Cynthia McClain-Hill (Courtesy photo) 


The heat has been turned up on L.A. summers. We’ve always experienced uncomfortably hot periods from June to September, but climate change has raised the stakes to an extreme, life-threatening level.  

This month, Los Angeles has experienced one of its longest stretches of extreme heat and humidity, marked by blistering daytime highs and sweltering, sticky and sweaty, upper-70 overnight lows. 

There’s a good chance we’re not yet done with the current extreme heat assault. Prompted by Santa Ana winds prevalent this time of year, 100-degree days may return before the end of Fall. 

 Many of us are fortunate. We have the financial means along with air-conditioned homes or apartments to endure punishing heat storms. Others aren’t so advantaged. They’ve had to make do without air conditioning for themselves and their families in the face of our region’s debilitating blast of extreme heat.  

Seniors on fixed incomes and low-income families with children living in our city’s hottest neighborhoods from South L.A. to East L.A. and Koreatown to the San Fernando Valley may find some heat relief during the day away from home, but they can’t stay overnight at the relatively small number of cooling centers that are scattered around the city. Inevitably, they return home where they are forced to contend with indoor temperatures that add new meaning to the phrase: oven-like. 

 Even those fortunate enough to have air conditioning know full well the financial cost and sticker shock of doing so. Residents who find themselves ill-equipped to pay hundreds of additional dollars a month often decide to leave their air conditioner off out of the fear, despite days of oppressive heat.  

 We can’t predict the future, but we’re convinced that the extreme heat we’ve experienced this September is not an anomaly. It’s a temperature pattern we should expect every summer moving forward because our climate has already changed. As policy makers, our overarching responsibility is to determine how we meet the needs of the communities we serve right now.   

 LADWP is tackling big policy issues, like transitioning to 100% carbon-free energy to combat climate change over the longer-term. DWP has incentivized solar panels and electric vehicles and offers energy efficiency programs that are helping many utility customers go green. But too often, these efforts, which we support, are only available to residents that can afford expensive home improvements or costly upgrades and fail to address the growing needs of people in immediate jeopardy.     

 That’s why it’s so important for LADWP to act now to help Angelenos with low-to-moderate incomes survive our extreme heat, by providing tangible options to help them stay cool, while ameliorating the impact of cost spikes associated with their summer utility bills.  

 We know that extreme heat can kill and residents most vulnerable to heat stroke include seniors, young children, and people with underlying heath conditions. That is why we launched LADWP’s Cool LA initiative. 

 With support and input from community stakeholders, LADWP has assembled an array of programs that provide heat relief for customers. Under Cool LA’s umbrella, LADWP customers can purchase or replace air conditioners, including window, portable A/Cs, swamp coolers and others at reduced cost to help customers lower extreme indoor heat to a safe level. 

 LADWP is now providing all its customers with a level-pay electricity bill payment option so they can spread out the cost of running air conditioning during the year’s hottest days and nights. 

 Cool LA opens the door for increased collaboration between LADWP and community-based organizations to broaden customer outreach, encourage participation, and heighten public awareness of ways LADWP can help support residents as we continue to adjust to the challenge of climate change. These partnerships are essential to achieving our mutual goals.   

 Cool LA is not the full answer to heat relief for Los Angeles residents, but it’s a start and it does one thing above all else: Cool LA acknowledges the social equity consequences of our changing climate, and it provides needed measures to help LADWP’s least-advantaged, financially challenged customers beat-the-heat without busting their budget. 

 Cynthia McClain-Hill is president of the LADWP Board of Commissioners. Veronica Padilla-Campos is executive director of Pacoima Beautiful, a Northeast San Fernando Valley-based environmental justice non-profit and a member of the South Coast Air Quality Management District Governing Board Member.