Environment, Parks, Libraries

Mark Ridley-Thomas Leads A Just Transition to Clean Energy

Recent heatwaves and wildfires have served as an indisputable and urgent reminder that climate change will continue to threaten the quality of life—and the lives—of residents of LA County. In the face of this challenge, the Board of Supervisors has moved in this moment to develop a “Just Transition to Clean Energy Strategy” with the twin goals of creating a more climate resilient Los Angeles County as well as investing in a qualified workforce to assist with the capping of idle and abandoned oil wells.

In a motion introduced Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, co-authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn, that was approved in a unanimous vote, the Board will specifically align policy, legislative and funding efforts to support the transition of the fossil fuel workforce to jobs cleaning up old oil wells. The remediation will be done in a manner that promotes public health and safety while combating climate change.

“It is indisputable that the impacts of climate change are profound and that the need to transition to cleaner, greener sources of energy is urgent. But as we transition, we must ensure it is a just transition,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “There are far too many idle and abandoned wells across this County and State that have not been appropriately capped—and if not addressed, can create significant public health and safety impacts. We have an opportunity here to wed our environmental goals with a meaningful workforce agenda.”

Specifically, the motion directs the County’s Acting Chief Executive Officer, in collaboration with the Directors of the Department of Public Works, Regional Planning (collectively, the County Oil and Gas Team), as well as the Acting Director of the Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services (WDACS), to work collaboratively with a Taskforce comprised of the Sierra Club, United Steelworkers Local 675 and the Building Trades to work with other environmental, labor, and business stakeholders, to develop a strategy to guide this just transition.

As of June 2020, a strike team convened by the County was deployed to assess conditions at all oil and gas facilities within unincorporated areas and found 1,046 active wells, 637 idle wells, and 2,731 abandoned wells within the unincorporated areas. In a 2017 report to the Board, the Strike Team found that many oil wells may have been improperly abandoned in the past or were continuing to be left idle for a long period of time.

The California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) which has jurisdiction over monitoring oil drilling activities has historically not had the capacity to monitor drilling operations to ensure abandonment of all idle wells. According to CalGEM, more than 800 oil companies have dissolved over the years without scheduling wells for proper plugging and abandonment or paying enough State fees to cover the costs. This condition can lead to oil and gas pollution, with significant public health and safety consequences.

“As we transition Los Angeles County away from fossil fuels and do our part to address climate change, we need to support and train our current workforce for the green jobs of the future. We don’t have to choose between clean air and good jobs—we can and we must have both,” said Supervisor Hahn, co-author of the motion.

“This just transition motion is an important step forward for protecting workers, community wellbeing, and our environment,” added Associate Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign Monica Embrey. “By ensuring oil and gas companies are responsible for cleaning up their non-producing wells, Los Angeles will promote public health and safety and combat climate change, while at the same time creating ‘high-road,’ family-sustaining jobs for oil workers.”

“The Department of Regional Planning is pleased to participate in this effort, and to coordinate with the Board of Supervisors and our partners in the community, environmental, and business sectors. Regional Planning is actively developing stronger regulations for existing and future oil and gas operations in the unincorporated areas of the County,” said LA County Department of Regional Planning Director Amy Bodek. “We recognize the balancing act necessary to reduce environmental and community impacts from oil and gas operations with the need for economic prosperity. This action is one more step forward in eliminating the negative impacts of these operations on our most disadvantaged neighborhoods while encouraging new job development in an emerging industrial sector.”

According to Gary Gero, Los Angeles County’s Chief Sustainability Officer, “It is critical that while we work to transition our economy out of fossil fuels, we make sure to take care of workers in these polluting industries and ensure they can transition to cleaner and healthier jobs. This motion puts us on the right track to accomplish that.”

The motion also directs the County’s Oil and Gas Team to identify funding strategies to support the just transition effort and to identify priority wells in the County that should be abandoned in a timely manner.

More Magic on Its Way to Magic Johnson Park

More Magic on Its Way to

Magic Johnson Park

The massive construction project at Magic Johnson Park is approaching completion.

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board of Supervisors voted to move forward with the next phase of a master plan that will offer additional new amenities to Magic Johnson Park, a 126-acre park that is on the verge of becoming a community oasis in Willowbrook.

“More magic is on its way to Willowbrook’s Magic Johnson Park,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.  “Our next phase of improvements will focus on outdoor amenities that create inviting gathering spaces for a host of activities, from a wedding pavilion to a place for a community concert. At Magic Johnson Park, our goal is to make sure there is an amenity for everyone.”

(left to right) Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, and CBS’ Jim Hill at Magic Johnson Park Renovation Groundbreaking. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

The $7-million investment in the second phase of improvements will predominantly be used to transform the former Ujima Village housing site, 16 acres of land adjacent to the Park, which has sat vacant since the housing development was demolished in 2013. The second phase of this work began on-site this month. The investment will be used to incorporate the land into the park with the construction of open green spaces and all outside amenities, including a “great lawn” for concerts, big events, and picnics. There will also be new walking paths, landscaping, and seating areas.

The LA County Department of Parks and Recreation developed the 2019 Revised Master Plan, which amends the original Master Plan adopted in 2016 by incorporating a dog park, adding two recreational fields, and expanding the size of a future nature lab into the Master Plan. The 2019 Master Plan also shifts a proposed future cultural complex to the western side of the park, as an alternative to the previously proposed equestrian center.

“For almost 25 years, the Magic Johnson Park has been used for daily exercise, family outings, and celebrations,” said Johnson, after whom the park was named in 1994 following his retirement from the NBA. “I’m excited about this significant investment by Los Angeles County which provides a safe, scenic space for Willowbrook residents and increases the community’s engagement with the park.”

The initial improvements at the park, which are slated for completion in Fall 2020, include a 20,000-square foot state-of-the-art community events center for holding weddings, conferences and other large gatherings; an outdoor wedding pavilion; a splash pad and children’s play areas; improved walking paths with security lighting; and acres upon acres of new landscaping that will give the park an entirely fresh look.

The lake that is currently the centerpiece of the park will be getting an innovative feature that will help address both water conservation and water quality goals. It will divert storm runoff from surrounding neighborhoods and the nearby Compton Creek, clean it and then use it to fill the lower lake and irrigate 30 acres of the park, creating a wetland experience for park goers.

The Magic Johnson Park renovation is only the latest of many investments that have transformed the community of Willowbrook. Over the last several years, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has championed a building boom that included the Martin Luther King Medical Campus, Willowbrook Library and Senior Center, AC Bilbrew Library, the development of hundreds of units of affordable housing, and upgrades to Metro’s Rosa Parks Station.

Rendering courtesy of AHBE

Park to Playa Bridge Work To Close La Cienega On Coming Weekends

A stretch of La Cienega Blvd. between Stocker Avenue and Obama Boulevard will be closed for three consecutive weekends in June for the construction of a long-anticipated pedestrian bridge. The 440-foot overpass will link the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook and Stoneview Nature Center across La Cienega Blvd to the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area.

Fabricated bridge segments loaded onto truck for transportation. Photo courtesy of the Griffith Company

The construction of the bridge is the final component of the 13-mile Park to Playa Trail, which once completed, will seamlessly connect a network of trails, parks and open spaces within the Baldwin Hills Parklands to the Pacific Ocean. Amenities that will be connected along the Park to Playa include the Stocker Corridor, Rueben Ingold Park, Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, Stoneview Nature Center, Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, Culver City Park and Milton Street Park along the Ballona Creek Bike Path.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas during the construction of the Park to Playa Bridge over La Cienega Boulevard on June 14, 2020. Photo by Aurelia Ventura / Board of Supervisors

Construction of the bridge and its support structures will take place during the day and requires the weekend closure of all onsite parking at Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, as well as all lanes of La Cienega Boulevard. Closures will be in effect from Friday at 9 p.m. to Monday at 5 a.m. over the following dates:

  • June 12-15
  • June 19-22
  • June 26-29

“The bridge that will span across La Cienega Boulevard represents the finishing touch to the Park to Playa Trail  – which will connect not just a series of parks, but communities, from the beach all the way to Baldwin Hills. The installation of the bridge is a tangible sign that this long-awaited, highly-anticipated community asset is finally near completion,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

The project is currently on schedule to be completed by Fall 2020.

Groundbreaking for the pedestrian bridge that will span across La Cienega. Photo by Dave Franco / Board of Supervisors

Happy Earth Day

While the 50th celebration of Earth Day may look a little different than previous ones, there is no wrong time or place to celebrate this important day. Here are a couple ideas on how you can stay, educated, engaged and empowered to do your part to celebrate mother earth, today and every day!

Get Educated by reading Los Angeles County’s Sustainability Plan – and let us know what areas you think should be areas of focus.

  • Education is important, especially when it comes to mother earth. Read, learn and understand how you can help to protect the environment. Our County sustainability plan, outlines an inclusive vision for the future balancing the co-equal values of environment, equity & economy.

Get Engaged by participating in one of the thousands of virtual earth day events happening all over the globe.

  • Earth Day is an annual event celebrated around the world on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Many individuals celebrate by recycling, saving energy, observing nature and practicing environmental stewardship.

Get Empowered by instituting some of these strategies to live a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly life.

  • Reduce household energy use. Ex: Turn off appliances and lights that you’re not using.
  • Eat Locally
  • Dispose with disposables.
  • Resell and donate items
  • Save water
  • Rely less on your car
  • Purchase fair-trade products
  • Drink from the tap
  • Plant seeds
  • Recycle

The Final Phase of a Transformative Trail System

Groundbreaking for the pedestrian bridge that will span across La Cienega. Photo by Dave Franco / Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, leaders from LA County Parks, partnering agencies, and local dignitaries marked the groundbreaking of the transformative pedestrian bridge that will span across La Cienega with a celebratory breakfast and speaking program. This is the last phase of development of the Park to Playa Trail that connects the Baldwin Hills Parklands to the Pacific Ocean.

“The Park to Playa Trail started out as a vision,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “A vision that we could connect the Pacific Ocean to this incredible space we know as the Baldwin Hills Park Lands. This will be the first seamless walking and biking trail created that will connect the communities of South Los Angeles directly to the beach.”

John Wicker and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. Photo by Dave Franco / Board of Supervisors

“Today, because of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ vision to connect people and parks, Park to Playa is over 13 miles long linking Kenneth Hahn Regional County Park to a string of parks, open spaces and many communities,” said John Wicker, Director of LA County Parks and Recreation. “We are proud to unite joggers, cyclist, hikers, and residents of all walks of life from Park to Playa, through a world class bridge development.”

It was 10 years ago, that the work began to make this vision a reality, and since then, the County Departments of Parks and Recreation and Public Works, the Baldwin Hills Conservancy, and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority along with local jurisdictions and community organizations have been working together to complete the trail, which spans multiple jurisdictions, including the cities of Culver City, Los Angeles, and State Park property.

Rendering of Park to Playa pedestrian bridge over La Cienega Boulevard courtesy of Los Angeles County Public Works.

“When I think about Park to Playa I’m going to be thinking about building bridges, building bridges among people,” said Mujeres de la Tierra President Irma Muñoz. “Thanks to the efforts and leadership of Supervisor Ridley-Thomas we will finally have access to our great beaches, access that we didn’t have before.”

“The Baldwin Hills Conservancy has been working in lock step with the County to implement the vision of a regional trail that traverses the Parklands and ends up at the coast. Putting a pedestrian, bicycle and wildlife bridge over La Cienega marks the final piece of the Park to Playa Trail,” said Baldwin Hills Conservancy Executive Vice President David McNeill. “Tomorrow is certainly cause for celebration as we set the tone for the next 20 years of park expansion, community access and wildlife connectivity.”

Rendering of Park to Playa pedestrian bridge over La Cienega Boulevard courtesy of Los Angeles County Public Works.

“From the inception of the Park to Playa everything has been done exceptionally well, on target and on time,” said Blair Hills Association member Annie Wilson. “The input of the Baldwin Hills Association has been well received by the County.”

“My husband and I frequently walk the “Park to Playa Trails,” added Blair Hills resident Bobbi Gold. “We especially enjoyed the Scenic Overlook and Stoneview Nature Center as well as the hikes and views in Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area.”

Over the past seven years the six other segments of the trail were completed:

• In 2013, a direct connection was created into Hahn Park for the View Park and Windsor Hills communities with the Eastern Ridgeline Trail.
• In 2016, a trailhead at the Stocker Corridor was created which links the trail to Rueben Ingold Park.
• In 2016, one seamless trail was created through Hahn Park which allows users to walk from La Brea Ave to La Cienega Blvd.
• In 2017, a trail was constructed that runs parallel to Hetzler Road to avoid conflicts between pedestrians and drivers; and
• In 2018, on the west side of La Cienega, a trail was completed connecting the Stoneview Nature center to the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook; and the connection from the trail to Ballona Creek at Jefferson Blvd was improved.