Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Los Angeles more and less green than you think: Siemens Green Cities Index gives LA a purple ribbon

Los Angeles has placed 7th overall in a survey of sustainability policies and practices of American and Canadian cities. Second in California (San Francisco placed first); better than you'd think, though, when you drill down into the different data sets. We may not get a blue ribbon, but the purple ribbon (the one I recall getting in the 50 butterfly when I ws a kid swimmer) keeps us respectable. 

Siemens sponsored the Green City Index, which was run by the Economist Intelligence Unit; it's the first of its kind, in the US and Canada, though Siemens has been indexing other parts of the world longer. 27 American and Canadian cities got looked over for environmental governance, air, waste, water, transportation, buildings, land use, energy, and climate change policies in a comprehensive report. 

There's a cool feature on the Siemens site which lets you compare survey cities to each other, to the average, and to the best scores in each category. Their "spider view" also makes painfully clear LA's shortcomings in studies like this. (The LA section is broken out here.)

They're exactly the ones you'd suspect. LA came in 24th in transportation - the Economist guys used words like weak and limited. "Los Angeles’s public transport network, measuring 0.18 miles per square mile, is the shortest," they point out. No news here that public transportation is weak sauce. 

Siemens' index does award points for trying - policy-wise - and so they're slightly optimistic about southern California's mass transit future there. But LA also fares poorly for land use policies - 21st overall - not just for historic sprawl, but for a lack of green space, weak anti-sprawl policies, and a lack of incentives for brownfields regeneration. (Thumbs-up for tree planting, though!)

Pretty middling on water and buildings. Where LA's good? Waste - 62% recycling rate puts us 3rd, and plans to recycle more and throw away less got a vote of approval. Also and surprisingly, air - something Siemens seems to find particularly impressive because large-land cities usually lag on that metric. 

Over at Grist, NRDC's Kaid Benfield looks even more closely at transportation and land use - he's got plenty of quibbles with the report. My concern is pretty general: policy aspirations aren't actions; do or do not, there is no try, said Yoda. If you're a backseat driver too, leave your comments below - we'd love to hear what you think makes our megalopolis sustainable.