City Council District 12 candidate Loraine Lundquist spoke to a group of local activists, including members of the Windsor Square based HODG (Hang Out and Do Good), a grassroots action group activated after the 2016 election, which canvassed the region for Democratic candidates in the mid- term elections. Lunquist was out knocking on doors for now-Congresswoman Katie Hill, where she met the local Hancock Park group. Now she’s one of 16 candidates hoping to take the LA City Council seat vacated by Mitchell Englander (who resigned to work as a lobbyist for a sports and entertainment company), in a special election to be held on June 4.
The meet and greet was organized by Polly Estabrook, local resident and Telecommunications Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who is hoping Lundquist will bring a new voice to the Los Angeles City Council and channel some of the local energy pushing for green legislation needed to keep global warming down to two degrees. Estabrook, like many climate change activists, believes that local action will be the most effective.
Lundquist, an astrophysicist who now teachers environmental science at Cal State University Northridge, credits her mother, a former middle school math teacher for encouraging her to study math and science. After earning her doctorate degrees in astrophysics from the University of California at Berkeley, Lundquist said she worked happily in the field for many years, working on satellite missions for the European Space Agency and spending time in Washington, D.C. as a science and technology policy fellow at the National Academy of Science. But she while she really loved doing science research, she says, her perspective changed when she became a mom. And after the fog of babyhood lifted, she became more curious about climate change. Lundquist said she started diving into the research, and realized she hadn’t really understood the importance of the research and the urgency of the situation.
“I hadn’t understood how quickly we need to change almost everything our economy quickly to avoid the dire consequences for our children,” said Lundquist. “And it was disheartening.”
Lundquist changed her academic focus, teaching sustainability at Cal State Northridge, and has become a leading environmental activist working on changing public policy on all different levels. She serves on the board of the Neighborhood Council Sustainability Alliance, helping local neighborhood councils work on neighborhood level solutions. She is a member of the advisory committee on the LADWP 100% Renewable Energy Study. She’s active in 350.org, a statewide climate action group that successfully lobbied for SB100, which calls for 100 percent of the state’s electricity to be carbon free by 2025. (Lundquist says it’s not soon enough, but it’s a big step in the right direction.) She’s also working on several national issues, but she admits it’s very challenging and there’s not likely to be any climate change legislation enacted at the national level, which is why she is focusing her efforts on Los Angeles City Hall.
“Cities offer the biggest potential for improvement,” said Lundquist. “70 percent of our greenhouse gasses are from cities, and the largest part of that is transportation. It’s also the only sector that’s growing. Transportation is all about how you build our cities, how you get around, can you afford to live where you work. We need to make transit convenient, easy, enjoyable and affordable. We need to explore building walkable community, we have enormous potential in LA.”
Lundquist said that Los Angeles is also unique because “we own the largest municipal utility in the country, we own it and we get to decide how we generate our electricity and source our water.”
She also pointed out that Los Angeles has the largest urban oil field with more than 3,000 operating oil wells that have lot of health impacts for residents. The Aliso Canyon gas blowout, located right inside her district, is a great example of how challenging it can be to manage these wells, she said. It’s been 3 years since the blowout and local officials have still not provided the analysis if what caused the blowout, she said. They are just now starting a health study and only recently got a seismic study showing the storage site is on top of an active fault of that bisects all the 114 wells.
“We saw what happened with one blowout; we could have a scenario where all of them blew out,” said Lundquist. If she’s elected, she said her first action would be to introduce a motion to close the facility down and switch over to renewable fuels. She also challenged the idea that it’s too expensive to make the change.
“It is a myth that it will be more expensive to go to renewable,” she said. In fact, she said, “California’s economy is growing faster than any other state in large part because of the passage of laws creating our green economy.”
She explained that her Green New Deal plan is built around really lofty goals which she calls the “four zeros”: 1. zero net energy buildings (buildings that generate more energy than they use, like the new sustainability center on the CSUN campus). 2. zero carbon electricity (which means not burning fossil fuels to generate electricity, which she says we are on the road to achieving, but are nowhere near doing that as quickly as we can).
“We need to be leading on this issue, not taking so long, There are already six cities in the US who are running off renewable emergency,” said Lundquist.
Next, at number 3, zero carbon transportation, which Lundquist said is perhaps the hardest of all to achieve, with lots of parts to implementing it. And the final zero, #4, is zero-waste manufacturing, because many cities are not able to recycle anymore and are throwing away their recyclables.
“We need to do more than try to live sustainable and make the consumer responsible,” said Lunquist. “We need to consider changing our laws and hold companies responsible for the waste that comes from their products. We could do that, if we decided to as a society.”
While climate change is her passion and her reason for running, Lundquist said the other biggest issues concerning voters are basic city services, which she called the third pillar of her campaign after climate change and homelessness. In addition, she has solutions to address concerns about crime and public safety and traffic. Lundquist said she’s trying to meet people where they are and make sure that she will be a responsive council member. She’s open to people’s concerns and going door to door meeting people in the district.
Lundquist is also working on solutions to homelessness, which she called a defining issue as well. Her district currently has no supportive housing, despite the agreement of each city council member to create 220 units in every district. A founder of the West Valley Homelessness Alliance, Lundquist said she would work to educate communities about this type of housing.
When she was grilled by local activists about how she was going to engage millennial voters, likely to be a key demographic in 2020, Lundquist answered that climate change is really motivating her students because solving this climate emergency will protect their future.
“It’s something that could really change the world,” said Lundquist. “In Los Angeles, if we really show people how to break our addiction from fossil fuels and decide that we are actually going to do this, that could be something that could be a model for cities around the world.”