Columnists Mayor Eric Garcetti Opinion

COMMUNITY REPORT: Taking ‘Cool’ steps to lower temperatures

It’s a hot July day and an elderly Angeleno is coming back from the store.

She is walking to her bus stop hoping for shade along the way, but there are no trees lining the route and no shade structures covering the bus bench. What should have been a pleasant stroll quickly becomes a health hazard — an increasingly common threat in a world gripped by climate change.

As mayor, I am working every day to make Los Angeles a greener and more livable city — by making sustainability the lens through which we view all of our work. From pursuing a zero carbon economy to expanding our urban tree canopy, L.A. is a global model of climate leadership.

Last month, we took an important step forward in this work when I launched Cool Streets LA — a major initiative to lower temperatures in some of this city’s hottest, most vulnerable neighborhoods.

In Hyde Park, where we launched the program, we planted trees and installed shade structures to go along with cool pavement. This program reflects the very best of the Angeleno spirit — because we’re driving innovation, testing new solutions, and confronting a challenge head-on.

Climate change is not an abstract crisis. It’s all around us: in the pollution we inhale, the floods in our streets and the flames on our hillsides. We saw those threats last week as the Getty Fire destroyed homes and forced thousands to evacuate — and these extreme fire events are on the rise.

Angelenos aren’t being passive in the face of this climate emergency. We’re confronting this crisis wherever we can and taking action now. Earlier this year, we released L.A.’s Green New Deal — which sets aggressive goals for a sustainable future, strengthens our economy and sets L.A. on course to be carbon neutral by 2050.

One important piece of our Green New Deal is the focus on equity — putting those most impacted by this crisis at the front of the line for things like new trees and cool pavement. That Angeleno coming back home in the blistering sun deserves to be every bit as comfortable as her counterpart in another ZIP code. That’s why we’re adding benches with shade — either a tree, an umbrella, or some other structure — to 750 bus stops across the city before the end of next year.

To do that, we’ll be hosting a workshop and bringing together design firms to help us quickly test and develop solutions for shade sails and umbrellas that are cost-effective and attractive. And alongside this work, my newly appointed city forest officer is advancing plans to plant 90,000 trees by 2021 and increase tree canopy by 50% by 2028 in the areas of greatest need that have for too long borne the brunt of the climate crisis.

My job, as the mayor and incoming chair of C40 Cities — the world’s leading climate change action group — is to make the 2020s the decade for climate action. Programs like Cool Streets LA are a reminder that we can protect the world for tomorrow and, at the same time, create a better quality of life for people today.

Ours may well be the first generation to see the full effects of climate change — and the last generation with the ability to reverse it. And if we join hands and work together now, I know we will.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Community Report” column runs the first Thursday of every month in The Wave.