New LA Neighborhood Council Sustainability Alliance Takes Its First Steps at TreePeople Center

TreePeople has always imagined our conference center here at Coldwater Canyon Park as a space that fosters important conversations around sustainability. Over the years, it has held a host of events including a State Assembly Committee hearing, collaborative discussions on infrastructure, to name a couple. Last Saturday’s event, the kick-off forum for the Neighborhood Council Sustainability Alliance, was very special to me.

Neighborhood Councils are a unique concept created to help solve many of the Los Angeles “big city” issues. Created in 2003, there are now 96 neighborhood councils, led by volunteers to ensure their communities receive the services they need and that the City government is responsive to their desires. Since the beginning of the Neighborhood Council system, TreePeople has worked with a wide variety of Councils on tree planting, tree care, school greening and other sustainable community initiatives.

Until now, these groups were siloed from one another when advocating for sustainable initiatives and implementing community greening projects. There are numerous stories of Neighborhood Councils taking on important environmental issues such as banning plastic bags, promoting urban beekeeping, and fighting against oil drilling. However, these efforts were acted on independently of one another. In essence, any time a Neighborhood Council wanted to improve the environmental sustainability of their communities, they were re-inventing the wheel.

I have served on my neighborhood council for the past four years, and have been happy to pursue environmental efforts for my community (such as planting trees a last year), so I have personally experienced the difficulty of trying to achieve change when acting remotely from other sustainability activists.

Thankfully, a group of folks from an array of Neighborhood Councils have been working to create a coalition to unify community environmentalists and enable them to speak with one voice. That group is the Neighborhood Council Sustainability Alliance. On Saturday, TreePeople had the great pleasure to host the first full assembly of the Alliance.

The event was awesome. There were representatives from at least 45 neighborhoods and officials from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Heal the Bay, Water LA and others in attendance. The General Manager of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, Grayce Lie, spoke enthusiastically about the positive impact the Alliance can have in Los Angeles. Ted Bardacke, from the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability noted that the Alliance’s formation comes at just the right time to work on the Mayor’s Sustainability Plan.

The event’s programming included presentations from Sherri Akers of the Mar Vista Green Committee and our very our Director of Sustainable Solutions, Lisa Cahill. The mood of the room was definitely optimistic, but at the same time there was a feeling of urgency and a need for action. In the coming months the Alliance will grow. It will create best practices for Neighborhood Councils to adopt and it will enable greater advocacy for sustainable issues on a citywide scale.

The key to LA’s future is community power. That’s what will lead our city to a climate-resilient future. Groups like the Neighborhood Council Sustainability Alliance are what are going to get us there.

By Torin Dunnavant

Torin is TreePeople’s Director of Engagement and Partnerships. He serves on the board of the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council. Originally from Sacramento, he enjoys exploring L.A.’s many neighborhoods and natural treasures, and roots for the Oakland A’s.