Buckle up for a crash course in climate policy inconsistencies. And hold on tight if you’re hopeful about home prices going down, aging infrastructure getting upgrades or good-paying jobs becoming more plentiful in Los Angeles County. Passage of the county’s proposed 2045 Climate Action Plan could mean a bumpier ride for myriad project developers and economic development groups as they weave through conflicting and confusing government mandates.
The behemoth of a plan maps out 10 strategies and 25 measures to slash greenhouse gas emissions in unincorporated communities across Los Angeles County. The draft strategy is experimental and largely untested, but that isn’t stopping the proposed plan from speeding to a Planning Commission vote Nov. 15.
Rather than clearing a path toward climate progress, this plan creates roadblocks for innovators driving us toward a resilient green economy. The proposal includes a density mandate of 300 jobs per acre for new projects. Where did that number come from? Of the county’s 810 planning zones, a mere nine have more than 20 jobs per acre. None have 300 jobs per acre. This restriction on development slams the door on small retailers, manufacturing facilities, hybrid workforces with remote employees, entertainment venues and other sectors that drive our region’s economic engine.
Civic, labor and business leaders from a broad spectrum of sectors and communities are in the same lane on this one. We all understand why rules of the road must remain consistent, even while speed limits are adjusted. This plan rewrites key standards and dangerously leaves out details on how to do it. It pushes measures in direct conflict with county priorities already in place to address housing availability and economic growth and adds more than 100 new regulatory hurdles that would stall construction.
The proposal also demands 90% of all water consumed – and 80% of agricultural irrigation water – be supplied exclusively by local water sources consisting of reclaimed water, graywater and potable recycled water by 2045. The intent is laudable but the absurdity of the strategy is laughable. Experts agree the targets are technically and legally infeasible and would bring various housing, commercial real estate and infrastructure projects to a screeching halt.
The paint job on this shoddily assembled plan isn’t even dry. The draft defers numerous requirements to unknown future dates and fails to clearly define various other measures necessary for compliance. It does not quantify estimated costs or identify funding sources for nearly all proposed mandates. The obstacle course of overlapping “strategies” it links to don’t support dozens of plan-mandated measures. There are no clear alternative compliance strategies.
This head-scratcher of a fuzzy roadmap for climate progress comes on the heels of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s trip to China to negotiate new climate agreements building upon California’s already inked memoranda of understanding and cooperation in 2022 with Canada, New Zealand, Japan, China and the Netherlands. Leaders on the international stage are working collaboratively because they recognize no country can confront historic heat, drought, wildfire and sea-level rise alone. Elements of Los Angeles County’s current plan hinge on state and federal action that fall outside county jurisdiction. Certain measures proposed currently fail to align with ambitious climate initiatives already in place at the state level.
Los Angeles County Supervisors Hilda Solis, Holly Mitchell, Lindsey Horvath, Janice Hahn and Kathryn Barger would be wise to embrace a commitment to collaborative progress. We count on them to lead. We need them to gather key data and research from a third-party economic impact study to ensure their plan works before it’s voted on. This is too important to leave up to chance.
Civic, labor and business leaders are calling for a full inspection and reassembly of the parts in question so the county’s final draft complements broader, ongoing efforts to combat climate change. Our elected leaders have an obligation to ensure economic and community impacts are thoroughly analyzed before any plan speeds forward.
Tracy Hernandez is Founding CEO of the Los Angeles County Business Federation “BizFed” and CEO of the New California Coalition. Mike Roos is President of the Southern California Leadership Council and former California State Assembly Speaker pro Tempsore.
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