Newton Speculates on Candidates to Fill Harris’ Senate Seat

Lecturer Jim Newton spoke to Courthouse News about the array of candidates Gov. Gavin Newsom will consider before selecting Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ successor in the U.S. Senate. Newsom will be the first California governor with the opportunity to appoint a senator in nearly 30 years. Newton explained that the governor will have to decide whether he wants a placeholder to fill out the last two years of Harris’ term or someone better suited to defend the seat going forward. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla is a front-runner, Newton said, noting, “It’s a big, coveted, popular job. I think it would be attractive for him to put a Latino in that seat.” Possibilities from the Los Angeles area include Mayor Eric Garcetti and Congressman Adam Schiff, he said. Newton added that former Gov. Jerry Brown would be a good choice if Newsom desires experience and prefers someone who probably would not seek re-election in 2022.

Newton on Spirituality and Intellect of Jerry Brown

Jim Newton, lecturer and editor of UCLA’s Blueprint magazine, spoke to KPCC’s AirTalk about the life of former Gov. Jerry Brown, which he chronicled in his book, “Man of Tomorrow.” Brown led California at two very different stages of his life — from 1975 until 1983, on the heels of the Vietnam War and Watergate, and again from 2011 until 2019. “He left California in far better shape than he found it,” with a rainy day fund of about $20 billion that steeled the state as it took on the COVID-19 pandemic, Newton said. “I have never met a person who thinks more deeply or attempts to draw bigger lessons out of spirituality and intellect and infuse them into politics than Jerry Brown,” he said. “He’s not always done that in ways that people would agree were successful, but I don’t know anyone who aspires to higher things.”

Yaroslavsky Offers Insight on California’s Political Landscape

Following the California midterm elections, Los Angeles Initiative Director Zev Yaroslavsky appeared on several media outlets to offer insight into the state’s shifting political landscape. In an interview with TV station KCAL 9, Yaroslavsky said Gov. Gavin Newsom is “probably going to inherit a downturn of the economy” but he expressed support for Newsom’s economic philosophy “[not to] undertake programs in the good years that you can’t sustain in the lean years.” He said the new governor has a “good track record and experience to play the role he needs to play to keep the state in line” in the face of a legislature that wants to spend and a Trump administration that is “trying to undo … virtually everything that California has been a trailblazer in.” Yaroslavsky also spoke with Fox News about the state’s Democratic supermajority. “Republicans are politically less relevant in California than they have been in years, and it is really up to the Democrats to decide what role they play,” he said. “As long as Democrats stay unified, they won’t even need bipartisan support.” In a CNBC story on the legacy of Jerry Brown, Yaroslavsky spoke about the state’s rebound after the four-term governor cut programs and services to restore fiscal stability. “[Brown] made some very tough decisions to bring California from the precipice of fiscal demise,” Yaroslavsky said. “The last four years were maybe a little easier because the economy did finally turn around and he was able to build the state back up.”

Susanna Hecht on Climate Change Professor Susan Hecht works to achieve the UC system`s goal of carbon neutrality by 2025

By Stan Paul 

For Urban Planning professor Susanna Hecht, the future of life on this planet as we know it is a matter of degrees — a scant few at that.

Hecht is part of a group of 50 University of California scholars and scientists addressing the 10-campus Carbon Neutrality Initiative proposed by UC President Janet Napolitano in 2013. Under this initiative, the University of California aspires to become carbon neutral by 2025. Recent California legislation also calls for a marked increase in the amount of renewable resources providing electricity in California by 2030.

Hecht and her UC colleagues, led by Veerabhadran Ramanathan (renowned climate scientist from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography), are among those who want to “bend the curve,” or the “hockey stick” graph as Hecht refers to it, on the rise in global temperatures caused by greenhouse gases. A mere two-degree change in average temperature will portend future disaster from drought to sea-level rise, and changing weather patterns that most of the globe is not prepared for, according to experts representing a wide range of disciplines.

Hecht said, “We are already in the middle of this…and a lot of records are being broken on a weekly basis.”

The group of UC scholars, from fields as diverse as ethics and environmental justice to climate science and religion, met in October at the University of California’s Summit on Pathways to Carbon and Climate Neutrality: California and the World, led by California Governor Jerry Brown. The purpose of the meeting was to focus on solutions that could guide the state but also to provide solutions that could be used worldwide. UC research and recommendations were also part of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Paris.

In addition to carbon (which has a long life in the atmosphere), Hecht points out the many other factors that contribute to temperature rise, such as methane and HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) released into the environment, as well as the “heat island” effect our built environment, roads and urban centers create.

As a “carbon sink,” the tropical rainforest absorbs millions of tons of carbon from the atmosphere, and Hecht points out that deforestation of the Amazon has dropped significantly in the last decade. This has had an impact, but the rainforest can’t do it alone, especially when deforestation continues in other parts of the world such as Indonesia.

Change will require not only scientific innovation but also social innovation that focuses on our relationship with forests, said the co-editor of “The Social Lives of Forests: Present and Future of Woodland Resurgence.”

Luskin Center Director Briefs State Senators on Benefits of California’s Climate Policy Portfolio Faculty member J.R. DeShazo speaks at Democratic Senate policy retreat

California State Senators and Governor Jerry Brown gathered in Sacramento this week for the annual Democratic Senate policy retreat to discuss issues of statewide and national importance. J.R. DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center, briefed them on the economic benefits of California’s climate portfolio. The focus of his talk was the tremendous opportunity to build prosperous, healthy and livable communities through the State’s new Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF). The GGRF will soon have billions of dollars to support transit, clean vehicles, sustainable communities, energy efficiency, renewable energy, urban greening and more.

Senate President pro tempore Kevin de León invited Professor DeShazo to be part of a three-person panel moderated by Senator Fran Pavley. Pavley authored AB 32, the landmark Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 that propelled California as a global climate policy leader. Now the nation and world are watching as California implements an important element of AB 32, the cap-and-trade program, which places the world’s first economy wide cap on carbon pollution and establishes market mechanisms to price carbon credits. These auction proceeds go into the GGRF. Senate Bill 535 (de León) requires that at least 25 percent of the investments benefit disadvantaged communities. DeShazo shared stories about how programs funded by the GGRF have already provided real benefits to low-income communities and households across California, including through job creation, houshold energy cost savings, and clean air health benefits.

Luskin Center research and event organizing is helping to advance the strategic and equitable implementation of climate investments to maximize local benefits to disadvantaged communities. For more information, see our SB 535 research report and this overview presentation.


Luskin Center Report: Tapping LA’s Vast Rooftop Solar Potential Could Reap Huge Benefits For City’s Most Disadvantaged Communities

LOS ANGELES, April 24, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — A significantly expanded commercial rooftop solar program in Los Angeles would create thousands of new jobs and spur hundreds of millions of dollars in new investment, with particular benefit to residents living in traditionally underserved neighborhoods in Los Angeles, according to a joint UCLA/USC study conducted on behalf of the Los Angeles Business Council Institute.

The report, Sharing Solar’s Promise: Harnessing LA’s FIT to Create Jobs and Build Social Equity, calls for the LADWP’s current feed-in-tariff (FIT) program, also known as CLEAN LA Solar, to be expanded from 100 to 600 megawatts, and to include incentives for solar developers and property owners to focus much of that growth in low-income communities where solar potential is among the most promising in the city. Incentives should also be provided to companies hiring disadvantaged workers for the installation of the solar systems, according to the report.

The CLEAN LA Solar program allows local commercial property owners to sell solar power generated from rooftops and parking lots back to LADWP at a competitive fixed rate. The report finds that expanding the program to 600 megawatts will help Los Angeles achieve a state mandate to generate a third of its energy from renewable resources by 2020.

Prior studies commissioned by the LABC Institute have concluded that Los Angeles has 10,000 acres of rooftop solar potential, enough to support a FIT far larger than the 600 megawatt program recommended in the study released today from the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation. And according to the report, over 40 percent of the current CLEAN LA Solar project applications are located in Los Angeles’ solar equity “hot spots,” or neighborhoods with abundant rooftop space for solar installations and also in need of significant socioeconomic and environmental investment. Areas identified as “hot spots” include the San Fernando Valley, Downtown Los Angeles and the region surrounding the Port of Los Angeles.

“It’s very encouraging to see that FIT applications are rolling in from across the city, particularly low-income neighborhoods where the environmental and economic benefits are so important,” said Dr. Manuel Pastor, Director of the USC PERE and one of the report’s authors. “Significant growth of the CLEAN LA Solar program is absolutely achievable, which is why we were so encouraged by Mayor Garcetti’s expression of support in his budget message for expanding in-basin solar generation to 600 megawatts,” he added.

“The CLEAN LA Solar FIT program is paving the way to secure our city’s future as a statewide and national leader in solar production, helping our environment and economy alike,” Mayor Garcetti said. “I applaud this program’s successful efforts to direct our abundant supply of sunshine to support local business and workforce development while reducing our carbon footprint.”

The program is already reaping benefits for workforce provider groups targeting disadvantaged workers across the Los Angeles region, including Homeboy Industries’ Solar Installation Training and Certification Program, the L.A. Conservation Corps’ Green Job Training Program and Empower America’s training program for veterans with Solar Provider Group.

The Sharing Solar’s Promise report also identifies areas of potential improvement to the LADWP program, and makes several recommendations designed to ensure that Los Angeles’ diverse workforce is an equal participant in and beneficiary of the FIT. Scaling the program from its current 100-megawatt capacity to 600 megawatts would add stability to the program and increase its potential environmental and economic benefits, researchers concluded.

The report proposes streamlining the FIT application process where possible, in particular moving the permitting process online for commercial, industrial and multifamily rooftop solar projects— which together comprise 69 percent of LA County’s solar potential. It also outlines strategies to expedite the processing of smaller commercial projects, which tend to have greater local economic development and job creation benefits for the local community.

“CLEAN LA Solar installations are already providing clean and sustainable power to communities across the city, from North Hollywood to Downtown Los Angeles to Chatsworth,” said Councilmember Paul Krekorian. “As the FIT continues to expand, it’s important that the process be streamlined and simplified as much as possible, particularly for the applicants that commit to hiring local developers and disadvantaged workers.”

Governor Jerry Brown believes incentives through efforts that include California’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program are important to driving continued solar energy development in the state’s urban areas. “PACE enables homeowners to buy solar panels, install low-flow toilets and make other smart investments that save energy and water without breaking the bank,” he said. “As California confronts a severe drought and a rapidly changing climate, this program gives homeowners another opportunity to do their part.”

According to Sharing Solar’s Promise, California leads the nation in solar job creation with over 47,000 workers, accounting for about one-third of the nation’s total solar industry employment. And across the state itself, job growth in the solar sector (8.1%) outpaced overall job growth (1.7%) in the past year, a trend that is expected to continue.

“Rooftop solar on commercial buildings is a critical piece of Los Angeles’ economic development strategy which is why we’ve worked so hard to see the FIT realized,” said LABC President Mary Leslie. “Our CLEAN LA Coalition, including the Sierra Club and leading business, civic and other environmental and community-based organizations, is confident that an expanded FIT will place Los Angeles at the forefront of the clean energy movement in urban America, while spurring long-term economic benefits locally.”

LABC Chairman Jacob Lipa was enthusiastic about the study’s positive outlook on the FIT for workers and businesses alike. “It’s clear that the FIT is successfully creating a strong foundation for a thriving in-basin solar industry, while also stimulating local job growth and generating economic opportunity for the neighborhoods that need it the most,” he said. “Los Angeles has truly set a model for the rest of the country to follow, and we look forward to a bright future for this smart program that is simultaneously bringing in direct investment to the city and decreasing our impact on the environment.”

About the Los Angeles Business Council Institute

The LABC Institute is a forward-thinking research and education organization dedicated to strengthening the sustainable economy of California. Founded in 2010, the Institute provides a bridge between the business, government, environmental, labor and nonprofit communities of Southern California to develop policies and programs that promote investment, jobs and business development. The Institute is the research and education arm of the Los Angeles Business Council, one of the most respected business advocacy organizations in the region. Founded in 1936, the LABC is known as an innovator and catalyst for policy development on a wide range of issues, including education, housing, green building, energy efficiency, transportation and solar development. For more information, please visit

About the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE)

USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) conducts research and facilitates discussions on issues of environmental justice, regional inclusion and social movement building. Since 2007, we have conducted high-quality research in our focus areas that is relevant to public policy concerns and that reaches to those directly affected communities that most need to be engaged in the discussion. PERE is situated within the University of Southern California’s Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences. For more information, please visit

About the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation

The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, founded with a generous gift from Meyer and Renee Luskin, unites the intellectual capital of UCLA with forward-looking civic leaders to address pressing issues and translate world class research and expertise into real-world policy solutions. Research initiatives are supported by teams of faculty and staff from a variety of academic disciplines. The Luskin Center supports these initiatives by funding original research, scholars, conferences, technical internships and solution-oriented speaker series. The Luskin Center is based in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. For more information, please visit


SOURCE Los Angeles Business Council Institute


Water saver: Engineer’s invention makes dirty water reusable

Written by By Judy Lin, UCLA Today

L.A.’s Griffith Park shows signs of the California drought, which is now in its third year.

When Gov. Jerry Brown recently approved $687 million in relief funds to cope with the state’s devastating drought, he noted, “This legislation marks a crucial step, but Californians must continue to take every action possible to conserve water.”

Yoram Cohen is working on it.

For the past two years, in the backyard of a house in West Los Angeles, the UCLA professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and director of the Water Technology Research Center has been field-testing a “vertical wetlands” that mimics a wetlands in nature. That’s when dirty water gets naturally filtered as it runs through an expanse of plants, rocks, soil and indigenous bacteria as it makes its way to a river or other waterway.

Cohen’s Gray2Blue Mobile Wetland Graywater Treatment System cleans hundreds of gallons of “gray water” — runoff from the test home’s showers, bathroom sinks and laundry machine — that is then reused to irrigate trees and gardens.

The Gray2Blue pilot system, with its maximum output capacity of 560 gallons of reusable water a day, could conceivably save Californians billions of gallons of water. But it would require changes to state water regulations that, in many ways, slow the march toward water sustainability.

Cohen is working on that too.

“I’ve reached a stage in my life where I want to see things happen, not just find ways to solve problems from the technical viewpoint. Sometimes the impediments [to problem-solving are really a combination of technology and policy,” said Cohen, who has been working on water reclamation, recycling, reuse and desalination for much of his 30-year career at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. He is also a member of the UCLA Grand Challenges project team working towards its goal of “Thriving in a Hotter Los Angeles: Achieving 100% Sustainability in Energy, Water and Biodiversity by 2050.”

Cohen is working in collaboration with chemical engineering Ph.D. student Zita Yu, whose research focuses on the development of Gray2Blue and the policy and economic aspects of onsite graywater treatment and reuse in urban and rural areas. Also onboard is the Luskin Center for Innovation at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Their intent is to build a case for California regulators and residents alike to rethink how we use water.

Gray water from the test home’s bathroom sinks, showers and laundry is pumped outside into a holding tank.

“There’s been this whole idea that you use water once, and then you dump it in the sewer,” said Cohen. “That’s been the mindset.”

Gray2Blue, a refrigerator-size contraption of white plastic crates and plumbing topped with a patch of colorful flowers, challenges that notion. Graywater is pumped into the flower bed and, over a period of about three hours, percolates down through a two-foot layer of plant roots and soil that act as “phytoremediators” that filter out particles and contaminants. The water then passes through a biofilm layer of scum-eating bacteria and finally drips like gentle rain into a collection bin connected to irrigation pipes and a storage tank.

Reusing gray water isn’t a new concept, the researchers say, but Gray2Blue takes it to a whole new level. The water it produces is of high enough quality to meet California’s Title 22 standards for tertiary, disinfected, reclaimed water — water for aboveground, non-potable reuses like sprinkling a lawn or flushing a toilet. But under current regulations, Cohen noted, treated gray water can be used only sub-surface, as in the test home’s underground irrigation system. That leaves a large quantity of high-quality, filtered water going to waste, while the home’s above-ground lawn sprinkler and toilets continue to draw from the household’s supply of potable water.

The Gray2Blue system cleans gray water that is pumped into the flower bed on top and slowly percolates down through  layers of soil and biofilm that serve as natural filters.

Gray2Blue’s efficiency in harvesting high-quality water bolsters Cohen and Yu’s determination to persuade policymakers to reassess state water regulations. To this end, the researchers have been producing policy papers, including a recent analysis of water regulations in all 50 states.

California, with its long tradition of environmental awareness, has some of the strictest standards, Cohen noted. “I don’t fault that,” he said. “But I think we also need to be more progressive.”

Also in need of revision, he said, is the regulatory process for certifying a system like Gray2Blue. Currently, the state requires individual homeowners to regularly monitor and report on water quality if they install such a system.

“This puts a tremendous burden on the homeowner as if he or she were a major water treatment plant,” said Cohen. Instead, he said, regulators should certify not the individual users but the Gray2Blue system — the same way that household appliances are certified.

“When you get a stove, the stove is certified that it’s not going to emit carbon monoxide. You’re not required to continuously monitor your stove,” said Cohen. “You have to streamline the [graywater treatment] regulatory process rather than impose additional burdens on people.” Otherwise, he’s concerned that some people, pressured by the drought, will use gray water without treating it. “And then it becomes a health and potentially environmental issue.”

Cohen and Yu have also engaged in exhaustive number-crunching to determine everything from how much water the state can conserve to how much money homeowners can save: Every day a typical Californian uses about 198 gallons of water, about 62 gallons of it indoors. About half of that — some 31 gallons — ends up as gray water that could be filtered and reused. Multiply that by 37 million Californians, and that’s 1.1 billion gallons of potable water that could be saved every day.

With water rates in the city of Los Angeles currently running about $10.60 per 1,000 gallons, homeowners will save money with a system like Gray2Blue. They’ll also save on sewer charges, because water reused for watering a lawn doesn’t end up down the drain. This also helps relieve overloaded septic systems in homes that do not have sewer services.

By Cohen and Yu’s calculations, Gray2Blue — which was constructed with off-the-shelf components that run around $500-$600 or $1,300-$1,500 with the addition of an irrigation computer timer for the water pumps — could pay for itself in six months to two years. And the savings after that could add up to $2,000 a year. Cohen suggested that the state could offer homeowners a financial incentive, as it does with solar panels, to make the return-on-investment even faster.

The researchers have demonstrated the system to local and state officials, among them the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California — which provided some funding for their research — and the  L.A. Department of Water and Power. Cohen and Yu have also been presenting their work at water conferences nationally and internationally. Yu recently showed Gray2Blue to officials in Hong Kong’s Water Supplies Department, which is exploring options for gray water and who were also very interested in learning about U.S. regulatory incentives and impediments.

“Our approach has been to make this technology simple, affordable and one that can contribute to solving some of our water problems,” said Cohen. “It isn’t the only solution … there isn’t just one magic solution to all of our water problems. We have to increase our water portfolio, and this is one way to do that.”


Crisis as an Opportunity: UCLA and Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade host symposium to address water concerns for a warming planet

By Karen A. Lefkowitz

“It’s important to awaken all to the seriousness of drought and the lack of rain…the drought emphasizes that we do live in an era of limits and that we need solutions that are elegant.” On January 17 Governor Jerry Brown officially declared a drought emergency in California. On the other side of the world, Australia suffered through a 12-year drought that ended last year with widespread flooding. The 2012-2013 ‘angry summer’ was the country’s hottest on record and temperatures continue to rise this summer. These parallel challenges make Australia and the U.S. ideal partners on water resource responses. UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, International Institute, Luskin Center for Innovation, and School of Law Environmental Law Center partnered with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs to host a “U.S.-Australian Dialogue on Water — The Coming Water Crisis: Solutions and Strategies” on January 13.

Legislative officials, industry specialists, legal experts, educators and scientists, economists and business executives, and non-profit professionals shared experiences and advanced the conversation on water sustainability. UCLA Chancellor Gene Block provided introductory remarks and Australia’s Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb delivered the keynote speech. The symposium was part of the G’Day USA program of events that brings together leaders and key influencers in diverse industries to cultivate and enhance the Australia–United States relationship. Conference segments considered coping techniques for arid environments, blueprints for better water management, and new water sources for the future.


Luskin Summit: Former Gov. Jerry Brown

In his new book, “Man of Tomorrow: The Relentless Life of Jerry Brown,” award-winning journalist and bestselling author Jim Newton explores the unconventional arc of former California Gov. Jerry Brown’s career. Newton, the editor-in-chief of UCLA Blueprint magazine, reveals the complex and often contradictory nature of Brown’s personality and politics–and how his leadership stood up to the Trump White House on policies related to climate change, immigration and more. Newton and Brown will discuss Brown’s career, his impact on national politics and his take on the future.

This event is being organized and sponsored by the Los Angeles World Affairs Council & Town Hall in coordination with Writers Bloc, Los Angeles. Registration is being handled by those organizations.