LA's sustainable city plan and a nomination for LADWP chief

jc-mg-200-names.jpgMark Gold writes: Last week, Mayor Eric Garcetti's chief sustainability officer, Matt Petersen, convened a large group of environmental leaders to discuss an early draft framework for a sorely needed sustainable city plan for Los Angeles. The mayor has promised to have the plan completed by the end of the year and this initial effort demonstrated that the plan is, indeed, a high priority for his administration.

LA photographerglen.jpgBackground research for the plan has included a survey of sustainable city plans in the United States and abroad, including New York, San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, and Sydney, Australia, as well as the Vision 2021 LA, which we prepared at UCLA in 2012 as a sustainability agenda for LA's next mayor. Petersen and his senior sustainability staffer, Ted Bardacke, presented a framework for LA's plan that lists three "challenge areas"--climate change and resource management, access and economic development, and equity and public health. Specific challenges listed in this first draft include moving to zero waste, local water reliability, reduced vulnerability to climate change, efficient use of renewable energy, housing in the right place at the right price, transportation options that work, access to quality open space, healthy air to breathe everywhere in LA, public investment where it is needed most, access to healthy food, neighborhoods that are safe, and vibrant cultural and civic engagement.

The challenge now for the mayor's sustainability crew is to develop vision statements, specific targets, timelines, and metrics to measure progress on each of these lofty goals. The mayor wants to see some "big moves" that will lead to success across one or more of these areas, such as the grand plan for revitalizing the LA River--a project that could provide benefits across nearly all of the challenge areas. The Garcetti administration expects to solicit public feedback on draft plans throughout the spring and summer, with a final plan going to the city council for approval in October, in time to influence the 2015-2016 city budget.

At last week's meeting, environmental leaders were supportive and impressed that this ambitious effort had moved so far so quickly. A major key to the ultimate success of the plan will depend on much broader support from the public, business leaders, LA's universities and researchers, public health officials and healthcare providers, and many others all pulling together to develop and support a plan with real goals, targets, programs, and funding for a sustainable LA.

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Jon Christensen writes: This is the last week on the job for LA Department of Water and Power general manager Ron Nichols, which is unfortunate. Nichols had great expertise, deep experience, and a modest, pragmatic vision for change. And he brought a sense of stability to the department, which is not easy. Before Nichols took the helm three years ago, the LADWP, the nation's largest municipal utility, was run by five different men in five years.

Coincidentally, Pat Mulroy, the legendary, visionary, dynamic, and relentless leader of the Southern Nevada Water Authority is retiring from that position next month. Could LA look to Las Vegas for a savior to rescue our own Department of Water and Power?

Emily Green is an astute and acerbic, eagle-eyed observer of water here in LA and around the American West at She and I don't agree on a lot of things--witness our dustup last week--but we do agree on this: Mayor Eric Garcetti should push the pause button on his search for a replacement for Nichols this week, call Pat Mulroy, and beg her to come out of retirement and help the city turn around the LADWP.

mulroy.jpgThe challenge is big enough that it just might entice Mulroy. And she may well be the only utility leader in the country with the vision, experience, and moxie to actually get the job done that needs to get done reforming water in LA. She doesn't have experience on the power side of the LADWP, but she proved herself a quick study in Nevada, a good manager, and a shrewd political operator, which is exactly what LA needs in this position. On WaterWired, a deep-dive blog for water wonks, Michael Campana, a professor of water resources management at Oregon State University, has compared Mulroy to the great New York planner, master builder, and power broker Robert Moses.

"Pat Mulroy is a brilliant, highly competent water manager who is stuck because she has run out of water to manage," Emily Green wrote at back in 2010. "In two decades, she's saved Las Vegas more than once with her conservation programs. In a perfect world, she'd be snapped up by Los Angeles, whose gutters runneth over and whose Department of Water and Power has a general managership open."

That position is open again. And Emily Green is as right as rain. On this one anyway.

Photos courtesy of Glen Scarborough and Southern Nevada Water Authority.

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