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  • Los Angeles rejects solar plan, still likes solar power

    Los Angeles citizens voted on a citywide solar energy plan on March 3, but the very narrow results didn’t become official until yesterday: It lost (by about 1 percent). That doesn’t mean the city’s electric utility won’t proceed with rapidly expanding its solar voltaic energy portfolio — it still has the authority to do so. […]

  • L.A. solar not dead, regardless of final vote on ballot measure

    Despite rumors to the contrary, solar is not dead in Los Angeles. Not only is the outcome of Measure B still undecided, but Measure B is only a third of the larger L.A. solar plan [PDF]. And, frankly, the vote is irrelevant. On Wednesday, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said:

    I can tell you, regardless of what happens, we're moving ahead on our solar initiative.

    It's clear from listening to the discussion of Measure B that both supporters and opponents support solar power. This was not a referendum on solar, this was a referendum on process. People were pissed about how the measure got on the ballot. Some unions were rightfully pissed that the measure cut them out in favor of other unions. And so on.

    It seems that there was no real reason to put this on the ballot in the first place, especially with so much process-related political baggage. From his comments on Wednesday, it appears that the mayor will now do what mayors normally do: establish ambitious goals, work out all the details with stakeholders through established oversight processes, and make it happen.

  • Los Angelenos narrowly reject city-wide solar plan

    Los Angeles voters yesterday rejected the Green Energy Good Jobs ballot initiative (AKA Measure B), according unofficial results from the city clerk’s office. The plan, which failed by about 1,000 votes, would have led to the installation of thousands of solar panels on rooftops and parking lots throughout the city. It would have required the […]

  • L.A. solar vote could measure nation’s appetite for renewables

    Next week Los Angeles voters will vote on an ambitious solar energy plan that would add solar panels on rooftops and parking lots across the city and require the city’s energy utility to rapidly increase the amount of solar power it uses. The vote could give a snapshot of public support for renewable energy, just […]

  • Me, in the L.A. Times on Los Angeles' Measure B

    The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power works hard to exempt itself from renewable energy legislation from Sacramento, and, not coincidentally, it's also the dirtiest utility in the state. About 50 percent of the electricity they sell their customers comes from coal.

    So when the utility announced a huge new solar plan, that's all good news, right? The Los Angeles Times asked me for a review of Measure B, a ballot initiative that would enable the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to install 400 MW of solar on land and rooftops within the city. I'm no Hamlet, so I dived into the messy politics, and you can find the piece here.

    If you don't hear from me in the next few days, watch this for clues. Been nice knowing you.

  • L.A. ballot initiative on solar energy faces questions about cost and feasibility

    An ambitious solar energy plan for the smoggiest city in America might sound like a hands-down winner, but the Green Energy and Good Jobs for Los Angeles ballot initiative has stumbled over some unsettled questions about its likely costs, transparency, and timing. Angelenos will vote on the plan March 3. If passed, it would add […]

  • TreePeople founder discusses his Ashoka fellowship and green infrastructure

    Andy and Scarlett 36

    Andy Lipkis founded one of the largest independent nonprofit environmental groups in Southern California, TreePeople, which is famous in Los Angeles for helping battle the floods of 1978 and 1980, planting a million trees in the 1980s, helping teach the city to recycle in the 1990s, and, recently, working to green its schools. Lipkis just returned from a briefing trip to Washington, which he took because he and his team at TreePeople are concerned that President Obama's vaunted economic stimulus program will go mostly towards roads, bridges, and airports -- gray infrastructure -- and prolong some of the problems caused by it, such as flooding, water shortages, and pollution.

    Lipkis sees an extraordinary opportunity to invest in greening cities, adapt to climate change, reduce energy dependence, and relieve the chronic unemployment of urban youth. It's a once-in-a-lifetime deal. Yet what's interesting about Lipkis, to this observer, is the nature of his advocacy. He finds ways to make his point without demonizing or dismissing his opponents. When a Los Angeles columnist named Bill Boyarasky warned in the Los Angeles Times that environmentalists could stall Obama's reconstruction efforts, Lipkis disagreed forcefully in an op-ed, but at the same time wondered out loud if he could find a way to bring Boyarsky over to TreePeople's side.

    He sat for an interview last week.

    Kit Stolz: You were just honored with an Ashoka Fellowship, which is an award given to social entrepreneurs to help bring their work to greater numbers of people. How did this feel for you, and where do you want to take your work next?

    Lipkis: It's encouraging. I've been in this business for 38 years, and it's a nice pat on the back. Ashoka gives a three-year, stipend-funded fellowship that's intended to lead to bigger things. It's saying we're investing in you because of your track record as an activist, and because we think you could make a bigger difference. In the application process, Ashoka asks for a five-year plan. This meant we [at TreePeople] had to think hard about the next five years. Because a group of climate scientists had announced a deadline for [acting against] climate change, which is now 94 months, I made that part of my process.

    We now have 94 months to make a difference. We're facing severe weather now because of climate change. We have to radically reduce our carbon output. For me, the missing link is not just to make my city sustainable, but to work profoundly to improve all cities, to protect people from climate change. OK, I say, that's my charge. What can I do to take these innovations, which we have piloted in Los Angeles and shown to be viable, to a larger arena? How can we scale this up? We can't just move along as we have been doing -- we don't have that luxury. We have had some success, but now we have to move much more rapidly towards climate protection and adaptation. So I said, that's what I'll do. They've given me this award, now I need to make use of it.

  • L.A. train collision dismays new riders

    Speaking of trains, the horrific train wreck in L.A. last Friday came as ridership on the region’s rail network was on the rise, The New York Times reports. Los Angeles has long been known for its car-choked freeways. But after gas prices in California rose to more than $4.50 a gallon over the last several […]

  • In L.A., Mayor Villaraigosa plays footsie with Forever 21 over site of former farm

    Photo: loudtiger When I lived in New York City, I used to marvel at the weeds that would force their way up through sidewalk cracks. What a will to live, I thought: From clumps of dirt crammed between concrete slabs, these vigorous shoots fended off the hard, slapping heels of a thousand rushing city dwellers, […]