Delivered at July 26, 2022 Board Meeting
But before we begin, I would like to simply say that as I commented in public remarks delivered earlier this year to members of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA) on future trends that we see here at LADWP, indicated that our experience with life-threatening extreme heat isn’t just coming; it’s arrived. We see that the world’s climate is changing and those changes aren’t likely to be reversed. Our best hope is to do everything that we can do to slow the change or feeling that we need to figure out how to live in a vastly different world.
But let’s be clear, extreme heat is not solely a San Fernando Valley public health and safety problem. You don’t need to be a certified meteorologist to know that communities experiencing extreme heat is a significant problem from Hollywood to East L.A., and from South L.A. to San Pedro. All these communities feel the substantial summer distress that extreme heat causes. There is a strong likelihood that parts of L.A. are not done seeing excessively, even deadly, triple-digit temperatures for longer periods each summer. Today we must adapt to, and manage to live in, our hotter, dryer city.
Dealing effectively with extreme heat episodes will be easier for some of us than for others. Equity considerations are a major concern when it comes to who swelters from extreme heat brought on by, worsened by, and hastened by climate change. Lives are at stake, Los Angeles residents’ health is at stake. In real terms that means people we know, it means members of our families and our neighbors will be impacted. Heat stroke can kill. People at greatest risk includes infants and children four years and older, seniors, and people with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
As might be anticipated, economic status plays a key role in how residents manage extreme heat. If you live in a modern four-bedroom home with central air conditioning, you’re not worried about surviving extreme heat. But even in that situation, running air conditioning throughout the stifling summer months comes at a cost. If you are economically secure, you manage to cover that monthly cost to protect your health. But what if you can’t afford the cost? Poor families and working residents are presented together with tougher choices when triple-digit temperatures persist for days, and their thermometers hover in the high 90s for weeks on end. In the future, high 90s might start occurring in early June and stretch to early October with protracted extreme heat episodes rising well above 100 degrees. The option of not running an air conditioner because the monthly power bills will be too high demand a solution. DWP service shut offs during extreme heat due to unpaid or late paid power bills is not one of them. If we fail to act decisively now, residents living in specific communities in L.A. will struggle under extreme heat for months on end each summer.
Let’s be clear, no one living in the City of L.A. should be allowed to suffer a heat related death or contend with a major health related emergency triggered by extreme heat. We know the risk. We must rapidly deploy common sense solutions in the face of what is nothing short of a growing public health, weather, and climate concern. There are steps that we’re taking and more steps that we can take to mitigate the impact of extreme heat. And to do so in a manner that the poorest among us aren’t left to struggle on their own with no opportunity to achieve some relief.
Now as we know, this department currently has an equity strategies process underway. That process is set to report back to this board later this year with an interim report and a final report in the following year. But this particular calamity is present now today and is not subject for some distant future response, which is why it is before this board. We are joined today, and are grateful for the presence of two of our equity strategy partners, Pacoima Beautiful will be presenting, as will Community Enterprise Partners. In addition, we have our initial presentation, our kickoff presentation, being made by the Department’s Sustainability division along with City Plants, a tremendous partner in this effort. And I’m looking forward to, as the entire board, to better understand the strategies that are currently being deployed, and also, to understand how we become more intentional, more specific, more impactful, and scale in our response to this aspect of the current climate crisis.