LOS ANGELES—Environmental issues are on the forefront of some Los Angeles voters’ minds, according to a coalition of climate activists in the city.
A few mayoral candidates discussed issues brought forth by the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters April 21.
While a few frontrunners were missing from the debate—specifically Rick Caruso—Karen Bass (D-Calif.), LA City Attorney Mike Feuer, LA Councilman Kevin de Leon, and former LA Metro board member and real estate agent Mel Wilson were on hand to give their thoughts and solutions on air and water quality, affordable housing, and public transportation.
Air QualityA key issue, raised by moderators during the hour-long panel, was Angelenos’s desire, based on recent polling, that thew citymove toward eliminating fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy to reduce pollutants.
Bass said she would move toward electrifying the port operations “considering that [it] is responsible for 40 percent of the goods that traveled through the country.”
If we look at the major polluters in our city, we know it's the port, we know it's the airport, we know it's the cars,” she said. “Electric cars have come down in costs, but we need to think about how we can support—maybe it's a tax rebate, maybe it's a refund—to allow people who are lower income to afford electric vehicles.”
In January, the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Shanghai announced a partnership project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions between the transportation of cargo through transitioning to zero-carbon ships by 2030.
Feuer said he would expand the project that will have “clean tankers” enter the LA region, or zero-carbon ships.
“When it comes to other sources of air pollution here, like water and power sources of pollution, we have to be converting from natural gas which is still a fossil fuel into clean sources of energy in each of our communities,” he said.
De Leon said he would implement decarbonization, the reduction of carbon output from modes of transportation, in all the city’s buildings and convert the public transportation system to align with the city’s green goals.
“We need to electrify the entire fleet of the City of Los Angeles, all of our cars and City Hall as well as our metro fleets,” he said.
Wilson said he wants to cut all greenhouse gases by 50 percent targeting buses, trucks, boats, ships, and trains.
Affordable HousingAccording to recent data, Los Angeles County had over 5,000 single-family home sales at a median price of $900,000—a 9 percent increase compared to the same time last year, Irvine-based CoreLogic (pdf), a real estate data reporting firm found.
To increase affordable housing, Wilson said the city should build more along transit corridors, an initiative that began in 2016, and he would, if elected, ensure more environmental studies were conducted.
De Leon said the process for getting development permits approved needs to be streamlined to make new construction quicker. He additionally said the city should require that new developments are affordable.
“We also have to mandate affordability,” he said. “If you don't ... the market forces don't make it happen.”
Feuer floated the idea of using “underutilized school sites” that have popped up after the pandemic with the shift to online learning that could be converted to affordable housing.
Reclassifying buildings to another use, known as “adaptive reuse," “is a way to concentrate more housing in our urban core,” Feuer said, “[and] an idea that I'm going to dramatically [expand].”
Aside from building more housing, Bass said there needs to be a shift in perspective from Angelenos who have a NIMBY—short for “not in my backyard”—attitude toward housing the homeless and low-income residents.
“The only way this is going to be solved is if we all come to the table together and recognize that this is a problem that the city, the county, the state, and the federal government have to work on,” she said.
She also proposed a similar process to streamline development permits like De Leon.
Public TransportationCandidates additionally discussed ways they would improve the city’s bus and metro system, especially delays in getting people around.
Feuer, the current city attorney, said “there are a number of transit dependent people living in our community for whom buses aren't working well.”
“First, they don't come as frequently as they should along our most traveled routes,” he said. “I'm going to expand the number of buses on those most traveled routes.”
De Leon took a different approach and said there needs to be more push from the city to encourage middle class Angelenos to ride in buses and trains, too.
“A public transportation system only for the poor is not sustainable,” he said. “We have to change behaviors and get middle class folks with high educational attainment and upper middle class folks get out of their cars and start utilizing public transportation, because we need to be safe and clean.”
Wilson, instead, zeroed in on concerns regarding public safety on buses and trains.
“Gas prices are at $5 a gallon or more, and people are not rushing to public transit. Why is that? Because it's not safe,” Wilson said.