June 22, 2015
Los Angeles, known for its extensive freeway system and broad boulevards, fast food, car culture, lawn-filled suburbs and smog, is getting serious about sustainability—and the effort includes local and sustainable food and agriculture.
When Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti took office, he created a Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and appointed Matt Petersen as the city’s first chief sustainability officer. Now, Los Angeles has a comprehensive sustainability plan, pLAn, which focuses on numerous aspects of sustainability. Many of these factors, including water conservation, livable neighborhoods and waste management, naturally intersect with food and agriculture objectives.
“How can we improve our city today, and ensure future generations enjoy a place that is environmentally healthy, economically prosperous, and equitable in opportunity for all?” asked Garcetti in the pLAn’s introduction. “It is important to emphasize that the pLAn is not just an environmental vision—by addressing the environment, economy, and equity together, we will move toward a truly sustainable future.”
In a city that used to be home to many orange groves and other farming operations, agriculture will have a strong role in the city’s sustainability resurgence. Los Angeles will make land at its public facilities (including the Los Angeles Public Library) available for urban agriculture, as well as convert unused lots to gardening spots. Future plans include a pilot hydroponics and aquaponics program.
The pLAn aims to encourage Los Angeles residents to purchase locally-grown food from farmers’ markets, and another one of the city’s objectives is to support a Good Food Purchasing Program to assist institutions such as hospitals and universities source their food locally. Other goals include expanding urban agriculture in the city’s Promise Zone (this land is federally designated) and spurring more urban farming efforts through the city compost giveaway program.
Another objective stated in the pLAn is to improve soil health in the city through biodiversity strategies, and to initiate tree planting in neighborhoods that are most in need of new trees.
In 2013, Los Angeles was home to 494 urban agriculture sites. The pLAn calls for increasing this number by 25 percent by 2025 and 50 percent by 2035.
“Urban agriculture is of critical importance,” says Petersen. “We need to have the right kinds of fruits and vegetables to grow here. It’s important to pay for our own food.”
It’s also important to eliminate food deserts, a fact acknowledged by the pLAn, which stipulates a goal to expand the Neighborhood Market Conversion Program and to stimulate investment in new grocery stores through the FreshWorks fund. The pLAn lays out the necessity of having more grocery stores in underserved neighborhoods, it will require that all farmers’ markets in the city accept electronic benefits transfer cards, and it will work to ensure that everybody in the city will live within half a mile of fresh food.
Agriculture is only one aspect of green investment and the creation of green jobs in the city. City leaders aim to attract $100 million in such investments through the LA Cleantech Incubator and boost green investment in the city to $750 million by 2025.