Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly is the Executive Director of The Los Angeles Coalition for the Economy & Jobs, which advances initiatives that support economic growth and the jobs that come with it. If done right, growth will have a limited impact on our environment, improving the quality of life for millions of residents within the L.A. region. “I think you can do it all,” he says. “But it requires the right planning and execution.”

L.A. is a laboratory for people to turn ideas into reality. “In the 50s, it was all about building a middle class,” Kelly explains. “Everyone had a BBQ and a backyard. Back then, we didn’t think we’d need a lot of common space or parks.” As L.A. continued to grow, sprawl was no longer enough to accommodate the rising population. “As L.A. develops, we have to be smarter. We have to reclaim underutilized space, whether land or buildings, but also develop upward where it makes sense,” says Kelly.

Kelly lists a few examples of smarter planning: “We’re modernizing LAX to provide travelers more transportation options – public rail – into and out of the airport, mitigate congestion in the terminal area by providing drivers the ability to drop off and pick up passengers away from the terminals and reduce the number of car rentals and shuttle buses by creating a new central rental car facility. We’re switching to electric vehicles at the port for cleaner air. And we’re building multiple rail lines and bus lines across the city.”

There are also multiple opportunities throughout the region. “We’re in the fifth year of a drought, and it took us four years to acknowledge it. We have to recognize that rain is not a solution to drought—what we need is better water management system.” California recently showed real progress in water conservation. But that is not enough. We need to invest in water treatment facilities and stormwater capture projects.

“Solutions to the world’s biggest challenges will start at the local level. The key is reaching and engaging people who want to take action,” Kelly says. And, he adds, you must create partnerships between elected officials, government, business and civic leaders and community groups to tackle to advance an agenda that supports the common good.

“The most important resource we have is our environment and it is imperative that we continue to find ways to accommodate growth, while mitigating its impact on the environment.” In other words, we can do it all. We just need to plan for it.