Calling out University students for living in a bubble from the rest of Los Angeles isn't exactly new. Now, those criticisms are carrying a sharper edge when it comes to our local impact on climate change.
Earlier this month, the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa del Rey (NCWP) posted an advisory online detailing how Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) is allowing comments on a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) regarding the new LAX Airfield and Terminal Modernization Project. The post clarified that this wouldn't be about deciding if the Project moves forward, with the assumption that it already will move forward.
"In keeping with Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Safer L.A. order," reads the post, "LAWA will be providing informational materials and sharing a presentation on the analysis presented in the Draft EIR at a virtual public meeting [on Dec. 1]."
Looking at the EIR itself, you'll notice the phrase "significant and unavoidable" appears across sections revolving around the impact greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, in spite of the mitigation techniques emphasized in the report. Many goals that aimed to reduce GHG emissions like Californian Executive Order B-30-15, which "establishes a statewide GHG reduction target of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030" or Mayor Garcetti's overly-ambitious Green New Deal are in direct conflict with how this Project is going so far.
Chances are that most University students haven't heard about this December meeting, or about the Project at all. With all the chaos surrounding the somehow still-ongoing story of the 2020 Presidential election, the biggest wave of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and the stress of Thanksgiving in just a few days, it's normal for something this relatively small to be easily dismissed Given the political structure of NCWP, it's even less surprising.
Our community is in the unique position of not having the most local representation, at least compared to other universities. Anyone who's stared at the posters inside University elevators knows that they, along with the campus, fall under the jurisdiction and representation of the City of Los Angeles.
If you, like me, have ever taken Urban Politics (POLS 3340) at the University, you might already be familiar with how city governments are set up. In one assignment of comparing the council meetings of two different cities, part of that analysis involved looking at how community members organized their local governments, whether it's a strong mayor-council form, a council-manager form or something else entirely.
Despite the tendency for residents to call Westchester a "town," that characterization isn't accurate. Unlike with municipal governments like Lawndale and Gardena that both operate under council-manager systems, Westchester operates under a neighborhood council, which is far less politically powerful than the former examples. There's no mayor or city manager to represent Westchester in the same way Mayor Garcetti acts as the mayor for L.A.
Plus, the identity of a Lawndalian, Gardenero or—in many University students' cases—Angeleno, is likely stronger than that of a Weschesterian. I admit I approach this as an outsider Tennessean, but how often do you hear a fellow student say they're from Westchester over proudly proclaiming their roots in L.A.? My guess: not often.
To clarify, I'm not suggesting that Westchester take charge when it comes to addressing concerns surrounding this Project. It'd be impossible to imagine a smaller, independent Weschester City taking on the responsibility of LAX, an airport with global weight and economic importance, on the same level that L.A. currently does OK. Also, our environmental concerns aren't constrained by the relative weakness of neighborhood or even city borders, and that's for the better. The beauty of Ballona, for instance, is still for our enjoyment and responsibility to maintain even if it's technically outside Westchester.
What I am suggesting is that our voices, when it comes to many environmental matters in our community, should ring as loud as other community members' when it comes to addressing our concerns with how this Project will impact us. It's too late to change the tracks of where this Project will head, but taking part in this meeting next week will show that the student voice of Westchester is as much a politically active one as it is a notable one.
So let's give a Loyolan voice to our local community. Lions who live in the Westchester area should voice their concerns—or approval—of what's going on with LAX. Let's pop that proverbial bubble.
This is the opinion of Cristobal Spielmann, a junior environmental science major from Brentwood, Tennessee. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow and tweet comments to @LALoyolan on Twitter, and like The Loyolan on Facebook.