Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Green LA Talks the Talk but Can't Walk the Walk

When the Green LA Coalition schedules a general membership meeting, one would think they’d go out of their way to set an example, using the event to establish a standard for sustainable behavior. After all, Green LA represents “over 100 mainline and cutting-edge environmental and environmental justice organizations that provide vision, expertise and community support toward making Los Angeles the greenest “Big City” in America.”

Tomorrow, the general membership converges on the Metropolitan Water District building and, if the Green LA invitation is any indication, they’ll be arriving by private auto and taking advantage of the promised parking.

It may be a simple issue, it may seem petulant to point it out but…the promise of parking is, based on positioning, more important than the promise of a robust agenda or an interesting headliner.

Incidently, the headliner is Controller Wendy Greuel, who has just finished a long tour of duty as the Chair of the City Council’s Transportation Committee. Her stated vision for Los Angeles is a city where…

…citizens can walk to nearby subways, bus stops and light rail stations that will drop them a few blocks from their offices. She envisions seamless bus routes that allow workers to save time and stress in the morning. She envisions a Los Angeles accessible to all residents, no matter their income level or location. She envisions a network of bike lanes that crisscross the city and provide easy access to restaurants and movie theaters.

If that vision is going to become a reality, things are going to have to change within the environmental community.

1. The environmental community must start at home and with the little things if it expects the world around it to change. It’s up to the environmental community to establish the standards and to be the first to step up and to embrace the change.
2. Offer an invitation that gives pedestrian, cycling and mass transit instructions on the invitations. Reimburse and reward for the good behavior rather than validating for bad behavior.
3. Take the environmental commitment all the way through the event and make a point at every opportunity. Forgo the ubiquitous plastic bottles of water, pass on the plastic cups, replace the plastic utensils and styro plates and coffee cups and make a real statement with the simple welcome reception.
4. Drive the message in every action, in every communication, in every email, in every opportunity, whether symbolic or significant, it all adds up and it demonstrates commitment.

Things are also going to have to change within the City of Los Angeles family.

1. The City of LA will never be the Greenest “Big City” if it doesn’t make some BIG commitments to start with the LITTLE things.
2. When public officials take part in public events, it is imperative that they set a standard for access, for mobility, and for sustainable behavior.
3. With all of the energy spent coordinating schedules, sending bios, fine-tuning agendas and all of the other details that go into planning an event, include in that process a simple standard that the facility and the event meet basic sustainability standards.
4. When the leadership of the largest City in the most populated State in the most powerful Nation in the world put their collective shoulders behind alternative transportation and sustainable events, it will resonate.

Tomorrow, the membership of Green LA will arrive at the Metropolitan Water District building, located at the edge of Union Station, and they will enjoy a tasty breakfast.

It has been almost 4 years since Green LA formed with the mandate of advising Los Angeles Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, and his staff and appointees on how to transform Los Angeles into a national leader in environmental health and equity.

If that’s gonna happen, Green LA is going to have to start at home!


Joe Linton said...

I, too, was frustrated to see that automobile parking figured so prominently in that announcement. The site chosen (MWD) is very transit friendly... so we chose a good location, but didn't announce it well.

It's a sad disconnect because listed among Green L.A.'s transportation priorities is:
"Recommendation: Use City parking policy to reduce car dependency" further detailed as:
"Require employers to pay “travel” subsidies to employees who ride transit, bike, or walk to work.
Increase parking charges at meters and City-owned lots and increase City parking taxes on privately owned lots, using the increased revenues to fund improved transit services and pedestrian and bicycle

As you know from your participation in it, Green LA's Transportation Work Group ( is doing some work on parking issues (preparing a white paper on in-lieu fees - nearly done!). I will see what I can do about making sure our email announcements better reflect our political priorities.

Joe Linton
Green L.A. Transportation Working Group

Anonymous said...

This is just another installment in the never-sending saga of "Do as I say, not as I do" that pervades all of the totalitarian movements.