(Editor’s note: At the CD 11 Forum hosted by Westside Current and Circling the News on April 6, the editors had asked constituents for questions. Palisades High School students sent in questions the afternoon of the debate, which did not allow us time to ask the students’ questions. The editors promised to send the questions to candidates and print the answers. All seven candidates received the questions, four chose to answer. The questions and answers are below.)
By LAUREL BUSBY
Special to Circling the News
City Council candidates were emailed questions from four Palisades Charter High School students, who are working to address climate change as part of the school’s Human Rights Watch Student Task Force. Below are the answers from the four candidates who responded—Erin Darling, Greg Good, Allison Hordorff Polhill, and Traci Park.
Peter Garff, 17, junior, asked: “What are your plans to promote climate change education in LA schools? Right now there is hardly anything available. How can the City Council influence education in Los Angeles?”
Erin Darling: City Council can’t directly shape education since the LAUSD has its own school board, but the City should promote public education about climate change and how it intersects with all fields of learning, from atmospheric science to biology to economics. Quite frankly, there isn’t an academic field that climate change does not touch and young people’s education should reflect that if we’re going to address this existential crisis.
Greg Good: Based on the CA State Constitution, cities have no official jurisdiction relative to school districts. However, there are opportunities for partnership—and increasingly, the district and city have been looking for more of those opportunities. As a former high school teacher, I’ll look for opportunities to partner with schools in LA to highlight the science—and the need for action and mitigation—with students and families. The best way for a council member to do that is by working directly with campuses on forums, events and actual climate mitigation plans. If I’m council member for CD11, my team will actively seek out those partnerships as means to elevate the existential crisis of climate change to the top of mind for students. As importantly, we will seek opportunities with student groups and leaders to build awareness and inspire small and big actions by students and families.
Allison Holdorff Polhill: As the former chief advisor to the vice president of the LA school board, I had the opportunity to work closely with our school leaders throughout the district. One of my responsibilities was to oversee all environmental efforts. I am excited to continue this partnership as the next city councilmember in District 11. Last year, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law landmark legislation that will allocate $6 million for the creation of free educational resources on climate change and environmental justice and will make environmental curriculum accessible to all K–12 students throughout the state. This curriculum will empower California’s students and teachers to explore locally relevant solutions to pressing global issues, increase awareness and critical thinking, and inspire future environmental leaders. I will work with our LA school board members and our local school leaders to ensure that we are integrating these resources at our schools across the District.
I am honored to have the support of Dr. Joseph K. Lyou, president and CEO of the Coalition for Clean Air (in his individual capacity.) We deployed 200 air-monitoring sensors throughout the school district. This provides communities throughout Los Angeles with real time data on the air quality within their neighborhoods. This is a critical tool for fire safety, environmental justice and educational opportunities for our schools.
Traci Park: Peter, as you know, the school district and the city are separate entities, but there really should be more collaboration between them, especially when it comes to climate change education. Strengthening climate education and engagement can have a measurable impact on carbon emissions and other environmentally damaging behaviors.
I would love for the school district to embrace a green learning agenda to unleash the creativity of teachers and students to develop and implement climate action projects in their homes, schools, and communities. I also love the idea of a CD-11-sponsored annual youth video competition presenting ideas for local solutions to combat climate change, ocean pollution, and water conservation. Students should have hands-on experience addressing issues like the importance of biodiversity, planting succulents, the Ballona Wetlands, providing safe pathways for wildlife, and other issues.
Some city departments already offer great resources for youth. For example, LA Sanitation offers programs like LAUSD free recycling, a sewer science program for high school students that focuses on microbiology, chemistry, and physics, and composting and stormwater capture workshops. I would like to see Recreation and Parks offer more student education on our urban forest and tree-trimming recycling, and opportunities to work as a Junior Park Ranger to help protect our local parks. There are so many more opportunities for the City of LA to educate young people on its great climate initiatives. I’d love to have your come intern in my office and help get the word out!
Ryan Carpenter, 14, freshman, asked: “We’re currently trying to convert our school to renewable energy. What would you do to support efforts like these and move our community away from harmful fossil fuels?”
Erin Darling: We have to transition away from fossil fuels. As a city this means transitioning DWP to 100% renewable energy by 2035. On a more hyper-local basis the transition to renewable should happen sooner, with subsidies and tax breaks for solar installation. For schools there should be an education opportunity too, with students learning and taking part in solar installation.
Greg Good: Ensuring the City of Los Angeles meets the goal of its Strategic Long-Term Resource Plan for 100% renewable energy by 2035 is going to require an all-hands on deck approach—that includes exploring all options thoroughly, as well as the economic impacts on low-income communities and the potential impacts for displaced workers.
One focus area will be supporting and implementing large-scale and local community solar. In terms of community solar, I’ll work to support projects like yours and I’ll work to ensure that it is more readily available and affordable to lower income communities within the district. I will also address community solar at Mar Vista Gardens with HUD and the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA)—and the creation of high-quality career path jobs in that process. In essence, we need to make affordable renewables available to more Angelenos.
Similarly, I’ll work towards incentivizing more energy efficiency programs for lower income communities in the district and with multifamily apartment complexes and ensuring better overall demand management with building owners and landlords. This may be possible via new models such as virtual power plants that aggregate rooftop solar. We will also need to overcome challenges to new transmission lines and make sure that what needs to get built doesn’t disproportionately impact environmental justice (EJ) communities. This is a tough process—and more of a Citywide issue—but we’ll have to have those tough conversations eventually.
Finally, I’ll also work to accelerate the transition to electric transportation options, as well as city fleets; and I will work toward fulfilling the city’s building decarbonization goals, while maintaining laser focus on just job transition and affordable financing for low-income communities.
Allison Holdorff Polhill: Yes, I absolutely support efforts to move towards clean energy. As the former chief advisor to the vice president of LAUSD, I assisted in ensuring LAUSD passed a resolution for 100% clean energy by 2030. I monitored and assisted the district to implement a pilot solar project at 50 schools. The district is well on its way to achieve its goal for 100% clean energy. I support the city’s effort to be 100% clean energy by 2035.
I have taken the pledge not to accept any monies from the fossil fuel industry during my campaign.
Traci Park: Ryan, it’s awesome that you’re focused on converting PaliHi to renewable energy, and you’re right—as a city we must move away from harmful fossil fuels! At the city level, in 2019 Mayor Garcetti launched LA’s own Green New Deal, which has some really ambitious goals to make our city cleaner, greener, and healthier: check it out, here: https://plan.lamayor.org/
Los Angeles is now the leading solar city in America. We’re converting our entire city fleet to EVs, and we’re installing EV chargers all over the city to support our ambitious goal of getting more people into no emission vehicles.
By 2045, LADWP will supply 100% renewable energy. I think we can actually achieve that sooner—on April 3, 2022, California hit a major milestone when our statewide power grid served 97% of demand from renewable power! In the meantime, it’s really important that we incentivize new businesses to go solar, and offer subsidized solar in parts of the city where it might be cost-prohibitive for some families. Here on the Westside of LA, I want to create green business districts, where companies designing clean and green-tech products and thrive and those committed to environmental best practices are rewarded!
Amanda Shane, 16, junior, asked: “What specifically do you have planned to address the climate crisis?”
Erin Darling: The biggest task is to transition LADWP to 100% renewable energy by 2035. That’s the most aggressive date to get completely off fossil fuels, but it requires massive investment up front. We also need to ban all current oil and gas drilling and storage, which is mainly focused near the Ballona Wetlands and also near Baldwin Hills. Increased wildfires are another local manifestation of climate change, which needs to be addressed by limiting development in high-fire areas in the Santa Monica Mountains and hiring more LAFD firefighters.
Greg Good: Climate change is the existential crisis of our time – and we face myriad environmental issues in CD11 and the City of Los Angeles. Five areas that I will prioritize and take action on as a city councilmember are:
1) Climate mitigation and resilience are crucial for the city as a whole, and for District 11 – particularly because of inevitable sea level rise and increasing heat. I will work with neighborhood councils to develop neighborhood climate emergency plans to address water events, heat events, and other potential manifestations of climate change. Reducing the district’s carbon emissions is key to climate resilience. Toward that end, I will work with the city and other stakeholders to increase electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure in the district, improve grid demand management, expand community rooftop solar and energy efficiency programs, and expand transit options to get folks out of their cars.
In addition, organics capture and compliance with SB1383 is crucial to minimizing the climate impacts of commercial organics waste and ensuring compliance with state law. The city is required by the law and by CalRecycle to have a mandatory organics diversion program and ordinance in place by 2023. I will work with sanitation, council, advocates, restaurants, food establishments, and recycLA providers to ensure successful compliance, the investment in necessary infrastructure, and the tracking of outcomes to get this done. The city is fortunate that recycLA has positioned it to best comply with SB1383, relative to other cities in the state.
2) The Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant is slated to become a 100% wastewater recycling facility by 2035. It will account for up to a third of our water resilience. Coming off a significant sewage spill and system failure on July 11, 2021, we must elevate the work of transforming that facility, making it extraordinarily resilient, and ready for full wastewater recovery by 2035. I will work with outside advocates, Council colleagues, the Bureau of Sanitation, the mayor, and the Ad Hoc Advisory committee that I chaired and that authored a report and recommendations on the issue to ensure the necessary capital, operational, and human resource investments are made over the next decade.
3) Addressing the critical mass of RV encampments on Jefferson Blvd., at the Ballona Freshwater Marsh is crucial. We must address them with compassion and identify alternatives for the unsheltered folks there—but we must stop the damage being done to the marsh.
4) Phasing out oil drilling in our city boundaries, coupled with a substantive and concrete work transition and development plan must happen. Toward those ends, I will work to ensure the launch of a comprehensive amortization study of all active oil wells in the city and actualization of the work being initiated by the county Just Transition Task Force to guarantee that job replacement (with commensurate compensation) takes place in conjunction.
5) Expanding tree canopy throughout the city and district is crucial—I will work to ensure that the Urban Forest Management Plan is completed and that the city’s tree inventory (which will help ensure strategic deployment of the right trees for the right site) is completed.
Allison Holdorff Polhill: In September 2021, the LA City Council approved a new goal for LA to achieve 100% clean energy by 2035, a critical goal to drastically cut the carbon pollution that causes climate change. I fully support this plan and setting a goal is only the first step. We must have dates, deadlines and deliverables to meet our goals. We must aggressively deploy solar energy projects that deliver clean, renewable power to our homes and businesses—all while putting Angelenos to work in good-paying jobs installing and maintaining these projects.
Our coastline is a treasure that we must preserve for generations to come. In order to do that, we’ve got to make sure the Santa Monica Bay is clean, not polluted by storm water, trash, and microplastics. I’ll hold Hyperion Plant accountable for abiding by environmental regulations and promptly notifying the public when it encounters problems.
I will create solutions for affordable housing that include 15 minutes walkable communities that are not car dependent which will decrease our carbon footprint and congestion in our city. We must reduce traffic and grow our communities smarter. As we build much-needed new housing, we must also rethink how our city can work with community builders in a smarter, more sustainable way that boosts access to public transit and accommodates safe spaces to walk and bike.
I have an emergency preparedness plan to address fire danger and a water conservation plan to address the drought. We must ensure we are doing everything we can do to capture storm water and recycle water to address the impact of the drought.
Traci Park: Amanda, as you know, addressing climate change and accelerating sustainable infrastructure are among the biggest challenges of our times. The payoffs for getting it right are enormous, and we can create good jobs that come with the greatest of all benefits—a healthier future for all of us! I will fight at City Hall for affordable, sustainable policies that move us towards a low-carbon, green-energy future.
Among other things, I will encourage the city to provide rooftop solar incentives, clean energy incentives for businesses, more EV charging stations, 100% renewable energy in city-owned buildings, stormwater capture and storage, gray water recycling, trash interceptors (like the new one at Ballona Creek), and localized recycling and composting programs, dune restoration projects, more parks and urban habitat restoration, growing our urban forest, creating more wildlife corridors, and holding polluters accountable. We need an “all of the above” strategy to protecting our natural environment for youth and generations to come! If you have more ideas, email them to me!
Clementine Causse, 16, sophomore, asked: “Do you plan on doing anything about how environmental injustice is currently affecting our low-income communities? If so, what are your plans?”
Erin Darling: Great question! Centering environmental justice issues means focusing on remediating urban oil fields and minimizing air pollution from LAX, which disproportionally affects low-income residents and people of color. Also, land use must be treated as an environmental justice issue and as a battleground against climate change. Our land use practices over the last century were used to not only displace long-standing communities of color from the Westside, but were also used to exclude these hard-working families from homeownership and rental opportunities. We need to act with urgency to bring housing opportunities as well as new transportation investments such as rail, buses, on-demand micro transit, and bike infrastructure. It is important to build support for transit-oriented development and make it easier for people to afford to live in or near the communities in which they work. We must cut down on the number of “super commuters” who drive more than an hour each way to and from work by prioritizing affordable housing creation as a policy tool for minimizing traffic and addressing climate change.
Greg Good: I care deeply about environmental justice—and as a councilmember, I will work with the Climate Emergency Mobilization Office (CEMO) that I oversaw the development of to make sure that equity and environmental justice are threshold considerations on all city policy. The CEMO’s mission is to institutionalize the voice of vulnerable frontline communities in the development of policy so that seemingly good climate policy doesn’t have unintended consequences for those communities (which historically hasn’t been adequately taken into consideration).
A major emissions driver—and a primary environmental justice issue in the district—is LAX, whose emissions have real impacts on surrounding communities of color and its workers. I will work with LAX on ensuring expedited electrification of on-site vehicles, adherence to its Community Benefits Agreements and other measures. Finally, I will continue existing work I’ve done with Public Works on reaching the goal of full electrification of Public Works fleets—specifically by using our market leverage to incentivize manufacturers to pilot models more aggressively (for example with waste and recycling vehicles).
As a council member, I look forward to working closely with CEMO in fighting and mitigating climate change—and in ensuring that frontline communities aren’t disproportionately or unintentionally impacted by the strategies employed.
Allison Holdorff PolHill: Equity and environmental justice must be part of every lens in which we tackle environmental problems. LA can adopt something similar to President Biden’s Justice40 initiative, which sets the goal of at least 40% of the benefits of climate action going toward disadvantaged communities. The air quality monitoring systems that I ensured were installed throughout the City of Los Angeles will ensure we are monitoring environmental injustice, in particular in low-income communities.
I’ve worked with the city, People for Parks and LA Land Trust to ensure we are able to use our schools as parks in particular in our park poor areas. I pushed to ensure that funds from our Measure RR ($7 billion) can be used for greening projects, gardens and sustainability efforts throughout the District.
As a first year attorney, I represented three Native American Indian tribes to prevent the nuclear industry from dumping radioactive waste into a pristine aquafer leading directly into the Colorado River, a major water source for Southern California.
Traci Park: Clementine, environmental justice issues are finally being centered in the city’s decision-making process. For too long, low-income communities have (literally) been the dumping ground for dirty polluters and unhealthy developments. I want to see rapid expansion of subsidized rooftop solar, EV rebates and charging resources, parks and green spaces, and closures of gas and oil wells that have detrimentally impacted communities lacking resources to fight decades of bad policies. Our entire city must unite in the fight to protect our future against climate change, and we must all stand with the communities who have been the hardest hit by irresponsible decisions in the past.