According to a 2018 Wired magazine article, street paving in California alone produces 3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year. After power generation, it is the second leading producer of greenhouse gas in a municipality’s operations. If our cities and towns are to help mitigate climate change, one focus area must be to find new ways – using different, greener equipment and different, greener paving material – to pave roads, bike paths, and sidewalks.
Changing how municipalities pave their streetscapes is, however, easier said than done. The obstacles are many. StreetsLA, for example, employs some 1,200 vehicles in its operations, many of them diesel. To switch all of them out at once for newer, greener equipment – whether CNG or electric – would be impossible without making crippling cuts elsewhere in the city’s budget, and the rolling stock’s operational lifespan is, on average, long enough that a plan to switch out older equipment as it ages could take decades to implement fully.
On the materials side, the obstacles are no less daunting, as the composition of asphalt and concrete has changed very little over the past 50 years. Although the incorporation of recycled content in roadway materials is increasing, new formulations and technologies tend to be adopted very slowly by the road construction industry.
And, of course, all of these variables are not being weighed in a theoretical bubble. As it considers how to make its operations greener, StreetsLA is tasked with maintaining 23,000 miles of street lanes every year. Nevertheless, the variables must be weighed and a path forward charted for reducing StreetsLA’s impact on the environment.
To support this work, StreetsLA will partner with FUSE Corps to host an executive-level fellow for one year who will assess the environmental sustainability of the bureau’s operations and make recommendations for reducing StreetsLA’s carbon footprint. The assessment will cover the two major areas highlighted above – equipment and materials – as well as possibly a third category related to its facilities. The fellow will be expected to address the obstacles inherent in the project with a deep knowledge of sustainability efforts elsewhere and an imagination that can see around barriers. The potential impact of this project, not just on the operations of a single municipal bureau such as StreetsLA, but on how cities everywhere maintain their roads and sidewalks is, without exaggeration, game-changing.
PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES
The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables that follow will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Fellow and the host agency.
Starting in April 2020, it is proposed the FUSE Fellow will:
First 3 months
- Design a study to assess StreetsLA’s carbon footprint and how it can be reduced. To the extent possible, the study will need to set a quantitative baseline for the bureau’s current footprint as well as include qualitative analysis of its operations; highlight how at each step in the bureau’s processes – from purchasing and production to deployment and upkeep – decisions can reduce or increase StreetsLA’s emissions, depending on what’s being prioritized; and finally make recommendations for how those priorities can be better balanced.
- Some of the items that will need to be included in the study’s design include:
- What data will be collected and how?
- Who in the bureau will need to be interviewed?
- Who in the other Public Works bureaus should be interviewed?
- What external vendors might need to be interviewed?
- What other cities may have undertaken similar environmental assessments of their paving operations?
- What large corporations – particularly in the shipping and trucking industries – have undertaken companywide assessments of their operations’ environmental impact?
Next 3 months
- Conduct the study to assess StreetsLA’s carbon footprint and how it can be reduced:
- Collect the data.
- Interview the identified stakeholders within the bureau, in the other Public Works bureaus, and among external vendors.
- Review the applicable municipal assessments and private sector corporate sustainability reviews.
- Compile recommendations for reducing StreetsLA’s carbon footprint, balancing the reduction gains to be achieved against the need to maintain operations and ease of implementation. (In other words, though small, is there low-hanging fruit that can be picked to build overall momentum for the project.)
- Present findings to bureau leadership and staff.
- Incorporate feedback into a final set of recommendations and plan for implementation.
Next 3 months
- Begin implementing the recommendations in the approved plan, beginning with the targeted, smaller changes highlighted in the plan to get some early wins and begin building momentum toward more wholesale change.
- Develop a plan for evaluating the success of any changes being implemented, and begin collecting data toward that evaluation.
Last 3 months
- Share early evaluation results with bureau leadership and staff to continue building buy-in and momentum for the project with an eye toward the fellowship’s end.
- Ensure the sustainability of the project past the end of the fellowship by outlining clear next recommendations to be followed and, with bureau leadership support, identifying the specific staff members who should assume oversight for those recommendations.
- Present the plan for sustaining the project past the end of the fellowship to bureau leadership.
- Conduct any necessary cross-training for identified department staff members who will assume responsibility for continuing to implement recommendations.
- Adel H. Hagekhalil, P.E., Executive Director and General Manager, Bureau of Street Services (StreetsLA)
- Greg Spotts, Assistant Director (Chief Sustainability Officer), Bureau of Street Services (StreetsLA)
- City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works
- Bureau of Contract Administration
- Bureau of Engineering
- Bureau of Sanitation
- Bureau of Street Lighting
- City of Los Angeles Department of General Services
- External concrete and materials vendors, and independent truckers
- At least 15 years of professional experience, ideally in the sustainability department of a large corporation, or in a not-for-profit focused on climate measurement/carbon footprint measurement.
- A background in environmental engineering preferred, but not required.
- Experience and comfort working with personnel, particular managers, even high-level managers, who did not attend college.
- Eagerness to be out in the field, meeting with people out in the field, and garnering trust with staff in the field to help them do their job.
- Experience with and a deep understanding of change management within a large organization.
- The ability to communicate a vision and achieve buy-in from various team members.
- Flexibility in the face of operational constraints.
- Superior critical thinking and analytical skills.
- Solid writing and oral communication skills; the ability to build and deliver persuasive presentations.
- Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations.
- Ability to relate to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy.
- Excellent stakeholder engagement skills and the ability to use facilitative leadership techniques to coordinate stakeholder activities.
- Self-motivated, goal-oriented, entrepreneurial leader who can also be an independent worker.
- Persistent in obtaining information and creatively resourceful in identifying solutions to complex problems.