A Tale of Two Jurisdictions

Los Angeles County did it right. The City of Los Angeles botched it.

What is “it”?

The story starts in 2015 when Governor Brown signed SB 379, a brilliant bill by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson that tasks California’s municipalities to start preparing for climate change – preparation that begins with an update to each city’s local general plan.

General plans are the right place to start as they serve as the jurisdiction’s guide to the future.

The deadline for the new climate-aware plans was January 1 of this year.

In other words, cities and counties have had six years to think about the climate problem, to talk with their constituents about wildfire and heat waves, to draft language on how to better protect their residents, and to submit their plan to elected officials for approval.

Pin a star on the LA County Department of Regional Planning. They did a beautiful job. They took data from the County’s Climate Vulnerability Assessment. The County held numerous public meetings, deftly managed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The County also produced a superb website and multilingual explainer videos. It should come as no surprise then that the finished product, the County’s Safety Element Update, is comprehensive and useful.

Contrast that with the City of Los Angeles Planning Department’s effort. Planning staff admitted to us that the Safety Element was wholly eclipsed by the department’s heavy lift in updating the City’s Housing Element. (Hey, I feel for the department as they were recently sued by the perpetually wrong AIDS Healthcare Foundation.)

Unfortunately, the City’s newly adopted Safety Element failed to provide a usable analysis of climate impacts. Nor does the plan address the City’s significant vulnerabilities. Nor did the City engage the public. The update promises adaptation planning in the future – yet a promise is not an action. The City is currently out of compliance with state law.

Climate Resolve was proud to help win SB 379 in 2015. And we’re proud to have helped create the state’s Adaptation Planning Guide, which helps cities comply with SB 379. And we’re proud to have contributed to the County’s breakthrough Climate Vulnerability Assessment. And we’re excited to today help LA City neighborhoods factor climate change into their local planning efforts.

Citywide planning is another story. The next step will be to help the City right-the-ship on its climate planning. Stay tuned.

Emmanuel Vega

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