LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Los Angeles, known for its cars, smog and sprawl, wants to reinvent itself as the home of electric vehicles, solar panels and bicycle paths.
Mayor Eric Garcetti on Wednesday unveiled an ambitious plan to make LA the most sustainable big city in the nation over the next two decades, a place where people ride bikes, board buses and trains, and even walk to get around.
Drinking water would come from local sources instead of faraway imports. Solar panels would glimmer from rooftops like the lights at a Hollywood premiere. Fewer residents would breathe polluted air.
“It’s not impossible. These changes take a long time,” said Stephanie Pincetl, who heads the California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA, which reviewed the mayor’s goals.
The notion of an environmentally conscious and pedestrian-friendly LA may seem at odds with its reputation. City officials said some of the money to fund the various goals will come from annual budget requests and partnerships with the private sector. But it’s unclear how some of the longer-term projects will be funded.
Environmentalists said they were encouraged by the vision but acknowledged there was still more work to be done.
“For years, living sustainably in the urban environment has been given more lip service than action,” Joel Reynolds of the Natural Resources Defence Council said in a statement.
Reynolds called the mayor’s blueprint “reassuring.”
The LA Area Chamber of Commerce said it supports cost-effective efforts to improve the city. But “we need time to review the plan and assess its impact on LA’s business community and economy,” the group’s president Gary Toebben said in a statement.
Some changes are already underway.
LA is in the midst of expanding its public rail network designed to ease congestion and encourage public transportation. In the last several years, the city has invested in solar energy and set water conservation targets amid the ongoing drought.
Los Angeles isn’t the first city to draw up green priorities. On Earth Day in 2007, New York City released a master plan and other cities have followed suit.
Among LA’s short-term goals: Install 1,000 new charging stations for electric vehicles; clean up contaminated groundwater in the San Fernando Valley and create more green jobs.
In the coming decades, the city wants to achieve zero waste, replace its municipal fleet with electric vehicles, expand the use of recycled water and help residents cut down on car trips.
Some of the goals were previously announced, including the call for a 20-per cent reduction in the city’s per-person use of fresh water by 2017 to deal with the drought.
“If we can do it here, we can do it anywhere,” said Matt Petersen, who was appointed by Garcetti to consult on sustainability issues. “We’re already well on the path to being a sustainable city.”
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