LOS ANGELES (May 31, 2022) – Acting on a motion by Councilmember Paul Krekorian, the Los Angeles City Council today voted unanimously to create the position of Chief Heat Officer for the City of Los Angeles.
Los Angeles now joins the cities of Miami, Florida; Phoenix, Arizona; Monterrey, Mexico; Athens, Greece; Freeport, Sierra Leone; and Santiago de Chile in naming an officer to oversee the City’s response to extreme heat events.
As the City’s first Chief Heat Officer (CHO), the Council selected Marta Segura to concurrently serve as CHO and as Director of the City’s Office of Climate Emergency Mobilization (CEMO). She is not only the City’s first CHO, but the first Latina/o to hold this position in the United States.
The CHO will work with the Departments of Planning, Emergency Management, Recreation and Parks, and Building and Safety, as well as with StreetsLA and the Department of Water and Power to prepare a Heat Action Plan containing an early warning system, interagency emergency response plan, and long-term strategies to reduce exposure.
“Extreme heat is the deadliest climate risk facing Los Angeles,” said Councilmember Paul Krekorian, author of the motion creating the position of CHO. “Extreme heat can lead to heart-related illness such as heat exhaustion and heat strokes, and it can aggravate pre-existing conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Since 2005, heat-related hospitalizations have increased, especially in the San Fernando Valley,” said Krekorian.
As global temperatures rise, by mid-century L.A. is expected to experience five times more heat waves than it experiences now. The frequency and intensity of heat waves will increase the risk of wildfires while also stressing the power grid and threatening public transit and other public infrastructure.
“In September 2020, the mercury hit 121 degrees in Woodland Hills,” said Councilmember Bob Blumenfield. “Extreme heat events threaten the West Valley more than any other part of Los Angeles. The Chief Heat Officer position will ensure we have a coordinated response to these events to protect people’s health and our power infrastructure, as well as long-range plans to minimize heat impacts,” Blumenfield said.
Among the strategies the CHO will pursue with the relevant departments will be public information campaigns educating the public to the dangers of extreme heat and the available remedies. Measures will be developed to improve the network of public cooling centers, expand the urban tree canopy, create more green spaces, Cool Streets, and shade hubs. Building codes may be updated to ensure that all new buildings include provision for adequate cooling, and standards for energy-efficient construction may be adjusted to reduce the impact of extreme heat on the power grid.
“With 140 degree ground temperature in India in the last month and 500 deaths from the heatwave in the Northwest last year, we can’t stick our heads in the sand and hope it's not coming. Severe climate breakdown is here and killing people on a regular basis,” said Councilmember Paul Koretz.
“One in four lives lost during heat waves could be saved if the City strategically increases tree canopy cover and installs cool surfaces,” said Councilmember Krekorian. “Low-income communities often suffer most from extreme heat waves. The Chief Heat Officer position will save lives and improve quality of life in Los Angeles, especially in our most vulnerable neighborhoods,” Krekorian said.
“I am thrilled to see Los Angeles setting an example with the implementation of a Chief Heat Officer position in the city,” said Assemblymember Luz Rivas (AD 39), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources. Assemblymember Rivas is the author of an extreme heat bill, AB 2076, which passed the Assembly last week.
“TreePeople is thrilled with the appointment of Marta Segura as Los Angeles’ first Chief Heat Officer. This is an important step towards saving lives and reducing heat-related hospitalizations in our communities,” said Cindy Montañez, TreePeople’s Chief Executive Officer.
“UCLA stands ready to provide technical and strategic support to the lifesaving work our city’s first Chief Heat Officer will do,” said V. Kelly Turner, co-director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, assistant professor at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and a scientific advisor to the Arsht-Rockefeller Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance. “A heat action plan that incorporates evidence-based solutions, assessable metrics, and real-time adjustments informed by data will prove itself by improving public health and preventing needless deaths.”