Vancouver Trip Demonstrates Lessons in Sustainability Insights for urban and regional planning from Vancouver


By Alejandra Reyes-Velarde
UCLA Luskin Student Writer

After a week-long trip to Vancouver for their spring break, 14 urban and regional planning students returned from the journey with a report of seven implementable lessons about sustainability that they learned from “the greenest city in North America.”

They presented their findings on May 19 to a group of more than 50 sustainable living students and professionals in an event hosted by the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate. The trip was inspired by Mayor Eric Garcetti’s recent Sustainable City pLAn, which aims to develop short and long-term strategies to address climate change and increase urban sustainability. The plan was modeled after Vancouver’s 2011 Greenest City Action Plan.

Entirely student led and organized, the trip included stops to meet with government agencies, researchers, non-profits and other stakeholders working in different areas of sustainability  to learn about their most successful practices that would be relevant for Los Angeles. Though the team analyzed several more Vancouver successes, they decided to hone in on seven that they believe Mayor Garcetti has already identified and are achievable today. The report outlines how the students encountered each lesson and how Los Angeles can successfully implement the ideas.

Some of the objectives they identified included generating and distributing energy at the neighborhood scale to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, using data to drive policies that increase access to green space, and creating a space in City Hall to collaborate on design-build projects using the expertise of higher education institutions and graduates.

Aaron Ordower, a second-year Urban Planning student involved in the project, said he enjoyed touring the LEED-ND Platinum Olympic Village, where the students were able to talk to urban planning students from the University of British Columbia and exchange ideas about how to improve sustainability in their urban communities. The visit taught them several conclusions about energy generation on the neighborhood scale.

“Los Angeles should consider brownfield sites and other large redevelopment projects as opportunities for district energy generation. A local utility was made feasible because it was built in a new neighborhood, the Olympic Village,” the students said in their report.

Ordower said he enjoyed experiencing the sustainable elements of Vancouver such as its seamlessly integrated bike planning and access to open space.

“The remarkable thing about Vancouver is how similar it was to L.A. 30 years ago, with respect to the number of people using public transit, biking, access to quality public space, and innovation in renewable energy,” Ordower said. “ We hope the report offers a glimpse into some of those successes that are well within L.A.’s reach.”

The trip was sponsored by the UCLA Luskin Hildebrand Award for Canadian Studies, the Fulbright Canada-RBC Eco-Leadership Grant, the UCLA Center for Canadian Studies and the Liberty Hill Foundation.


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