On Earth Day 2018, the LA County Chief Sustainability Office and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl hosted a meeting to introduce the Countywide Sustainability Plan to city sustainability staff.
Gary Gero and Kristen Torres Pawling kicked off the meeting by introducing the Chief Sustainability Office, which was established in 2016 as a central focal point to help cities and the County to achieve their sustainability goals, as well as to serve as a chief policy advisor to the Board on matters related to sustainability.
They emphasized that the Countywide Sustainability Plan is intended to be aspirational, comprehensive and long-term – reaching towards goals set for the 2030-2050 time horizon. There is a strong emphasis on regional collaboration, and a desire to make it action-oriented. The task and challenge is to develop a comprehensive framework that can also serve as a useful template for cities; for instance, having a sustainability plan in place will allow cities to be more competitive for funding opportunities.
Russ Bryden from the LA County Department of Public Works spoke about the County Water Plan, building upon a rapid assessment that considered how water is managed, financed and regulated, as well as how services are provided. Noting the opportunities to capture stormwater, the Board of Supervisors passed a motion directing the LA County Flood Control District to develop a multi-benefit stormwater program to improve water quality, increase local water supply, and provide community investment.
Larry Rich from the City of Long Beach spoke about his City’s 10-year-old Office of Sustainability and reflecting upon some of the keys to success for city sustainability leaders – customize sustainability plans to the community by building upon its strengths, and “make friends with finance” to identify creative ways to fund projects.
Robyn Eason from the City of West Hollywood also spoke about her City’s sustainability programs that include a Community Solar program, EV charging ordinance, and membership in the Clean Power Alliance. Eason stressed that smaller cities or those with fewer resources can leverage knowledge and financial programs offered by membership organizations such as the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, Green Cities CA, ICLEI and others.
Wendy Macias from the City of Paramount noted that while the City does not have a dedicated sustainability director or office, sustainability projects are embedded into larger group efforts, such as participating in the Clean Power Alliance, working on a statewide energy efficiency collaborative, and working with the Gateway Cities Council of Governments on developing a climate action plan.
Lolly Lim, BuroHappold Engineering