we simultaneously mobilize around Trump’s already damaging actions. However, definitions of success can vary, leaving communities like Pacoima with unmet needs, as fear and threats of deportation keeps many in the community without the desire to engage in public outreach processes.
For Pacoima Beautiful, a one of a kind grassroots community based organization, community organizing to ensure successful implementation at all levels is key. This oversight all begins in the pre-planning phase. The work to ensure that this historically marginalized community is provided with investment from these measures began prior to November 8, 2016, and in order for projects created by these measures to be considered successful they must move the needle on environmental justice.
As these investments are made, it is up to the advocates, allies and elected officials to work with community members, especially those who may live in fear, and push for increased public participation in safe spaces. While the planning process can be long and frustrating, as advocates for communities we need to hold public agencies accountable and demand that they provide the public with more than 2 outreach meetings at challenging times and in remote locations.
As sustainability advocates, the organization believes that the passage of Measures A, H, M, JJJ and HHH helps advance Los Angeles’ push to become a more environmentally sustainable city that will address the need for better mobility, housing and provide services to our homeless population. The investment generated by these measures can help set the standard for growth in environmental justice communities that have long been demanding the need to drive the transition from dirty fuels, wasteful practices such as working in silos and outsourcing. Speeding up the process to convert to cleaner technologies for transit and freight, and promoting coordinated efforts on behalf of agencies, could also result in local hire/contracting to spur job growth.
While JJJ and H, HHH will result in more housing, advocates can also push for mandated amenities in the community planning and project planning phase such as low-carbon construction practices, land-use buffers around residential and industrial zones, VOC free construction materials, solar access, battery storage, green/cool roofs, reduced parking, increased density and street/pedestrian amenities, and this is only the beginning.
Los Angeles has all of the pieces in place to mitigate impact from previous terrible land-use and investment decisions, and the opportunity to mitigate local impacts on climate change. Most importantly, L.A. has the people who have long lived here and worked to bring these measures forward. By welcoming people into the planning process instead of deterring them, the region will show DC that inclusivity and sustainability not fear, division and exploitation will reign in a region where the grassroots are groundbreaking.