UCLA-assisted L.A. OurCounty Plan wins major sustainability award

The 2019 Los Angeles Countywide Sustainability Plan — of which 16 UCLA researchers contributed — was honored at a June 17 virtual ceremony with the Award for Excellence in Sustainability by the American Planning Association (APA) Sustainable Communities Division. The awards honor projects, plans, policies, individuals and organizations whose work is dedicated to supporting sustainable communities.

The OurCounty plan won in the category of Municipal, State or Regional Plan. It was developed in a collaborative process that included hundreds of stakeholders, thousands of hours of equity-centered dialogue, substantial research, and cutting-edge analyses in a process led by the Los Angeles County Chief Sustainability Office.

Officially unanimously approved on Aug. 6, 2019, OurCounty outlines ambitious sustainability goals targeting a range of environmental, economic and equity issues.

The plan’s goals and milestones include:

• Powering unincorporated areas and county facilities with 100% renewable energy by 2025.

• Increasing urban tree canopy coverage by 15% by 2035

• Diverting more than 95% of waste from landfills

• Developing land-use tools to limit new development in high climate-hazard areas

• Phasing out single-use plastic by 2025 to ensure a cleaner ocean and less landfill waste

• Cutting back on imported water by sourcing 80 percent of water locally by 2045

• Ensuring that all residents have safe and clean drinking water, and that rivers, lakes and the ocean meet federal water quality standards

• Leading efforts to make sure that at least 65% of new housing is built within 1/2 mile of high frequency transit by 2035

• Supporting construction of more than half a million affordable housing units by 2045 to improve public health and community sustainability

“We’re proud and grateful for this recognition, which we share with the hundreds of stakeholders who challenged us to make OurCounty the most ambitious regional sustainability plan anywhere,” said Fesia Davenport, Los Angeles County Chief Executive Officer. “It is a special honor to share this award with the community-based organizations that led the equity-focused engagement process that produced our sustainability roadmap.”

The goals outlined in OurCounty align with the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge’s (SLA GC) original 2013 goals of 100 percent renewable energy, 100 percent local water and enhanced ecosystem health for Los Angeles County by 2050. Directives set forth by the grand challenge initiative were instrumental in shaping many aspects of the Los Angeles County plan, which will focus on protecting more natural land and increasing the percentage of protected wildlife corridors, where species can travel more safely between habitats.

“It is wonderful to see an organization as prestigious as the APA recognize this important work taking place in Los Angeles County,” said SLA GC Executive Director and one of the OurCounty contributors, Cassie Rauser. “OurCounty is ambitious and sweeping in its scope, and I am proud that UCLA was a major contributor. We take pride in our partnership with Los Angeles County and look forward to our continued progress toward the goals outlined in the plan.”

APA is an independent, nonprofit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities, and its Sustainable Communities Division provides resources, information, and best practices to support planners in creating sustainable, resilient, and equitable communities.

The following UCLA faculty and staff contributed to OurCounty:

Project Leads:

Felicia Federico (Institute of the Environment and Sustainability)
Mark Gold (Sustainable LA Grand Challenge)
Sean Hecht (UCLA School of Law)
Cara Horowitz (UCLA School of Law)
Laurel Hunt (Institute of the Environment and Sustainability)
Stephanie Pincetl (California Center for Sustainable Communities)
Cassie Rauser (Sustainable LA Grand Challenge)

Researchers/Analysts:

Robert Cudd (Institute of the Environment and Sustainability)
Eric Fournier (Institute of the Environment and Sustainability)
Harjot Kaur (UCLA School of Law)
Sean Kennedy (Institute of the Environment and Sustainability)
Jaimee Lederman (Institute of Transportation Studies)
Nathaniel Logar (UCLA School of Law)
Elizabeth Reid-Wainscoat (Sustainable LA Grand Challenge)
Ari Simon (Institute of the Environment and Sustainability)

Technical Advisory Committee/ Review Committee:

David Eisenman (Fielding School of Public Health)
Juan Matute (Institute of Transportation Studies)