Save Gas City Hall-Style -- Drive a Hummer

Times Staff Writer

In his State of the City speech last month, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa declared that it was important to imagine a future “in which Los Angeles is the greenest and cleanest big city in America.”

Not stopping at that, the mayor also declared, “And because you can’t be a great global city if you’re not a great global citizen, we’re cutting our contribution to greenhouse emissions.”

Greenhouse gases are the pollutants that are causing global warming, many scientists believe. And that raises a question....



Q: What is Jaime de la Vega, the deputy mayor in charge of transportation and mass transit policy, doing to help Los Angeles reduce greenhouse gases?

A: Driving around town in a shiny Hummer H3, which sure looks a lot more comfy than a seat on the bus.

The 5,850-pound H3 is actually the runt of the Hummer litter -- the other models are larger. It gets 16 miles per gallon in the city and 19 on the highway and belches an estimated 10.6 tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year, according to government estimates.

The Environmental Protection Agency gave the H3 an air pollution score of 2 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best.

Of course, De la Vega has every right to buy whichever vehicle he chooses and, in this case, he has forgone a taxpayer-subsidized vehicle. And, in fact, there are many types of SUVs and regular cars that guzzle more gas.

But ... please.

The Hummer has come to represent excessive consumption, and what message does it send, particularly when working for someone who is positioning himself politically as Mr. Clean?

De la Vega declined to comment.

Of course, as deputy mayor in charge of mass transit policy, De la Vega could take mass transit to work. Hint: Try the trip planner at


Q: How are some other city officials working on climate change?

A: Driving big SUVs.

Villaraigosa often tootles around town in a city-owned GMC Yukon that, like the Hummer H3, gets bad mileage. City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo also uses a city-owned Yukon, the perfect truck to navigate Los Angeles’ frequent blizzards. Also driving city-owned SUVs that drink gas in the same manner that Homer Simpson quaffs beer are council members Tony Cardenas (2002 Chevy Tahoe) and Dennis Zine (2005 Mercury Mountaineer).

There is good news. Four council members are trying to control their emissions -- Wendy Greuel, Janice Hahn, Jan Perry and Bill Rosendahl all drive hybrids owned by the city.

Council President Eric Garcetti whizzes around in an electric-powered Toyota RAV that the city owns. The tree-hugger actually kicked the gasoline habit back in 1998 after purchasing an electric car.


Q: Can Los Angeles top the coyote recently spotted in New York’s Central Park?

A: Yes.

In the first four months of this year, a wolf was captured in Country Club Park, an African bush baby was found on the front porch of a home in San Pedro, a coyote was lassoed several stories underground in a parking garage in downtown Los Angeles, a mountain lion was again spotted in Griffith Park, and there was a confirmed sighting of a gray fox near Hancock Park.

Officer Gregory Randall of the city’s animal services agency said that little surprises him anymore.

The wolf was presumably a pet and was tame. It has been turned over to a rescue outfit. The coyote likely showed up in downtown to munch on the area’s plentiful supply of rodents -- it’s great hunting grounds, Randall said -- and was released in Griffith Park.

As for the bush baby, the little primate’s origin remains a mystery. It was perhaps a stowaway on a freight ship. The cougar has been seen several times in Griffith Park since early 2004, mostly in the area of the old Toyon landfill.

And let’s not forget Reggie the alligator, who eluded capture last year after being seen in a Harbor City lake. Perhaps this will be the year he lands in the boot factory.


Q: What should anyone contemplating running for the Los Angeles school board do?

A: Round up a bunch of young students and pose for a photo with them in front of a playground. Inspired, eh?

Check out these two fliers from school board candidates Monica Garcia and Enrique Gasca. Garcia finished first in the March primary to fill the District 2 seat. Gasca was third. Garcia’s runoff opponent, Christopher Arellano, has stopped campaigning, conceding defeat.


Q: How many days a week are employees in the city’s Planning Department working?

A: Of the agency’s 280 employees, 156 are on a four-day workweek that allows them to work 10 hours a day. This is somewhat to the exasperation of council members who sometimes have difficulty reaching city planners.

Gail Goldberg took over as planning chief in late February. She said that many employees appeared to have secured their four-day week as part of efforts dating back to the 1980s and early ‘90s to put city workers on alternative schedules to help reduce traffic.

“You probably know how I feel about that,” said a diplomatic Goldberg, who has yet to be spotted doing handsprings down the City Hall corridors over her agency’s staffing patterns.

Goldberg was hired away from San Diego, where she held a similar post. She lives near Larchmont Village and in her early weeks on the job says she has been impressed with the city’s size, its lack of parks and trees in many neighborhoods and the desperate need for better urban design.

“One of the things becoming clear to me is that we haven’t done a really spectacular job of long-range planning,” Goldberg said. “We seem to be planning a lot on a project-by-project basis.”


Q: What was the difference between the two press releases issued for the announcement last week of architect Frank Gehry’s design for two Grand Avenue towers?

A: The press release from the Grand Avenue Committee listed a number of officials scheduled to speak, including Villaraigosa, Councilwoman Jan Perry, county Supervisor Gloria Molina and Gehry, among others.

The press release from the mayor’s office listed one speaker: himself.


Q: Will downtown Los Angeles get a decent bookstore?

A: The folks in charge of the Grand Avenue project say it’s going to happen but have yet to announce which bookstore it’s going to be.

In the meantime, many other Western cities have long boasted excellent and large bookstores in their downtowns. San Francisco has City Lights, Denver has the Tattered Cover near its main train station, Portland has Powell’s and Seattle has the Elliot Bay Book Co. in Pioneer Square.

And what does downtown Los Angeles have? A few tiny bookstores -- including a B. Dalton in the dungeon-like Los Angeles Mall next to City Hall East.

The combined population of San Francisco, Denver, Portland and Seattle is about 2.4 million. Los Angeles’ population is about 3.9 million.