Cool, Green, Complete – The Path to a Better Los Angeles

Posted by on May 22, 2014

Image from Paul Krueger:

Image from Paul Krueger:

Los Angeles has the unfortunate distinction of being named the city with the worst road conditions in the nation and the second deadliest city for pedestrians. In a city where 40% of the landmass is covered by roads, the abundance of asphalt amplifies heat, making hot days even hotter and endangering public health. But, there is an opportunity to change all of this. In coming months, the City Council can take bold action and present a sustainable solution that would not only fix our streets and sidewalks, but also provide environmental benefits for all Angelenos.

Councilmembers Mitch Englander and Joe Buscaino are considering creating a ballot measure to help cover the costs of repairing local roads and sidewalks – likely on its way to voters in November 2014. The details of the proposal must still be finalized, but Climate Resolve and its partners have been working closely with LA City staff and officials over the past year to help ensure the ballot measure does more than simply fill potholes.

Everyone who walks, bikes, or drives in Los Angeles is aware that the City is falling behind on its obligation to maintain an estimated 8,700 miles of streets and 6,000 miles of sidewalks. The proposed ballot measure could fund a lot of projects, but we must also think about how we want Los Angeles’ streets to look in coming decades – and fund that vision.

It would be irresponsible to simply fund road repaving with no additional environmental or safety improvements. More than returning the streets and sidewalks to their previous condition, we believe a few small investments could improve the economic vitality and safety of neighborhoods throughout the region.

Beginning in 2013, Climate Resolve brought together a dozen groups to create the “Streets for the Future Coalition.” The coalition is working to ensure that this proposed measure would include common-sense street designs with more street trees, rainwater capture, and cool pavements plus safety improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists. If voters are being asked to invest in our streets, we cannot simply return them to the car-centric designs of 1950; instead we must create thriving public spaces for Angelenos in 2050.

The measure will require approval by 2/3 of the electorate, which is a high, but achievable, threshold. The coalition believes that if voters are presented with a visionary, transformative proposal it can gain widespread support. Coalition members are continuing to work with elected officials and City staff to ensure these environmental benefits are a part of a winning campaign. Funding could include the following ideas.

Cool Streets (lighter-colored pavements, which retain less heat than dark pavements) can significantly reduce ambient air temperatures. Reduced temperatures will mean improved air quality, reduced energy demand for cooling in homes and automobiles, improved night visibility on roadways, all while protecting public health, especially during heat waves.

Green Streets help capture rainwater as a valuable local water source while filtering pollutants that would otherwise flow into our rivers and oceans. Water management and plantings perform these critical services while also beautifying our neighborhoods, reducing flooding and adding shade to reduce temperatures.

Complete Streets provide for the mobility needs of people of all ages and abilities, regardless of their transportation mode. As the city repaves streets, it is essential that they be redesigned to improve the safety and convenience of people on foot, on bike, on transit, and in vehicles.

The Los Angeles City Council will be holding public hearings on the proposal in the coming months, and must act by early June if the measure is to appear on the November 2014 ballot.

*This post originally appeared on Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors.*