The scare from the worsening fire season on the West Coast (and in other parts of the world) combined with hurricanes in the east has sensitized many people to the fact that the climate emergency is here. Last week we told you Move LA is launching a statewide effort as Move CA, and with our Northern California partner SPUR are investigating the idea of putting a "California Climate and Clean Air Initiative" on the November 2022 ballot.
Our goal is to raise the funding needed to meet California's vital climate and air quality goals while also building a just and equitable economy, and the climate leaders featured at our event expressed much enthusiasm for the idea: Mary Nichols, Fran Pavley, Kevin de Leon and Terry Tamminen told us the great need—and big opportunity—to make dramatic near-term and lasting improvements are in accelerating the deployment of zero-emission transportation and off-road technologies—both battery-electric and hydrogen.
They also emphasized the need for major reductions in the emissions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs)—also known as "super pollutants"—including fugitive methane, black carbon and HFCs.
And they said hard-wiring a commitment to equity for disadvantaged communities should be a co-equal priority for this measure.
Below are the remarks made in response to the climate leaders by our nonprofit partners, who also focused on the importance of keeping equity in the forefront of planning for this measure. To listen to the two-hour conversation CLICK HERE, or there's a 30-minute version at the top of the page HERE.
Bill Magavern, Policy Director, Coalition for Clean Air: The vast majority of our air pollution problem, aside from the horrible wildfire smoke, is coming from transportation . . . What’s particularly toxic is diesel exhaust from the movement of goods, which is why the Coalition for Clean Air focuses much of our work on goods movement—including trucks, locomotives, and cargo-handling equipment. We need to replace diesel with cleaner alternatives, including zero-emission engines wherever feasible and near-zero engines with renewable fuels everywhere else.
We have strong regulatory standards and it is vital that we complement these standards with incentive dollars [as proposed in this ballot measure] because incentives have been crucial in advancing the technologies that we need and also crucial in accelerating fleet turnover—in both light and heavy-duty vehicles—by getting dirty old engines off the road.
We laid the foundation for equitable clean mobility with the Charge Ahead California Initiative, which establishes equity-based transportation projects at CARB, including Clean Cars for All, which is a scrap-and-replace program so low-income drivers can get out of their dirty old gas guzzlers and into advanced clean vehicles or get transit passes. Charge Ahead projects also include electric vehicle car-sharing and electric-vehicle financing.
But we also need to invest in charging and fueling infrastructure for battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell-electric vehicles. And we must reduce vehicle miles travelled by reforming transportation funding and planning. We are currently funding the old paradigm by investing millions and millions of dollars into roads when we should be funding transit and active transportation, bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure.
Alvaro Sanchez, Environmental Equity Director, Greenlining Institute: We must do more than ensure that a percentage of our resources are invested in disadvantaged communities. Now, in addition to investing in those communities, we must also allow the people who live there and are most impacted [by climate change and air pollution] to become core partners in the transformation we need to address both poverty and pollution at the same time.
We really have to center equity so that it influences the process, implementation, and outcomes—so that the people living in disadvantaged communities receive direct, meaningful and measurable benefits. And we need an analysis and evaluation process related to the equity goal so we can ensure we’re making progress along equity lines.
We just published a report called The Greenlined Economy Guidebook, which identifies the barriers that currently get in the way of an economy that is cooperative, regenerative, democratic, non-exploitive and inclusive. And we put together a set of standards to make sure that equity is in the DNA of the process and isn’t just an add-on . . . We need to advance multi-sectoral approaches because communities are not failing because of just one deficiency—it’s not just a lack of housing, for example, but rather housing with good mobility options, green spaces and places where people can buy healthy food.
We need to build community-driven decision-making and establish pathways towards wealth-building, whether it’s good jobs or workforce development or educational opportunities or contracting opportunities—these need to be embedded in the approach. And we need to operationalize equity in the design and implementation and analysis of our measures.
Chione Flegal, Managing Director, PolicyLink: Our local, state and federal policies have created huge disparities in the experiences of communities. We are now a majority-of-color state, which means most of our population is set up to fail because of these policies. Until we undo the impacts of redlining and the legacy of disinvestment, and all the policies that have locked communities out of our economic systems . . . we are not going to be successful.
New money is an important part of the solution but it’s not enough. We are spending billions of dollars as a state every year, often spending it in a way that is at cross purposes with the outcomes we are talking about today. There’s a lot of work to be done aligning existing policies and spending with the goals of a clean energy economy that works for everyone . . .
Every time we write policy or spend money we need to ask: How do we protect people so they can stay in their communities and continue to access the resources they’re accustomed to and that help build resilience into their daily lives? How can we expand housing development in communities that are opportunity-rich and allow people to move up the economic scale? Our polices and investments need to address these questions or they will not lead to the change we need.
We see a huge need to invest in the training and preparation of individuals who have barriers to employment . . . small businesses are not on an equal playing field either. So we’re thinking about training for workers and training and capacity development for people of color-owned and women-owned businesses so they have the know-how and skills to actually participate in the green economy. People need resources to actually sit down and talk about the vision we are moving toward and what it’s going to take to get them there . . . And this cannot be done without bringing them in to the process. Folks need to speak to these issues directly.
Chanell Fletcher, Executive Director, ClimatePlan: I’ve been inspired by Gov. Newsom’s executive order to phase out gasoline-powered cars by 2035, by Black Lives Matter going deep on defunding the police, and by Gov. Newsom creating a task force to look at slavery and reparations and what that could mean. Those things may not seem connected to transportation but they are for me. Because when we are talking about these big climate goals and about phasing out gas vehicles I think about the transportation system that we’ve inherited, and the fact that the bulk of the funding is coming from gas and diesel excise taxes, which are funneled into state highways and local streets and roads—that has been our funding priority.
But priorities like these continue to facilitate segregation and racism because we built these highways so wealthier white communities could be built in the suburbs. We need to understand the structures that are currently in place and being funded—are state transportation agencies considering racial justice and equity when they spend that money? Do they have a planning process that focuses on the communities most impacted by their decision-making?
So as with defunding the police, unless we start making changes now we’re not going to see anything change in the next 10 or 20 years. I think we have to look at the projects and programs that are getting the bulk of our money. How are we evaluating our current transportation funding? Are we considering changing the top-down planning process?
If we have these very ambitious climate goals should highways and local streets and roads be getting the bulk of the money—shouldn’t gas and diesel excise taxes be our revenue source [to roll back climate change]?
Mary Creasman, CEO, California League of Conservation Voters: The game has changed . . . I never would have thought even a month ago that we’d see something like Gov. Newsom’s executive order [banning the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035]. We’ve just finished a legislative session with largely no action on the things being discussed on this call today. So it makes me wonder: What is politically possible?
If we are talking about raising $30 billion, that is just a down payment on the rate and the scale of the serious change needed for climate change and climate justice in a state of our scale and given how far behind we are . . . and I say that as somebody who has worked with people on this call on regional measures that have generated more than $100 billion in places like LA County . . . If we’re measuring ourselves against what communities are feeling and being burdened with right now and what science tells us we have to do, I’d say $30 billion is not nearly enough.
The wildfires have thrown a wrench in our goals by radically increasing carbon emissions. [The forests and natural lands] we used to rely on as carbon sinks to clean the air could now turn into bigger carbon emitters than the transportation sector . . .
We cannot prevent catastrophe unless every part of the state participates, including under-resourced communities and black, brown, and indigenous people of color, and our rural communities in the Central Valley, the Inland Empire, Coachella Valley . . . We just finished a poll that showed 79% of all voters are prioritizing the clean energy economy right now. We have the opportunity to shift public will and we need to think about who must be sitting at the table to design and innovate the solutions.
Move LA is launching a statewide effort as Move CA, and together with our Northern California partner SPUR we are investigating the possibility of a voter initiative measure on the November 2022 ballot to raise the funding needed to meet California's vital climate and air quality goals while building a just and equitable economy.
On Thursday, Oct. 1, we were joined by 11 climate leaders and nonprofit partners and an audience of several hundred to talk about the ballot measure and the priorities that it should fund. The discussion was energetic, impassioned and very welcome, especially given the fires and high temperatures we’ve experienced in California so far this year.
Below are remarks made by our first panel of current and former elected officials and agency leaders, which we will follow up with remarks made by directors of several nonprofits. If you'd like to listen to the entire two-hour conversation CLICK HERE, or there's a 30-minute HERE. Over the next several weeks you will hear more from us on this topic.
Mary Nichols, Chair of the California Air Resources Board:
“When Denny asks me to participate in one of his convenings, I don't think I ever have said no. I believe that what he's about is what we need to be talking about right now and that is how to raise a boatload of money to facilitate the transition that we know needs to happen: The targets for greenhouse gas emissions must go 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. [We must] also set a goal for reducing our short-lived climate pollutant levels, which as was pointed out earlier is maybe even more important because it's something that we can accomplish faster.
So, the ballot initiative has to be really big and it also has to be long-term enough so that it will attract private investors because . . . nothing that we're talking about could be solely financed by public funds.”Read more
Move California and SPUR presented 'Vision 2022: When California Leads, the World Soon Follows' on October 1, 2020. Speakers included leaders who have been responsible for formulating California's world-leading climate strategies over the past decade as well as key environmental and environmental justice advocates. DOWNLOAD PRESENTATION DECK.
The program discusses the possible statewide ballot measure to finish cleaning our air and help roll back climate change. In just the first decade the measure we will talk about could generate $30 billion in funding to use for incentives and infrastructure investments—and it could generate $70 billion over two decades.
With this funding California could:
#1: Meet the challenge set out in the 2018 IPCC Special Report and within a decade halt the progress of global warming and turn climate change around by
a) Investing in the accelerated deployment of zero-emission vehicles of all kinds and other advanced technologies, and
b) Dramatically reducing short-lived climate pollutants. These "super pollutants" cause 40% of global warming but decay much more quickly than CO2.
#2: Finish cleaning California's air by dramatically reducing diesel emissions to ensure the attainment of federal clean air standards. Diesel technologies are the most prevalent source of the most harmful air pollution—which especially burdens disadvantaged communities near freeways and ports.
#3: Advance social equity and justice by identifying investments that can improve the health of people living in disadvantaged communities, and create jobs and opportunities that boost the economic vitality of these communities as air pollution and GHG emissions are reduced.Read more
We can do a lot! We are California, and when California leads the world soon follows!
It's already happening with our zero-emission cars and recently approved zero-emission trucks program. But we have to move faster and make the change bigger.
Join us next Thursday to talk with California's climate and clean air leaders about a possible statewide ballot measure in November 2022 to significantly reduce greenhouse gases and short-lived climate pollutants (including black carbon, methane, ozone andhydrofluorocarbons or HFCs), and finish cleaning our air.
REGISTER HERE TO JOIN MOVE CA AND SPUR ON A ZOOM CALL THURSDAY, OCT. 1, 10 A.M.-NOON, TO TALK WITH: Mary Nichols, Chair, California Air Resources Board ° Kevin De Leon, LA City Councilmember-elect and former CA State Senate President Pro Tempore ° Senator Nancy Skinner, CA Senate Majority Whip; former International Director of ICLEI—Local Governments for Sustainability/Cities for Climate Protection Program ° Senator Fran Pavley (ret.), author of AB 32 and SB 32, California's landmark legislation to fight climate change and Environmental Policy Leader of the USC Schwarzenegger Institute ° Terry Tamminen, Former Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency under Gov. Schwarzenegger and President of 7th Generation Advisors ° Randall Winston, Former Executive Director, Strategic Growth Council ° Alvaro Sanchez, Environmental Equity Director, Greenlining Institute ° Chanell Fletcher, Executive Director, Climate Plan ° Bill Magavern, Policy Director, Coalition for Clean Air ° Chione Flegal, Managing Director, PolicyLink ° Mary Creasman, CEO, California League of Conservation VotersRead more
Below is a fascinating account of the Gateway Cities communities in southeast LA County that dramatically illustrates how the shortage of affordable housing in LA County and across the state has meant that many families who live here cannot afford the cost of an apartment or single-family home—causing some families to share homes instead.
Much of the unmet housing demand reflects overcrowding like this, not just in the Gateway Cities but in other communities as well, many of which have primarily single-family housing stock. We believe there is an alternative way to provide significant affordable housing for renters on what we call "Boulevards of Equity and Opportunity," and that 36-mile-long Atlantic Boulevard, which traverses nine of the Gateway Cities, could provide an example of what can be done.
Building housing along commercial corridors like Atlantic is of special interest now because many are losing their vitality and businesses because of the popularity of online shopping, a trend accelerated by the coronavirus. These corridors could allow for the construction of mixed-use mixed-income multifamily development without displacing existing residents or businesses, and with improvements that turn them into affordable and appealing neighborhoods—with trees and urban greening, neighborhood services and jobs, and streets made safe for people on foot and on bikes.
Moreover, many of LA County's 2,100 miles of boulevards are already served by transit. Atlantic, for example, is crossed by the Blue, Green and Gold Lines, the 710 freeway (and LA River) and—some day soon—the West Santa Ana Branch light-rail corridor to downtown LA. Atlantic is also under consideration at Metro for a new bus rapid transit (BRT) project like the very popular Orange Line in the San Fernando Valley.
But change is hard and LA County's many cities are diverse. Nancy Pfeffer, Executive Director of the Gateway Cities Council of Governments—which represents 26 cities—was one of the speakers at our Zoomposium on Boulevards of Equity and Opportunity last summer. While she was interested in the concept she also listed some obstacles, such as the necessity to rezone the nine cities along the corridor to accommodate housing as well as commercial, and the difficulty of funding new services for new residents.
NANCY PFEFFER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GATEWAY CITIES COUNCIL OF GOVERNMENTS:
"I’d like to talk a little about the cities that are part of the Gateway Cities Council of Governments and about the Atlantic Boulevard corridor as it is today. The cities, in alphabetical order, include Bell, Commerce, Compton, Cudahy, Long Beach, Lynwood, Maywood, Southgate, and Vernon. When we talk about corridor planning we have to recognize that each of these jurisdictions has their own elected officials and their own general plan that has won support through a public process. So when you start to talk about regional plans or legislation to require re-zoning it’s very touchy.
"These are incredibly densely populated communities. New York City, for example, has a population density of 27,000 people/square mile; San Francisco has a density of 17,000 people/square mile. Six of the cities I just mentioned fall below the density of New York but above the density of San Francisco, and three of the cities—Lynwood, Bell and South Gate—are not far behind. As you drive through these cities you may see single-family housing, but in fact there are multiple families living in these homes, and the garages are all converted as living quarters, whether legally or not.Read more
You may remember that Move LA’s Boulevards of Equity and Opportunity Zoomposium in July was largely about the shortage of housing—especially affordable housing—in LA County and the City of LA, which prompted us to investigate the possibility of building housing along the county’s 2,100 miles of commercial boulevards.
We are particularly interested in the construction of housing in mixed-use, mixed-income development, along boulevards that are well-served by transit—as most commercial boulevards are—and can be improved with street trees and urban greening, made safe for walking and biking, and provide jobs and neighborhood services without displacement of current residents and businesses.
This led us to stage a very well-attended Zoom call with a dozen speakers and an audience of 600, and we have been posting the transcripts because each speaker addressed the issue from a different perspective. (You can listen to the discussions here—or view the transcripts on the blog on our website.)
Below are remarks by City of LA Director of Planning Vince Bertoni, who has worked on developing affordable housing near transit in the city, primarily through an innovative program called the Transit-Oriented Communities Incentive Program. This relatively new program encourages developers to build more housing units near bus and rail lines, and provides incentives (increases in height and density, for example, and reductions in parking) if the development includes affordable housing.
Vince expressed concerns about the potential for displacement, and the importance of involving communities in visioning and planning activities:
“We have been discussing the viability of planning for housing along LA’s many commercial boulevards. It’s important we keep in mind that planning is fundamentally about communities and people. As Metro CEO Phil Washington said earlier, building infrastructure and roads has often done great harm to communities—we must acknowledge the history of zoning as it relates to systemic racism and injustice.Read more
California’s latest Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA)—the state-required estimate of the need for housing for people of all incomes over an 8-year period—projects that Southern California will need to provide more than 1.3 million new housing units, almost 60% of them affordable to moderate and low-income households.
The RHNA claims that LA County alone will need a minimum of 800,000 new units to meet the housing need through 2029—about 470,000 of which must be affordable to moderate and low-income families—and that the City of Los Angeles will need about 500,000 new units, more than half of which need to be affordable.
This asserted gap in the number of units being produced and the number of units that will be needed, especially units affordable for people who make less money, is what prompted Move LA to invite Peter Calthorpe and Joe DiStefano, who had co-created an online planning tool called UrbanFootprint, to our "Zoomposium" earlier this summer: We wanted them to estimate the potential to address this housing need by developing mixed-use mixed-income housing along LA County’s 2,100 miles of mostly commercial boulevards, and to join our Zoomposium panel discussion with Kome Ajise, executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments, and others.
These commercial boulevards are of special interest to SCAG and to Move LA for several reasons:
- First, commercial boulevards are already becoming obsolete with the shift to online shopping, a shift that is accelerated by concerns about coronavirus.
- Second, the pushback against new construction in existing residential neighborhoods is very strong, and for good reason. Building new homes where other people already live inherently means disruption, displacement, gentrification and also, probably, injustice.
- These commercial boulevards tend to be served by frequent transit, and provide the opportunity for improvements that could also make them safe for walking and biking, and enhancements including trees and urban greening to make them climate-safe and attractive.
Peter and Joe found that there are nearly 20,000 acres of land along streets zoned commercial in LA County, which would allow for the construction of up to 1.6 million homes—double the RHNA need even if development were limited to sites that are currently vacant or developed with just a one-story building on half the lot.
Here is what Kome Ajise, in his position as executive director at SCAG, which is responsible for the RHNA housing distribution, had to say about this potential (we highlighted key points). Or you can listen to him live on our Zoomposium HERE (about 1 hour and 4 minutes in):Read more
This is what Joe found:
"First let me go back to the statewide housing deficit, which exceeds 3.5 million new units. We know that more than 50% of California’s population cannot afford housing in the state they call home. That means that nearly 20 million people in the state are not able to comfortably afford a place to live. (You can watch Joe give his presentation here (about 45 minutes in) or just view his PPT here.)
“Southern California contributes to this challenge. From 2010 to 2017 the 6-county region added about 1.2 million jobs but just 160,000 homes. So the state’s latest Regional Housing Needs Assessment determined the need over the next 9 years for a staggering 1.3 million new units in Southern California—more than half to support moderate and low-income households. And just for context, the median home process across the region is about $600,000.
“This suggests a need in LA County alone for a minimum of 800,000 new homes to meet the need through 2029, about 470,000 of those in moderate or below-income categories. When you scale down to the City of LA, where the jobs-housing imbalance continues to apply pressure on the housing market, there is a need for about 500,000 new units in the city alone, and the median price is about $750,000—so well over half of the demand is for affordable housing.
“We applied our UrbanFootprint platform to estimate the development potential to address this demand along LA County’s pretty ubiquitous commercial corridors. It’s important to understand how much location and access to transportation options, transit access, and the ability to walk to services and access daily needs makes a difference in household and transportation cost burdens, and even energy and water use.
One of the highlights of our Zoomposium on Boulevards of Equity and Opportunity last month was a presentation by Peter Calthorpe, renown architect, urban planner, a founder of the Congress for the New Urbanism, and co-creator—with Joe DiStefano—of UrbanFootprint, a web-based urban planning and mapping platform.
Peter and Joe have used this tool to evaluate the housing potential along El Camino Real, a 45-mile mostly commercial roadway through the heart of Silicon Valley, in an effort to address California’s housing crisis. Their investigation, which was expanded to cover the five-county inner Bay Area, helps inform the increasing interest in using stretches of commercial boulevards that aren’t thriving—especially now given the interest in online shopping and concerns about the coronavirus—to provide mixed-income multifamily housing near jobs in walkable, bikeable, transit-oriented neighborhoods in California.
The video of Denny Zane's conversation with Peter is here and begins a little more than 28 minutes in. Peter's PPT is here, and below are excerpts from what he said:
“I have never seen a challenge as big as the one we’re facing with the housing crisis in California. We need systemic change if we are going to deal with the escalation in housing prices for working-class and low-income people who are being pushed out on the streets. It’s a tragedy of epic proportions, and the time has passed for incremental and piecemeal approaches. People are afraid of infill development because of the traffic it will create, and they don’t believe expanding the transit network will solve the problems—which is where Boulevards of Equity and Opportunity come in. . .Read more