Local Climate Leadership: Chris Chavez

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Chris Chavez

Chris Chavez is Deputy Policy Director at the Coalition for Clean Air.

Tell us about your work on climate.

My work with the Coalition for Clean Air focuses in three areas:

  • Climate equity: Work with our partners in the California Climate Equity Coalition to ensure California’s cap and trade revenues are invested in communities which are disproportionally impacted by pollution, and making sure those investments improve air quality in addition to greenhouse gas reductions.
  • Electric vehicle deployment: Work with the Charge Ahead Coalition to increase electric vehicle deployment in low-income communities by advocating for strong local programs and state policies.
  • Local government and community relations: Educate local elected officials and the broader community about California’s climate investment, electric vehicle programs, and important environmental policy issues.

What inspired you on your career path? And what or who inspires you now?

I’ve been involved with politics and policy since I was 13; that’s over half of my life! It always just seemed like the right fit for me and always kept my attention and interest. You could say my interest started even earlier, however. When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time playing computer games where you got to build your own cities, transportation networks and deal with things like pollution. One of my top goals was to avoid pollution-forming industries and infrastructure and focus on renewables. Also, when I was in college, I did a lot of higher education advocacy with the California State University system and the California State Student Association (of which I was President in 2010-2011). But it was during my time at the State Capitol when I worked with Senators Alex Padilla and Fran Pavley that I truly started to get involved with environmental policy. I got to staff transportation-related bills and better understand the state’s role in reducing pollution through smart, equitable climate investments.

What are the barriers you face in work — and what could make your job easier?

The biggest challenge is being able to fully comprehend policy and the politics surrounding it. Policy is not easy, and I’ve always regarded environmental policy among the most challenging. Environmental policy sits right at the intersection of law, health, science and economics. Throw in the fact that California is among the global leaders in environmental policy and that we’re often in uncharted territory, there is always a lot to learn!

What would make the job easier is more time. Being able to balance out research, planning, legislative visits, conference calls, meetings and staying informed of current events in a limited amount of time isn’t easy. However, part of what makes the political and policy world fun is it’s fast pace.

A genie grants you two wishes that will help fight climate change. What do you ask for? The third wish is for anything you want (sky’s the limit!).

  1. That all politicians agree to work on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  2. Convert all cars and freight vehicles to electric power (along with adequate charging infrastructure).
  3. I’ve always been a big science fiction fan, so the ability to teleport rather than drive or fly would be pretty neat (and hopefully it will be a zero-emissions transporter).
Posted on Friday, March 30th, 2018

Let’s Lead on Climate with the 2028 Olympic Games

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The City of Los Angeles adopted an optimistic theme for the 2028 Olympic Games — “Follow the Sun.” This theme encompasses not only LA’s sunny and bright spirit, but it also delivers an optimistic outlook into a more sustainable future. One of the main priorities for the 2028 Olympic games is to be sustainable in all ways — financially, structurally, and environmentally. The City hopes to set out on achieving this vision by reusing the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and existing sports stadiums for the 2028 games, rather than solely depending on constructing brand new facilities.

Being a two-time host for previous Summer Olympics, LA holds the appropriate sentiment for athletes and guests, while possessing experience in planning for the future. Athletes will be housed and trained at UCLA and USC campuses, allowing the city to drastically reduce costs and resources for constructing new facilities. Because the games will span from the Valley to the shores of Long Beach, feasible modes of public transportation will be available for attendees, such as the newly constructed Metro Purple Line Extension (set to finish by 2020).

As the spirit and energy from Olympic participants rise high, so will the demand for energy. To address this issue, LA 2028 is committed to sourcing clean energy from the two biggest energy providers in the LA region — Southern California Edison and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP).

As the City looks forward to a new era of the Olympic games, one thing is clear — Los Angeles is a true Olympian city at heart with an innovative future in mind.

Further research…
How are other cities planning for climate resilience? ecoAmerica’s Let’s Lead on Climate report showcases how different cities from the West Coast to the East Coast are planning for the future.

Posted on Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

Why We Need More Parks in Los Angeles

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My first and fondest memory of parks go back to my childhood when I was just five years old, riding my training bike to the park with my sisters. Having just immigrated to Los Angeles from Vietnam, I must admit riding and running freely and safely through the park was a new concept, though for 5 year-old Anna it was a quick embrace. Of course, I’m not the only person to hold such a sentimental relationship with parks.

Countless studies have revealed the importance of incorporating green space and nature into community planning. It isn’t a coincidence that park use and access correlate with children’s health and emotional well-being. Aside from being excellent natural CO2 vacuums, urban neighborhood greenspace can help reduce adolescent aggression. Yet, over 75% of the population in Los Angeles County shows a need for more parks, according to a Parks Needs Assessment conducted by the LA County Department of Parks and Recreation.

What’s even more of a “coincidence” is that the relationship between community well-being and park access is strong! Places with serious park deficits have life expectancies below the county average (A Portrait of Los Angeles County 2017-2018). In another study by the City Project, overlaying maps of household income with park needs reveals that low-income communities reflect higher park needs.

How do we address these park and health inequities?

Prioritizing funding for parks and open spaces is one of the key solutions to addressing these intertwined inequity issues. With numerous studies and reports assessing parks in Los Angeles, local government agencies now have adequate knowledge to take action, such as which neighborhoods are park poor* and why it is that they are park poor.

So, what’s the next step? Allocate proper funding to transform ideas into action.

Proposition 68, formerly known as Senate Bill 5, provides a solution by proposing $4 billion in bonds to fund grants and projects for creating and restoring parks in park-poor neighborhoods, expanding outdoor opportunities for disadvantaged youth, and maintaining state parks and infrastructure. Funding can be allocated resourcefully to neighborhoods that need it the most without jeopardizing funds to maintain existing parks and open space.

Investing in a new park is more than just an investment in a soccer field and a shiny new playground; it’s an investment to ensure that 50 years from now, all five-year-olds can ride their training bikes throughout the park without compromising their health, and regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds.

*Park poor: “ Refers to any geographic area that provides less than three acres of green space per 1,000 residents, as defined by California law. Three acres is the size of approximately one and one half soccer or football fields (The City Project).”

Posted on Tuesday, February 27th, 2018
Path To Positive Los Angeles