Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Occupy LA's green demands demand green, encourage debate?

Protesters demonstrate before Los Angeles' City Hall on Sunday, October 2, 2011
Protesters demonstrate before Los Angeles' City Hall on Sunday, October 2, 2011
Eric Zassenhaus

Media outlets spend so much time covering the mechanics of protesting and the tactics and strategies of Occupy protesters and cops that we don't always catch non-participants up on what's happening. But working over the holiday weekend, I was interested to hear a real list of grievances, some of which could actually relate to my beat.

Of the unaddressed grievances that Occupy LA protesters have approved at a General Assembly, fully 20 percent of them directly imply environment and climate policies. I'm referring to a list that circulated at a meeting last Wednesday, November 23, rejecting the city's call for Occupying of City Hall Park to end.

One of the grievances is a demand for mass transportation.

Number 10:

A world class transit system which addresses our debilitating traffic problem and restores the quality of life in Los Angeles.

This one's pretty general, and isn't the kind of thing that anyone is gonna do, say, overnight. It involves infrastructure. It involves planning. It involves money. But technically, it's within reach. And it's happening, though whether enough is happening fast enough is oft questioned.

Metro already has as its mission a world-class transportation system. Just this summer, what's the phrase the mayor used about goals for new deputy mayor Borja Leon? Yep. The magic words. It wouldn't be the weirdest thing in the world for city officials to say, great, we're doing that, cross number 10 off your list.

The other's a bit more regionally specific.

Number 3:

South Central Farm to be returned to the same LA community from which it was taken, and all other vacant and distressed land be open for the community use, and money to the tune of 1 million dollars, taken from Skid Row and given to the multi million dollar NFL firm, to be returned to Skid Row.

Asking for private property to be "returned" to the community from which it was taken, and asking for money "to the tune of" a million dollars to be given back to Skid Row, that's a little harder to do. Both acts would require broad, different, and potentially conflicting concepts of property rights to come to pass.

The Los Angeles City Council, under the leadership of Councilwoman Jan Perry, earlier decided to take a different tack on that property, approving manufacturing at that site, and funding ($3.6 million worth) for community parks, public space, and recreation opportunities.

These two demands capture some of the inherent tensions in OccupyLA's horizontally-structured, consensus-driven movement. Vagueness could make consensus about what the movement wants moot. Stabs at specificity that fail could weaken a demand. I don't know if this matters: I don't know whether anyone in City Hall is thinking about the substance of what Occupy LA wants, or whether Occupy is talking to the city about realistic ways around these realistic roadblocks to spending billions on these demands. On this stuff, there's no way to know if anyone's even speaking the same language to each other yet.