OurCounty: The Los Angeles Countywide Sustainability Plan
Developing the Boldest County Sustainability Plan in the Nation
In 2016, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors recognized the need to develop and implement a new Countywide Sustainability Plan that would outline a bold, inclusive vision for the present and future generations of Los Angeles.
While a handful of the 88 cities in Los Angeles County have developed their own sustainability plans, no such plan had previously existed at the countywide scale. In a region as large and as Los Angeles County – which includes more than 10 million residents and 4,000 square miles of land area – many of the most pressing sustainability issues are best solved using a regional approach through collaboration across city and county boundaries.
Furthermore, County leadership recognized the need to incorporate meaningful engagement processes for the environmental justice communities that had historically been left out of policy making decisions. The Chief Sustainability Office sought a diverse and experienced team that would be able to deliver the first-ever Countywide Sustainability Plan in an inclusive and timely manner.
Buro Happold recognized that an unprecedented project required an unprecedented team. Partnering with researchers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and social justice experts at the Liberty Hill Foundation, Buro Happold led a multidisciplinary team of consultants to develop a comprehensive pathway to sustainability. The two-year process includes extensive input and feedback from community-based organizations and advocacy groups, County agencies and incorporated cities, the private sector, academic researchers, as well as the general public. A wide range of subjects were addressed, including climate change, energy, water, waste and resource management, land use, transportation, air quality, open space, biodiversity, public health, economy and workforce development, housing, equity, resilience, and governance.
Additional consulting support was provided by Estolano LeSar Advisors; Fehr & Peers; Gladstein, Neandross & Associates; Studio-MLA; Raimi + Associates; Toole Design; and Buro Happold’s sustainability experts across the Los Angeles, New York, London, Manchester, and Edinburgh offices.
Building upon the firm’s experience leading complex, multi-sectoral initiatives, Buro Happold collaborated with team members to deliver notable innovations in several areas, including:
Procedural Equity: Buro Happold worked with the Liberty Hill Foundation and UCLA to design and implement a stakeholder engagement process that ensured all stakeholders were granted access to participate in the development of Our County. One of the primary strategies was the provision of stipends to community-based organizations representing low-income communities of color, to ensure their participation early in the process by increasing their capacity to actively participate. The Buro Happold team also conducted a workshop dedicated to applying the lenses of equity and resilience to the plan as a whole.
Data Analysis: BuroHappold’s consultants worked hand-in-hand with researchers at UCLA to develop a sustainability dashboard to report progress on interim and long-term goals, indicators and targets. In addition to incorporating the best available data throughout the region, the dashboard provides disaggregated data at the municipal level where possible, providing resource-constrained cities with a free resource for their own sustainability initiatives. Buro Happold is also developing the Countywide greenhouse gas inventory, which will also provide an inventory for each of 88 cities in the County.