CityAdapt Blog – The Scoop on Regional Collaboratives: An Interview with Krista Kline of the Los Angeles Regional Collaborative for Climate Action and Sustainability (LARC)

In 2009, the Los Angeles Regional Collaborative for Climate Action and Sustainability (LARC) was established to mobilize support for local and regional responses to climate change in Los Angeles County. LARC brings together a network of decision-makers working on climate mitigation and adaptation using research on local impacts and information management systems. Since 2009, four other regional collaboratives have been established throughout the State of California – San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative, Sierra Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Project, Capital Region Climate Readiness Collaborative and the Bay Area Climate and Energy Resilience Project.  

Alliance of Regional Collaboratives for Climate Adaptation (ARCCA) is the organizing body for the five regional networks. Through ARCCA, the networks support regional approaches to climate change adaptation at the state and federal levels. ARRCA members share best practices and identify how the most innovative and successful strategies can be widely applied.

 LARC is a pioneer in the realm of regional action on climate change – leading the way with its Framework for Regional Climate Action and Sustainability. Today, I am going to interview Krista Kline, Managing Director of LARC, about taking action on regional climate change adaptation and the implications for Mediterranean-climate cities interested in developing similar networks.

Q: Tell me about how were LARC and ARCCA were formed.  

 A: The concept of a regional climate change collaborative in Los Angeles came from Dr. Stephanie Pincetl of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES). After the idea gained momentum with other stakeholders, the charter was written in May of 2009 and the first governance documents were released the following year. LARC was structured to be flexible and constantly evolving; it is not a nonprofit and not a formal government entity.

It took a couple of years of convenings to get the network going and Next10 assisted with the process of shaping LARC’s goals. (Next10 is a consulting firm focused on innovation and the intersection of the economy, the environment and quality of life in California).

It is important to note that, when the idea of LARC was hatched, it became clear that neither the City nor the County of Los Angeles should house the collaborative. If one of them took charge, the perception of the collaborative would be that it was only affiliated with that one entity. Hosting LARC at UCLA was important because, this way, we were able to bring a variety of government stakeholders to the table.

LARC presents a way for policy and planning to focus on adaptation and resilience. In California, we are fortunate to have Assembly Bill 32, a strong command and control policy governing carbon emissions. At the same time, it is clear that climate change responses are local and regional in nature. LARC showcases the importance of regulations that are flexible enough to be adopted in locations throughout the state.

ARCCA is the state’s response to adaptation. It is a coalition of California adaptation professionals. Bruce Riordan of the Bay Area Climate and Energy Resilience Project and Jonathan Parfrey of Climate Resolve met at the National Adaptation Forum and decided that, because they were pursuing the same goals in their respective regions, it would be a good idea to come together to capture the attention of the state. Michael McCormick of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research provided funding for the venture and became an important ally. Currently, the Local Government Commission, a Sacramento-based nonprofit organization, hosts ARCCA’s staff member, Kif Scheuer.

Q: There are four other regional collaboratives. Did they all form the same way?

A: No, they all formed differently. LARC was the first entity to become a network and has the largest staff of any of the collaboratives. The San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative was started by The San Diego Foundation, which has a particular focus within climate change adaptation on energy efficiency and utilities. In the Capital Region, the network works closely with the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District (AQMD) and the University of California, Davis. The Bay Area Joint Policy Committee manages the regional collaborative in that area and the effort is lead by Bruce Riordan. The Sierra Region, which houses the newest collaborative, is managed by the Sierra Business Council. It is fascinating that all five of the regional collaboratives bring different perspectives, different goals and are all funded and structured differently.

Q: What is LARC’s relationship to the University of California, Los Angeles?

A: It is great for LARC to be associated with UCLA because of all of the resources that it offers. For example, it is top research university with many academics focusing on climate change. At the same time, though it is housed here at UCLA, it is not an official university center and LARC has strong associations with other collaborators as well. One of the most important assets of being at UCLA is that, with climate change, there are new data and research coming out all the time and we can convey that information to decision-makers.

Q: How did you get involved with LARC?

 I have a law background and received my Juris Doctorate and Masters in Environmental Law from Vermont Law School. Afterwards, I went to work for local government: the City of Los Angeles Housing Department. I worked for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on a variety of planning issues including housing, homelessness and transportation. I was fortunate to able to connect with both the public and private sectors through my work and collaborate on a diverse range of projects.

Q: Why the regional collaborative model?

 A: Addressing adaptation and resilience means gaining an understanding the nature of climate change impacts, not just mitigating. Adaptation and resilience demonstrate that local responses have to be enacted by local government. Climate change affects people personally; In Southern California, it hits your beach, affects the quality of the air that you breathe.

It is also clear that there are similarities of impacts throughout Los Angeles for example in south Los Angeles and inland. Therefore, if we are all working on the same things, there is tremendous opportunity to leverage each other’s staff capacity, funding and other resources.

If cities throughout Los Angeles County respond as one, this will enable those who cannot respond to do so. Climate change adaptation really highlights social vulnerability and the regional model means that we won’t leave the most vulnerable people behind.

Q: What recommendations can you give a Mediterranean-climate city interested in starting a regional collaborative?

 A: First, start reaching out to partners beyond your own entity type (i.e. If you are a university, look beyond just partnering with other universities). Make sure your bench of supporters and partners is deep and wide. Also, make sure that your constituents are diverse, not just in terms of sector, but also in terms of the issues that they are focused on (i.e. water, urban ecology, renewable energy, etc.)

Next, make sure that your network is flexible enough to evolve with the regulatory needs of your region. LARC is not a center at a university and does not have a legal structure; this allows us to change and better respond to the needs of the region as they are unfolding. We are also not a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization so we do not have to abide by the rules governing that particular type of organization.

Third, hone in on a funding source. To do this, you must be able to articulate what you are doing with the network. Be open to a variety of possible funding sources and staff contributions from interested organizations.

Q: How do you interact with local and state government? 

 A: Local and state government staff do not have very limited capacity to work with the regional collaboratives. In general, we try to connect with planners and public works department. However, engaging staff is hard to do. We have to form broad partnerships. We also work with nonprofit organizations and elected officials. Overall, we work to forward goals of local and regional government and help to build capacity at that level.

On a broader scale, ARCCA provides advice to the State of California on regional climate change adaptation issues. This means that there is an organized body addressing these issues and the state government doesn’t have to go to each local government entity and region individually. The state agencies that we advise include the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research as well as the Natural Resources Agency, the Strategic Growth Council and the Coastal Commission.

Q: What projects is LARC currently working on?

 A: We are currently working on a Framework for Regional Climate Action and Sustainability. The Framework will be a guidebook on climate action in the region including current research and data that are ready for practitioners to use. We try to predict local government needs and use locally targeted data such as the research conducted by UCLA’s Dr. Alex Hall.

This plan can be thought of like a general plan for the region, but focused on climate change. It will take users through the steps of planning and will address a broad range of ways to intervene with climate change – everything from zoning to investment in infrastructure. For example, with water, the idea is to provide strategies to rely less on imported water. We will ask why we need to rely less on imported water and how can we achieve this goal. We will provide strategies such as low-impact development ordinance and install bioswales.

Ideally, we would like to work on a searchable database and provide technical assistance as well. It is clear that the local and regional entities engaging in climate action planning have limited bandwidth to obtain this technical assistance or apply for grants and administer them on their own.

Stay tuned: The proposed release date for the plan is September of 2016.

Thank you, Krista!

About the Interviewee: Krista received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Davis in International Relations, with a focus on environmental issues, and both her Masters in Environmental Law and Juris Doctorate from Vermont Law School. Prior to becoming the Managing Director of the LARC, Krista headed up sustainability issues at the City of Los Angeles Housing Department.  She administered the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (EECBG ARRA) Multifamily Retrofit Financing Program grant for the Department. Prior to that, she handled land use and planning issues for Mayor Villaraigosa’s office in the City of Los Angeles.  In addition, she headed up the Mayor’s Green Building effort and was his staff lead on helping to implement the Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan.

About the Interviewer: Laurel Hunt is the Secretary of the Mediterranean City Climate Change Consortium (MC-4) Secretariat.  She is also the Programs and Communications Manager at the Loyola Marymount University Center for Urban Resilience (CURes) and the Managing Editor of Cities and the Environment (CATE) Journal.  Laurel  has a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of California, Los Angeles. The emphasis of her graduate studies was on climate change adaptation, regional environmental sustainability and community-based participatory planning.