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Climate and Environment

Heat In LA Can Be Deadly. A New City Role Aims To Fix That

The sun sets behind the silhouette of a person drinking from a water bottle.
People view the sunset as a child drinks from a water bottle on June 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, as temperatures soared in an early-season heatwave.
(Frederic J. Brown
/
Getty Images)
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Los Angeles is getting a chief heat officer.

The new role goes to Marta Segura, the director of the city's Climate Emergency Mobilization Office. She'll be doing both jobs.

In her capacity as chief heat officer, Segura will oversee the response to extreme heat, which is considered the deadliest climate risk facing the city. Councilmember Paul Krekorian’s motion created the position.

“As we talk about climate change as a global issue, it’s important that we also be mindful of the local impacts of extreme heat,” Krekorian said in a statement. “Extreme heat can lead to heart-related illness such as heat exhaustion and heat strokes, and it can aggravate pre-existing conditions like diabetes and heart disease.”

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Segura will work as chief heat officer with city departments to expand the urban tree canopy, according to the statement. She’ll also update building codes to make sure new buildings have adequate cooling and create a heat action plan with an early warning system.

Segura is also tasked with developing an improved network of public cooling centers. Both the city and L.A. County operate dozens of the centers, which can fill up during triple-digit temperatures.

The appointment comes as Southern California is anticipating another hot summer. After Memorial Day (summer’s unofficial kickoff holiday), temperatures in parts of the city are already expected to reach into the 90s.

“One in four lives lost during heat waves could be saved if the city strategically increases tree canopy cover and installs cool surfaces,” Krekorian said. “The chief heat officer position will save lives and improve quality of life in Los Angeles, especially in our most vulnerable neighborhoods.”

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