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Climate and Environment

LA's Proposed Budget Spends Big On Policing And The Homelessness Crisis. But Is There Enough For Climate Action?

Eric Garcetti wears a dark suit and diamond patterned tie as he stands in front of a microphone. A blurred image of cargo containers at a port is in the background.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks after a tour of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in January.
(Patrick T. Fallon
AFP via Getty Images)
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L.A Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled an $11.8 billion-dollar budget proposal for the city on Wednesday. Just 0.5% of it — about $60 million — would go to climate-specific initiatives.

That’s still a lot more than previous years: the city only proposed about $15 million towards climate investments last year.

L.A. under Garcetti has been touted as a leader in climate action not only in California, but around the world. The mayor ran for office on climate action, and the city’s spending on climate initiatives has been significant.

But the current budget proposal's climate spending pales in comparison to other items like policing and homelessness. Garcetti’s proposed budget includes $1.2 billion for projects to tackle homelessness and a $149-million increase to LAPD’s budget, which already sits at about $3 billion.

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The city says that the vast majority of its major climate actions fall outside the purview of the general budget, but some environmentalists say the city could better spread the wealth.

The largest new climate-specific investments in the budget include about $58 million for projects such as tree planting, installing more cool pavement and building electric vehicle infrastructure. There’s also a new Climate Equity Fund for initiatives serving low-income Angelenos who are most affected by climate impacts like extreme heat. That fund also would expand air quality monitoring at oil drilling sites and rebates to improve energy efficiency at home, and more.

But the city shouldn’t silo climate action, said Aura Vásquez, a former L.A. Department of Water and Power (LADWP) commissioner and now Chair of the Sierra Club’s Angeles chapter.

“We keep failing in understanding the intersectionality between climate, homelessness, housing, transportation and everything else,” said Vásquez. “The budget is dealing with things in silos and that’s extremely problematic because climate is not a silo issue, it’s an issue that affects everything.”

Mayor's office press secretary Harrison Wollman said the city’s main climate efforts, like shifting to renewable energy and improving public transit, are outside the purview of the general budget.

The city is already receiving more than 40% of its energy from renewable sources like wind and solar, he said, and that will expand through the LA 100 plan, which will hook the city up to 100% renewable energy by as early as 2035 and is administered by LADWP, not the city.

L.A. has also made one of the biggest investments in the nation to improve the public transit system — that funding is through LA Metro, not the general budget, Wollman said.

But Vásquez said the city could do better within the existing parameters of the general budget.

“I feel it is excessive, the amount of money that we're investing on the police and not in other places,” Vásquez said.

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The budget proposal will next go to City Council for revisions before it’s sent back to the mayor for final approval.

Here’s a list of some of most significant new climate-specific spending in the 2022-2023 budget proposal:

  • $15 million for waste diversion and water resiliency improvements. 
  • $12.4 million for electric vehicle purchases and leases, electric vehicle infrastructure, and charging infrastructure across the city.
  • $10.5 million for the establishment of the Climate Equity Fund to provide mitigation actions for low-income communities that disproportionately suffer from climate impacts. 
  • $4 million in cool pavement, a technology to cool urban areas. That doubles the city’s current investment. 
  • $3.8 million to expand the city’s Clean and Green program, which provides jobs to young people for beautification projects around the city.
  • $2 million for tree planting in low-canopy neighborhoods.
  • Nearly 800 additional sanitation workers, including more than 200 youth positions. These staffers will help track the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, help clean up dumping and trash around the city, and help develop plans to unhook the city from fossil fuels.  
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