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cityscape

Public Works: LA Leans Green

Los Angeles' new mayor says he'll deliver green jobs.

Public Works looks at public space, urban design, and city-building innovations from around the world, and considers what Toronto might learn from them.

Photo of Eric Garcetti by David Markland, from Flickr

Photo of Eric Garcetti by David Markland, from Flickr.

As the Ford administration shifts from stall to death spiral faster than even its most zealous critics could have imagined, comfort yourself that in other jurisdictions mayors are still mayoring, cities are still being governed, and interesting, progressive things are still happening.

This week, Los Angeles elected a new chief executive with an ambitious plan to promote the environmental sector. Eric Garcetti won a convincing victory in the Los Angeles mayoral race, with part of his platform a commitment to creating 20,000 green jobs in the city.

Garcetti’s plan includes an expansion of the existing feed-in tariff (FIT) solar rooftop program (a feed-in tariff pays producers a premium for generating renewable electricity that is fed back into the grid); a public-private partnership to expand building retrofits; and investments in water management, conservation, and recycling. The employment element would focus on retrofits for buildings, solar technology, manufacturing, and maintenance—in other words, a little of everything, with opportunities for everyone from skilled engineers to entry-level solar panel installers.

As a long-time green advocate who was the architect of the ordinances that spawned the 2008 LA County Green Building Program, Garcetti has credibility on these issues.

Of course, even if he can create the promised jobs and the commensurate enviro-benefits, Los Angeles is the city that invented suburban sprawl—and it’s where the term “smog” was coined. Neither of those issues have gone away. Nor have the growing challenges around irrigating a megalopolis built smack in the middle of a desert.

So there are no guarantees. But even if LA isn’t likely to win Ecovillage of the Year anytime soon, Garcetti is offering ideas worth emulating.

Even as the U.S. catches up with our liberal, pot-smoking, bike-riding, same-sex-marrying ways, Toronto’s enviro-cred is faltering badly. Bike lanes get ripped up, attempts to formulate a transit strategy devolve into juvenile finger-pointing, and such officially mandated initiatives to green up the city as we have—like the green roof program—are typically legacies of the David Miller mayoralty. We have, at an official level, virtually given up even trying to do the right thing (although, fortunately, we have a variety of community and grassroots groups still advancing green causes in the city).

Not every taxpayer dollar spent is a waste—there’s also investment. Renewable energy is an investment. Conservation is an investment. Employment training and green jobs are investments. And a little vision could pay off.

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