live Winner / 2014

Thriving in a Hotter Los Angeles—100% Sustainability by 2050

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by UCLA Grand Challenges

UCLA's "Hotter LA Project” pursues 100% sustainability in water, energy, and nature in the LA region by 2050.


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

The UCLA Grand Challenges initiative brings together faculty, students and partners to solve critical issues.

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay
  • Westside

What is your idea/project in more detail?

The “Thriving in a Hotter Los Angeles” (Hotter LA) Grand Challenge Project commits to transform the LA region to 100% sustainability in water, energy, and nature by 2050. This means the region will produce all energy locally with renewable sources and rely exclusively on local water supply while protecting biodiversity. This transformation will require game-changing technologies, new policies, and an evolved urban fabric.

In 2013, UCLA publicly announced our commitment to deliver, by 2019, a plan for sustainability (2019 Plan). In the 1-year grant period, we will increase visibility of the effort, strengthen key stakeholder relationships and publish a draft work plan.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Three key resources underpin the economic, social, and environmental well-being of the LA region: the energy that powers our economy, the water that supports life and activity, and the weather and physical landscapes that shape our lifestyles and culture. All three are essential to our quality of life and are deeply intertwined with climate change and the immense challenges and opportunities it represents. The world must get on a path to renewable energy to avert the most extreme consequences of climate change. Even if the transition to renewables occurs immediately, significant climate change is inevitable, and water scarcity may be its most important consequence.

Resilient communities will need to simultaneously mitigate and adapt. LA can lead the way. By becoming self-sufficient and sustainable in energy and water in harmony with the region’s ecosystems and cultural identity, we will ensure our own access to these critical resources as well as a healthier and more prosperous future. Our example will drive similar transformations in urban areas across the globe and create worldwide demand for local expertise and products.

The Hotter LA Project unites dozens of UCLA’s most prominent scientists and scholars with key public and private stakeholders around a common goal: full sustainability in the LA region by 2050. By 2019, we will produce a plan detailing the new technologies and efficiencies required to obtain all energy and water from local and renewable sources in a way that’s economical, socially equitable, and supportive of the LA region’s unique biodiversity. We will map out the required actions to modernize energy, water, and transportation systems; enhance the built and natural environment; define new policy and legal frameworks; and heighten social responsibility, thereby transforming the urban fabric and mitigating the effects of climate change.

In the 1-year grant period, we will focus on the following objectives: a) Creating a working outline of the 2019 Plan and a project management timeline b) Increasing the number and depth of partnerships with critical stakeholder groups c) Raising public awareness of and support for the effort

In summary, we are committed to making all parts of the city resilient in alignment with the LA2050 goals.

How will your idea/project help make LA the healthiest place to LIVE today? In 2050?

Raising awareness about the Hotter LA Project, gathering support, and developing the infrastructure for this intense and complex collaboration TODAY lays the crucial foundation for the success of this project and a healthier, greener Los Angeles. We will realize benefits from these transformations long before 2050.

Here’s how achieving the Hotter LA 2050 objectives makes LA the healthiest place to live in 2050:

-The transition to renewable energy and a carbon-free transportation infrastructure will eliminate the public health burden associated with fossil fuel–taking us off the list of US cities with the worst air quality.

-Transformed urban spaces and cleaner oceans offer greater opportunities to be active in natural outdoor spaces where our unique biodiversity can be celebrated.

-The creation of substantial bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure will provide active commuting options that improve health and quality of life—reducing the number of vehicles on the road as we currently have more than any other urban area in the world.

The compound effect of these changes will result in the LA region becoming healthier, eliminating current environmental injustices so that all communities have minimal environmental health risks. We will see a notable reduction in asthma attacks, heart attacks, and premature death.

Whom will your project benefit?

By 2050, it is estimated that 70% of the world’s population will live in cities and face the same urban environmental concerns currently present in the LA region: limited resources, smog, water waste, traffic congestion, increased heat and rising sea levels.

The Hotter LA Project is designed to achieve maximum societal impact. Even before we reach the 2050 goals, the steps made in approach of 100% sustainability will have positive benefits for all citizens and communities in the entire LA region. Millions of people will have cleaner air, safe, sustainable energy and water, and improved quality of life. We expect this effort to become a model for how other megacities might achieve sustainability through goal setting and cross-sector collaboration. Lessons learned here will be shared with communities across the state, nation, and globe.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Robust partnerships with a wide variety of stakeholders are critical to the success of the project and to the eventual implementation of the 2019 Plan. Key stakeholder groups include:

Local, State, and Federal Government: LA City and County leaders and even the White House administration are aware of this project and have confirmed broad support for our goals. Members of the Hotter LA team have active research and consulting engagements with the City of Los Angeles, County of Los Angeles, and federal agencies. Critical Success Factor: We must expand relationships with all government stakeholder groups, become fluent with their complex structures, and find ways to connect beyond existing relationships to ensure that the right people are engaged, improve the feasibility of the 2050 plan, and obtain buy-in from groups that will have significant responsibility with implementation.

Industry: The expansion of industry partnerships is a priority for this Project. Through early engagement of industry, we gain a greater understanding of needs and aligned interests as related to the goals of the project. Critical Success Factor: While a number of relationships currently exist, we must develop more extensive relationships with industry and foster more entity-level engagement.

Philanthropy: Hotter LA represents our most ambitious fundraising effort to date. We believe that there is great opportunity to engage supporters of the university in new ways. Critical Success Factor: We must capture the imagination and commitment of individuals passionate about meeting the goals of the project.

UCLA Campus and Other Universities: With full support from the UCLA Chancellor and the 140 faculty members involved, UCLA is deeply committed to this effort. Critical Success Factor: We will extend our reach outside of UCLA to include academic partners who can stimulate innovation and fill gaps.

Public: We will shift our public communications from broadcasts to dialogues. With increased interaction, we hope that LA citizens will learn about the proposed project, draw inspiration from it, and get involved. Critical Success Factor: An engaged and supportive Los Angeles community is essential.

With our partners, we will create a shared vision of the future, communicate openly and directly about opportunities and challenges, increase access to all types of resources (monetary, intellectual, data, etc.), and make progress on our collective commitment to the 2050 goals.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Live” metrics?

  • Exposure to air toxins
  • Percent of imported water
  • Walk/bike/transit score
  • Acres and miles of polluted waterways
  • Percentage of LA communities that are resilient (Dream Metric)
  • Percentage of tree canopy cover (Dream Metric)
  • Others described in response below.

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

The benefits to be achieved with the Hotter LA Project are closely aligned with several LA2050 Metrics as summarized below:

-New technologies and efficiencies position the region to cost-effectively obtain 100% energy from renewable sources and 100% water from local sources. (Metrics: Exposure to air toxins, Percent of imported water, Acres and miles of polluted waterways.)

-The region’s urban spaces are reimagined with increased green space supportive of Southern California’s native biodiversity. (Metrics: Percentage of tree canopy cover, Access to open space and park facilities.)

-Clean energy and water and decarbonized transportation leads to more equitable outcomes for communities disproportionately burdened by pollution. (Metrics: Exposure to air toxins, Percentage of LA communities that are resilient.)

-A county-wide bicycle and walking transportation network reduces traffic and provides faster, safer and greener commutes. (Metrics: Walk/bike/transit score, Other: Median travel time to work, Number of public transit riders, Transit-accessible housing and employment.)

-The LA region is recognized as an innovation leader in the areas of water, energy, natural resource preservation, public health, and policy implementation. Climate change is transformed from crisis to opportunity. (Metrics: Other: Increased grant funding for environment and sustainability research, Patents per capita, Jobs per capita, Number of high growth start-ups, Venture capital investment, Measures of cultural and global economic influence.)

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

An integral part of the 2019 Plan is the inclusion of specific metrics and milestones. A representative sample of what will be included is below:

ENERGY: Los Angeles moves to a diversified energy portfolio that is 100% renewable. Our vision includes every rooftop in the LA region producing solar energy. Widespread adoption of solar will reduce carbon dioxide emissions and create jobs. A recent UCLA study demonstrates that if LA county could achieve just 10% of its rooftop solar capacity it could create 47,000 jobs and slash nearly 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually–the equivalent of taking half a million cars off the road.

WATER: The LA region no longer relies on importing 85% of our water. We have access to plentiful, sustainable, and 100% local water. This will be achieved by reducing per capita water consumption to 50 gallons per day and significantly improving water reuse and recycle technologies.

BIODIVERSITY: The region’s transformation with energy and water is accomplished in a way that ensures no net loss of native biodiversity—preserving our status as one of Conservation International’s top 25 biodiversity hotspots and protecting the beauty of our natural spaces. Biologists have projected that globally 50% of all living species might be lost by 2100, and virtually all of these losses are being driven by human activities.

Success in the one-year grant period includes meeting the following commitments:

–Refining our Project Plan (creating a working draft outline for the 2019 Plan) –Expanding Partnerships –Increasing Public Outreach –Building Capacity –Engaging UCLA Students –Securing External Funding for the Project

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

Two lessons have informed the shape of our Grand Challenges initiative and our approach to the Hotter LA Project:

  1. COMPLEX CHALLENGES REQUIRE CREATIVE SOLUTIONS: As a research university, UCLA has the intellectual capital and resources it takes to explore society’s most challenging issues, and as a public research university, we have the obligation to develop solutions that improve quality of life in the U.S. and around the world. UCLA is made up of brilliant and innovative people who firmly believe that for every problem, there is a solution. Our faculty and students not only believe that anything is possible, they also frequently prove it. We call upon that spirit throughout the UCLA Grand Challenges initiative and the Hotter LA Project.

Solving any of today’s most complex societal challenges—including those related to the environment and sustainability—requires not just expertise from one discipline but collaboration from a wide variety of disciplines. We’ll need inventions, policy solutions, law, education, economics, engineering, the basic sciences, public outreach strategies, and more.

  1. WE CAN’T DO THIS ALONE: Our environment is threatened to such a degree that basic research isn’t enough. We’ll also have to show decision-makers clear applications of that research. Grand Challenge Projects differ from UCLA’s usual approach in scale and scope. These are cross-campus, “mega-research” collaborations — bigger and more transformative than anything we’ve done before. This means we need more coordination and more grassroots efforts focused on topics that people are passionate about. We must increase our partnerships with other universities, foundations, philanthropists, private industry, and government agencies. We’re calling for all hands on deck. Together, we’ll make breakthroughs that will benefit Los Angeles and the world.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

With more than 140 faculty members committed to the goals of the Hotter LA Project, UCLA is in a unique position to lead this effort. Among these faculty members are the top experts in the areas of climate change, water quality and supply, smart grid technology, renewable energy, public policy, law, environmental justice, air quality, biofuels, sustainability and more.

Over the past year, we have been building internal support and an infrastructure to support the project team. Notably, Mark Gold, D.Env. (former president of Heal the Bay and currently acting director of UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability), recently accepted the role of academic lead for the project. In August 2014, our new full-time Hotter LA Project Director (Cassie Rauser, PhD), begins her role as project manager. Concurrently, we are interviewing candidates to serve as the principal fundraising officer for this project.

This accomplished team will work closely with various marketing, communications, research and administrative offices on campus (Chancellor’s Office, government relations, media relations, research administration, intellectual property and industry sponsored research, etc.), to ensure that UCLA achieves the 12-month objectives outlined above:

-Refine our Project Plan (creating a working draft outline for the 2019 deliverable) -Expand Partnerships -Increase Public Outreach -Build Capacity -Engage UCLA Students -Secure external funding for the Hotter LA Project

All of these deliverables are important contributors to the 2050 goal of achieving sustainability in the LA region.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

We have identified three major barriers associated with creating the 2019 Plan to transform the LA region to 100% sustainability: Financial Resources; Skepticism; and Integration.

FINANCIAL RESOURCES: The first major challenge will be acquiring the financial resources necessary to create the 2019 Plan, which requires new research (engineering, technologies, regulatory, materials etc.), significant outreach and consensus building, and proof of concept test beds (est. $150M). While the figure is daunting, our strategy is to draw from a combination of government, industry and philanthropic funding sources. Our efforts are bolstered by a number of factors:

  • The inclusion of the Hotter LA Project as a centerpiece in UCLA’s $4.2B Centennial Campaign celebrating our 100 year anniversary.

  • Plans to establish a donor advisory board comprised of individuals with a shared vision for the future of Los Angeles.

  • Hiring of a new fundraising professional to pursue philanthropic support for the project.

SKEPTICISM: The second major challenge is skepticism, which is often the first reaction to the seemingly impossible goals of the Hotter LA Project. We have been assured by our faculty experts that the goals are achievable. Our frequent motto is that we certainly won’t achieve these goals if we don’t strive for them. Our strategy for dealing with criticism is to listen to it, analyze it, and if appropriate, correct our course. And in fact, this strategy has proven successful as we have watched our skeptics convert to our biggest advocates, as they too become inspired by the pursuit of solutions to grand challenges.

INTEGRATION: The third challenge we have encountered is integration. The process for defining and pursuing solutions to grand challenges requires our faculty members to visualize their work beyond the traditional boundaries of their disciplines. We ask them to work with individuals with all kinds of expertise and points of view and to identify common goals. Getting this many people to work together on this scale isn’t easy. We have learned much from the two years we’ve spent shaping this initiative, and our success with the engagement of faculty proves that they also believe that they can achieve the impossible.

There are still many barriers to overcome; our strategy is to be flexible and adaptable and to keep our sights set on the big goals as we build synergies.

What resources does your project need?

  • Network/relationship support
  • Money (financial capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Community outreach