LA CityView (Channel 35) program LA Currents recently featured an in-depth conversation with LACI CEO Matt Petersen discussing our various innovative programs and efforts to build an inclusive green economy for the city of Los Angeles. Watch the full interview above.
As our nation continues to reel from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become clear that getting America back to work as safely and as quickly as possible is the key to surviving the current crisis and thriving in the future.
Stimulus measures under consideration in Congress have to be bold, sweeping and comprehensive if we want to create jobs, unleash innovation and protect public health as we try to restart the U.S. economy. In order to take on this once-in-a-generation cataclysm, we have to make a significant federal commitment to clean energy and zero emissions transportation.
The murder of George Floyd and the righteous uprising this latest tragedy sparked across the United States and around the world has been an inflection point for all of us. Our team at LACI has also spent a lot of time reflecting, as well as engaging in conversation and action.
With our mission of creating an inclusive green economy, equity and racial justice are central to our organization’s purpose. Whether it is our programs to empower startup founders, support local small businesses who want to increase their impact, or train individuals to be part of the green workforce, we recognize and prioritize recruiting and supporting underrepresented communities. Other LACI programs deploying zero-emissions mobility solutions in disadvantaged communities and accelerating the move to transportation electrification and clean energy will create a cleaner future in neighborhoods that have long suffered from severe air pollution.
We know that Black lives matter, they have always mattered. But after many candid conversations, all of us at LACI agree there is more we can do to tackle institutional and systemic racism.
A few weeks ago, LACI decided to honor Juneteenth as a paid holiday this year and going forward for all of our employees this important milestone in U.S. history. To encourage civic engagement, we are giving our team members two paid days a year for volunteering and community work. We are making sure our teams have the resources they need for their wellbeing during these challenging times, and started a modest yet staff-directed fund to collectively support the intersectional work of key organizations. We are also fortifying our organization’s foundational values of diversity, equity, and inclusion by bringing in outside experts to evaluate our own practices.
These are small yet important steps we have taken as an organization that takes pride in the diversity of our team, and we are focused on supporting the movement for racial equality in all aspects of society beyond our downtown campus.
At this moment, it’s hard to keep the push for climate action front of mind yet we are also reminded of the need to be relentless in tackling the inextricable links between inequality and the environment, of the importance of pursuing racial justice and climate justice together. As my friend and marine biologist Ayana Elizabeth Johnson reminded us recently in the Washington Post, we all need to and must do more on both fronts together:
“So, to white people who care about maintaining a habitable planet, I need you to become actively anti-racist. I need you to understand that our racial inequality crisis is intertwined with our climate crisis. If we don’t work on both, we will succeed at neither.”
There is so much more work we need to do individually and together, and LACI will redouble our existing efforts and explore new ways to uproot racism in our communities and our environment, to increase access to capital and markets for underrepresented founders, and ensure everyone can be part of the growing green economy in which Los Angeles and California are leading the way.
Whether you use this Juneteenth to rest or rise up, celebrate or contemplate, know that LACI will always be in the fight for freedom with you in the pursuit of racial and environmental justice.
Along a deserted riverbed covered with wild grasses and low shrubs, 16 young men and women work to clear branches, debris and trash, remove invasive plants and install irrigation systems. They are restoring this stretch of the Los Angeles river to rebuild wildlife habitats, restore native species and provide space for residents to engage with nature.
These young people are part of the Conservation Corps of Long Beach Work & Skills Program, where they work for a living wage, gain job experience and smooth their transition between community college and four-year college or between high school and full-time work.
LACI has teamed up with the Conservation Corps of Long Beach to add an exciting element to this program—participants are taking part in a pilot program to test e-cargo bikes as an alternative to diesel-burning utility vehicles used for their work. As part of the pilot program, participants are part of a critical zero emissions pilot program to address three issues:
1. Air quality. As an alternative to diesel-powered utility-terrain vehicles (UTVs), the e-bikes’ with cargo capacity will reduce GHG and criteria air pollutants. The pilot measures the distance traveled each day to quantify the amount of GHG emissions offset by using zero emissions transportation. The e-bikes are charged every evening by an off-grid solar PV and battery system.
2. Workforce development. The at-risk youth are encouraged to pursue green jobs and they will work with LACI and the Conservation Corps of Long Beach on training and green job opportunities.
3. The feasibility of off-grid charging. The URB-E bikes are charged in a recycled shipping container outfitted with rooftop solar and battery storage, proving that the charging hub can be a modular infrastructure. Finding ways to more sustainably and more cost-effectively charge micro-mobility devices, whether e-bikes or scooters, is a focus of nearly every player and investor in the micro-mobility space.
The pilot program in Long Beach is one of three pilot programs—announced by Mayor Garcetti in May 2019— for clean air, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and bringing the benefits of the green economy to disadvantaged communities. The Zero Emissions Mobility and Community Pilot Project Fund dedicated more than $400,000 for zero emissions mobility solutions, technical assistance from LACI and new technology for LACI cleantech Portfolio Companies.
The 10 electric cargo bikes used in Long Beach are from Pasadena-based URB-E, a startup company in LACI’s Incubation Program. The URB-E cargo bikes are high-performance, foldable electric vehicles with aircraft-grade aluminum, suspension for a smooth ride, durable tires and trailer. The e-cargo bike is 35 lbs and it folds for easy storage and transport. The bike and trailer are the same currently being used by UPS for zero emissions package delivery.
Many of the young people participating in the Long Beach pilot program live in the Lower Los Angeles River corridor, and therefore the workforce development opportunities created in conjunction with revitalization projects directly benefit local residents in their neighborhoods. Most are of color (approximately 55% African American, 36% Latino, 9% Asian). Most live in communities in North and West Long Beach, Compton, South LA or Watts and 100% are low-income. The workforce development aspect of the pilot program includes training opportunities through LACI’s workforce development programs.
The Long Beach Pilot Project— the first of the Zero Emissions Mobility and Community Pilot Project Fund— will help us deliver creative solutions to cut pollution, spur innovation and make good on our commitment to environmental justice in every community.