Los Angeles City Leaders + The Climate

This page is about how LA’s city leaders are dealing with climate change.

1.0 Oil drilling? LA’s Climate Performance grade

2.0 City of LA is making good progress on climate.

1.0 This mayor is taking climate change very seriously and Los Angeles gets a good grade on climate performance

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti sitting at a table, talking to a group of businesspeople

The City of Los Angeles, mayored by Eric Garcetti, is starting to deliver local-scale public-works projects city that residents will need to survive and thrive under a more challenging climate.

The City of Los Angeles wants to become a great example in climate adaptation & mitigation – in the United States and among World Cities. It’s well along that path. But LA’s got a gooey carbon problem underneath.

1.1 That’s not photoshopped. It’s 2021 and thousands of oil rigs suck oil within Los Angeles city limits.

An oil rig looks out-of-place on an open lot in a suburban subdivision.

When you think of oil rigs pumping raw oil from the earth, you might see the plains of Texas or Oklahoma. But oil is also being pumped from underneath the U.S.’s second-largest city. When LA was a town of 50,000 in the 1890s. Land speculators discovered oil underneath Beverly Hills. Soon after, oil companies were pumping oil from underneath large areas of Los Angeles.

Over the years oil producers got the City of Los Angeles to approve long-term contracts, and the city grew around the oil rigs. Now, in 2021, within LA’s city limits, over 3,000 oil rigs churn away, day and night, in LA’s residential subdivisions, behind shopping centers, and next to schools. The City says it cannot cancel the long-term oil company contracts for fear of being sued for billions of dollars in lost business. Los Angeles is ambitious about cutting carbon and also a sizable source of oil that will be burned and heat the atmosphere.

Chiland, Elijah. Angelenos have been living alongside the oil business since 1892. Nov 4, 2019 LACurbed. LA.Curbed.com/maps/oil-los-angeles-drill-sites-offshore

Jaffe, Mat. Above the Surface and Below, L.A. Is Still an Oil Town. Los Angeles Magazine. Feb 5, 2018 lamag.com/citythinkblog/surface-l-still-oil-town/

photo: David McNew/Getty Images

1.2 City of Los Angeles gets a C grade on climate. Which is good in 2021, at the beginning of LA’s local energy transition.

Check your local government’s progress on cutting carbon and adapting to a new climate. The local climate performance grade is an informal criteria-based grade made by local residents. The grade is an indicator of how far along the municipality is on its rapid energy transition.

Climate performance on a continuum from no climate planning activity at all, to a well-executed policy/project mix that –

adapts public infrastructure to a harsher climate.

upgrades City assets to zero-carbon electricity.

easifies people’s ability to use clean electricity and drive electric vehicles.

The City of Los Angeles gets a grade of C because it’s initiated local climate policies and projects and showing smooth progress. Kindly going forward, the City’s climate grade cannot improve while oil wells pump in the city limits.

2.0 Los Angeles’ Climate Plans, Policies, and Projects

2.1 Los Angeles gives people natural air conditioners (trees) to take home and grow.

An arborist shows children how to plant a tree. A mom and daughter pose with their two new trees. A boy is proud to have adopted his first tree.

This is how tens of thousands of shade trees get planted in Los Angeles each year! The City of Los Angeles Water & Power Department gives out shade trees at no cost to City residents. The City helps residents plant the trees, then checks in later to see how well the trees are doing. Volunteers in charge of the program say people love it.

Trees make the city feel cooler – by actually cooling the air. Tree leaves sweat tiny water droplets that evaporate into the air, providing a natural cooling effect. City neighborhoods with tree cover can feel up to 15 degrees cooler that an adjacent treeless neighborhood.

The City of Los Angeles holds tree adoption events all over town, with some people receiving up to seven trees, depending on their property size. A city spokesperson says, “We’ll literally deliver them to your door.” Per LA’s Climate Action Plan, Los Angeles will have 90,000 new trees planted by 2022.

Cityplants.org/our-programs retrieved 03 Sept 21

2.2 LA knows how to cool down a street, and potentially the whole city

Public Works crew pouring a heat-reflective coating onto a city street

This is a street pavement pilot project. Beginning in 2017, the City of Los Angeles has been experimenting with a special “cool pavement” on city streets to reduce excessive urban heat.  

Regular asphalt pavement absorbs the sun’s heat like a big thermal sponge; it’s dark color quickly holds onto heat. The white color of the new pavement coating reflects the sun’s heat away from the asphalt.

On summer afternoons, the dark surface of an LA street is toasty hot – usually in the range of 90˚ to 155.˚ More than half of LA’s city land area is covered with regular asphalt pavement, so 90˚ to 155˚ is literally the temperature of much of the city’s “floor.” Solar heat accumulates in the mass of the streets during the day, and radiates back into the already warm city air during the night.

Over the next decades, night time temps will get warm and even hot, so people will keep their air conditioning on thru the night. Until recently, people in LA had didn’t need AC. Now the City can keep the streets from getting so hot in the first place. In ongoing trials, the City found that cool pavement reduces air temps by up to 15.˚ At 85˚ you want to crank the air, but at 70˚ an window open makes sleeping a breeze. In 2022, the City will consider cool-coating roadways during regularly scheduled repavings. 

Cool LA neighborhoods Pilot Project, Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services. https://streetsla.lacity.org/cool-la-neighborhoods retrieved 01 Sept 21

Berg, Nate. The Radical Plan to Cool Down LA as the World Heats Up. 10 Aug 2017. gizmodo.com/the-radical-plan-to-cool-down-la-as-the-world-heats-up-1797711611 retrieved 01 Sept 21

Photos:  Los Angeles Public Works Dept. Bureau of Street Services; Mother Nature Network

2.3 Los Angeles has the best-lit roads ever. They’re easy on the eyes and even easier on the atmosphere.

LA's 415 freeway at night with its streetlights casting a yellow hue.
LA's 415 freeway at night with its streetlights casting a a natural-looking light

Before and after: LA’s old, energy-draining light bulbs gave LA roadways a spooky yellow color – and uneven light. The new low-energy light is calibrated to the the wavelength of natural sunlight.

This is a city street lights project. LA’s new LED lights use much less energy, which helps put off a climate apocalypse. The City of Los Angeles Bureau of Street Lighting is finding that its new LED streetlights provide better lighting, use much less electricity, and are much more affordable. 

The bottom line for the LA city taxpayers is nearly $9,000,000 in electric bill savings each year. LA’s new LED street lighting keeps almost 3.2 million tons of carbon, burnt to make electricity, from toasting the atmosphere.

Los Angeles’ Bureau of Street Lighting http://bsl.lacity.org/

2.4 The Los Angeles Climate Action Plan is part of the City’s Green New Deal

Cover page of Los Angeles'  Environment and Energy Plan.

LA’s “Green New Deal” document includes LA’s new Climate Action Plan. Started in 2019, the plan runs thru 2050. Over the next decade, the City of LA is looking to run mostly on clean energy. Solar and Wind power will supply 80% of all of LA’s energy needs, including the charging of electric vehicles, by 2036.

In 2019, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s City Sustainability Office published LA’s Green New Deal: Sustainable City Plan, which sets targets for the City and everyone to cut way, way back on carbon emissions. LA’s climate plan rolls out the relatively new concept, “All-Electric.”

All Electric Buildings: The City’s Green New Deal requires all new buildings and big renovations to be “All-Electric.” All-Electric buildings are residential, commercial, or industrial structures that produce their own electricity on site, mainly from solar photovoltaics. By 2030, all new buildings in the city will be built to be completely free of energy made from carbon fuels. ​By 2050, all existing buildings in the city will be carbon free. ​

All-Electric Power Grid: The City of LA’s Power Department (LA Power) is building an all-electric, zero-carbon power grid. An all-electric power grid is the vast regional network of electric lines, transformers, battery arrays, and algorithms that will bring you only solar and wind-made electricity. LA’s all-electric power grid is being designed specifically to bridge the timing solar and wind energy production with the timing of people’s need for electricity. Solar and wind electricity, through this modern grid, will be available 24 hours a day, every day.

City of Los Angeles Sustainability Office lamayor.org/Sustainability

2.5 Los Angeles requires solar on new home construction

These are new homes in LA, required by local ordinance (2025) that are 50% energy self-sufficient.

This is about carbon reduction through local energy policy for housing. Residential solar power has traditionally been an ambition of property owners. Now bellwether Los Angeles, is mainstreaming residential solar even further via local building regs.

In many cities a giant subdivision industry can rebuff calls to include solar in new construction. But in Los Angeles, leadership decided to require all new housing to run partly on self-made solar electricity.