Our County: The Los Angeles Countywide Sustainability Plan

Los Angeles, USA

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 future and balance the co-equal values of environment, equity, and economy.

Challenge

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 urbanized 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-time Countywide Sustainability Plan in an inclusive and timely manner.

Shaping the future of Los Angeles: Buro Happold led workshops to help formulate ideas for a Countywide Sustainability Plan. Image: County of Los Angeles

Solution

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 is leading 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 are being 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 is being provided by Estolano LeSar Advisors; Fehr & Peers; Gladstein, Neandross & Associates; Studio-MLA; Raimi + Associates; and Buro Happold’s sustainability experts across the Los Angeles, New York, London, Manchester, and Edinburgh offices.

Buro Happold has been a great partner of ours in this effort. We went through a very rigorous RFP process to find the best consulting team possible to help us build this plan. Buro Happold came out of that process as the team that we really thought would best suit our needs and it was really a top-notch team. They’ve been our technical partner, our community outreach partner, advisor along the way and project manager – they’ve done it all, and there’s no way we could have gotten this plan this far without them.

Gary Gero, Chief Sustainability Officer, County of Los Angeles

Decisions we make now about inclusivity and the environment will affect future generations for years to come. Image: County of Los Angeles

Value

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: Buro Happold’s consultants are working with academic experts 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 will provide dis-aggregated 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.

Climate change, energy, water, waste, biodiversity and community engagement are just a few of the areas being explored. Image: County of Los Angeles

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