The Future of Los Angeles and Climate Change

On Wednesday Night, I will participate in a KPCC discussion focused on climate change’s impacts on Southern California.   The rest of the panel includes Jerry R. Schubel and my friend Jonathan Parfrey.    What do I want to talk about?   I wouldn’t mind promoting my Climatopolis but here is a sketch of my thoughts;

  • We control our destiny but we need a new zoning code that encourages densification in safer, more temperate parts of the metro area.  Put bluntly, Santa Monica’s density is too low.  It should be reconfigured to look like Hong Kong.   Subways would be demanded and used once such density was achieved!   Of course the incumbent home owners in coastal areas such as Santa Monica will engage in NIMBYism but there must be some communities willing to sell their land zoning rights?  The Coase Theorem will prevail and this will help us to adapt to climate change.
  • LADWP has to enter the 21st century and introduce dynamic pricing for electricity and water so that increasingly scarce resources are priced to reflect this scarcity.  The simple Law of Demand will be rediscovered and all concerns about “mega droughts” and blackouts will vanish as households and firms economize on scarce resources.
  • Insurance companies need to be allowed to price discriminate to reward those households and firms who take precautions to lower fire risk and other disasters and to incentivize self interested actors to make “better choices”.
  • Los Angeles’ next Mayor must invest in better geographic information systems so that we know for every square inch of the metropolitan area what challenges and opportunities we face in terms of flood risk, fire risk, high air pollution, heat island effects and other margins affected by climate change.
  • We invest in the electricity generation capacity to be ready for surging demand for air conditioning demand.
  • We change the LADWP charter to allow for super sizing solar panels and allowing panel owners to sell power back to the grid at a decent price.  People will buy EV vehicles and charge their neighbors’ vehicles with their “surplus” power.  Such decentralized generation will reduce concerns about system reliability.
  • Urban planners work with communities to mitigate urban heat island effects.
  • Architects work with commercial and residential real estate interests to building properties that can handle the heat.

So note my optimism.  We continue to thrive in our hotter future because we make private and public investments to reconfigure Los Angeles.  This is the “small ball” of urban adaptation.  Any city that is foolish enough not to make such investments will lose their tax base as the skilled leave and migrate to a city with better quality of life.  Competition protects us.