The Sustainable L.A. You Will Never See from a Car

Los Angeles used to be ahead of its time and all of the ideas of the future would stem from it. Then there was a lull over the city. L.A. continued to grow at a rapid rate, but it was never at the top of its game like it once was. That was until now. The people of Los Angeles are starting to get on board with ideas and projects that they hope will captivate the world and put them back in the spotlight. What people are starting to catch on to is the idea of a sustainable City of Angels.


Downtown L.A. through chain link. Photo by Gabriel Guerra.

There is more to L.A. than what meets the eye. To get the full effect of what the city has to offer, one needs to get out and explore the streets of the 5.84 square mile metropolitan hub of downtown. With an estimated population around 13 million people living in the Greater Los Angeles region, the city has a lot going for it.


Downtown L.A. looking East. Photo by Gabriel Guerra.

As most people know, one of the biggest issues that Los Angeles faces is traffic. To battle congestion, L.A. has the second largest fleet of public transportation vehicles in the United States behind New York. Metro, L.A.’s transit authority, proudly boasts the “Nation’s Largest Clean Air Fleet” on a majority of its concentrated natural gas (CNG) buses. What might strike a visitor to the city as fascinating is the fact that in such an earthquake prone region, there are electric powered Metro light-rail and heavy-rail subways that run beneath the city. The city prides itself on having adopted the use of a reusable plastic fare card (TAP card), that almost entirely does away with paper fares. By the year 2039, Metro plans on increasing ridership mainly through the addition of about 45 miles of track to its current 87.8 miles of rail services. Improving the city’s transportation flaws is Los Angeles’ main goal in order to become a city of sustainability.


Underground L.A. Photo by Gabriel Guerra.

California as a whole is an environmentally friendly state that does its best to focus on the long-term effects of current decisions. The state aims to promote sustainable design and practices, and Los Angeles is the perfect example of a city trying to take advantage of the programs that the green initiatives have to offer. L.A. makes good use of its available space, both above ground as well as underground surprisingly. The city has more than 20 prominent buildings and hundreds of parking garages that have more than a few stories underground. Aside from building underground, the city also makes good use of its ability to build above ground, with some of the tallest buildings west of the Mississippi River. Not only does Los Angeles make good use of building structure, it also makes good use of building design, with over 223 LEED certified buildings in the greater metropolitan region.One of the greenest buildings in Los Angeles that is not actually a LEED certified building is the Walt Disney Concert Hall, with its emphasis on urban development, sustainable architecture, and its rooftop patio garden. L.A. has focused on the development of environmentally friendly buildings for years, and after becoming one of the leading cities in the nation, it has no plans to let up now.


Walt Disney Concert Hall, L.A. Photo by Gabriel Guerra.

The City of Angels is slowly being overrun by hipsters, which is definitely not a bad thing. Hipsters are independent thinkers focused on finding ways to be unique in a society that wants them to conform and retain predictability. They make it a mission to buy organic, encourage vintage, and focus on the undiscovered. Downtown hipsters are reclaiming run-down theaters on Broadway as hotels, reestablishing them as concert venues, and setting up stores like Urban Outfitters in them. They are utilizing some of the smallest spaces imaginable by turning them into coffee shops, restaurants, and bookstores. Being a hipster could not have come at a better time for Los Angeles thanks to their mentality towards urban sustainability and revitalization.


Rialto Theater on Broadway, L.A. Photo by Gabriel Guerra.

As a result of the green practices that L.A. has put in place, public health and involvement are steadily increasing within the city. With some of the biggest public parks in the United States, the greater Los Angeles region has a combined 23,938 acres of parks. Despite having a wealth of public parkland, 1.6 million children in the county do not have access to a park. Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s 50 Park Initiative, is an attempt at narrowing the discrepancy of parks to people by adding 170 acres of parkland mainly to impoverished communities. Other efforts to encourage involvement and public health in Los Angeles are the bike riding events known as CicLAvia. The event shuts down major streets for the day in order to encourage people to see the city from a different perspective, via bicycle. L.A. is trying hard to promote itself as a bike friendly city by adding 40 miles of bike lanes to the current coverage of 292 miles within the year. Public involvement and the focus on public health helps Los Angeles in achieving status as a city of urban sustainability.


Pershing Square, L.A. Photo by Gabriel Guerra.

Los Angeles was and still is the future. Great ideas can still come from this congested, overpopulated, and complex city. Although many of the projects of the future− highway caps, repurposing degenerating buildings, rooftop gardens, etc.− have a projected completion year that is decades away in some cases, L.A. has to remember that in order to stay on top, you have to live life in the fast lane.

Feature Image: Vista Hermosa Park, L.A. Photo by Gabriel Guerra.

About The Author

As a recent transplant in the city of Los Angeles, I have a way of looking at the city that natives themselves have not been able to. My focus in school is urban planning, environmental science, sustainable design, and rooftop gardens. Follow me on my adventures throughout L.A. to see all that this sustainable city has to offer.