The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Tuesday unveiled a plan to advance racial equity within its own ranks and programs in response to an executive directive issued by Mayor Eric Garcetti.
LADWP’s “Racial Equity Action Plan,” which was partly unveiled at the LADWP Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday, includes launching a workforce development initiative to create good paying jobs and career opportunities for communities that have been historically disadvantaged.
“The department’s work around racial equity since Mayor Garcetti issued Executive Directive 27 has been nothing short of breathtaking and it’s something that I am very proud of,” said LADWP Board President Cynthia McClain-Hill.
“I have to give full credit for this effort to the hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets all over the country during the social justice protests of 2020,” she said. “It really lit a fire under everyone, and it lit a fire under me to advance a comprehensive strategy to address racial equity at the nation’s largest city-owned utility.”
The department also noted its work on leading the LA100 Equity Strategies, which builds on the LA100 renewable energy study to ensure that communities of color in Los Angeles benefit from the city’s transition to 100% renewable energy.
The department found disparities in the participation of low-income neighborhoods in rooftop solar programs, electric vehicle rebates and more renewable energy initiatives. The department says it will work to ensure that communities most impacted by poor air quality are able to benefit from those programs.
“As a city, we have to translate the ideal of environmental justice into action, and that work starts with our own government,” Garcetti said. “Equity isn’t just a value you inject in a policy or a program — it’s a prism through which we refract every single one of our decisions. I’m proud to see LADWP has taken this executive directive to heart and set an example for utilities across the country to follow.”
Garcetti’s executive directive required that every department general manager and head of city offices name a racial equity representative tasked with developing and overseeing their respective department’s racial equity plan.
LADWP will hire its first DEI officer in the next month, according to the department. The officer will serve as the senior racial equity adviser to General Manager Martin Adams, as well as to the Board of Water and Power Commissioners and LADWP leadership.
Each city department’s plan will outline policies on recruitment and hiring, training, retention, promotions and contracting, as well as describe efforts to promote and hire from “a robust pool of qualified candidates to promote diversity,” Garcetti said.
LADWP also launched a workforce development initiative focused on expanding its Utility Pre-Craft Trainee Program, which was created to provide a pathway to middle-class, well-paying jobs at the department. LADWP plans to fill 3,000 positions over the next five years due to its aging workforce and high number of expected retirements.
Jobs include meter readers, maintenance, construction helpers, lineworkers, water utility workers, security officers and custodians. The program’s trainees start at a salary of $19 an hour plus a healthcare subsidy of $7 an hour.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we not only kept the water and power flowing, we also began a thorough review of our operations and identified ways we can ensure we are meeting the needs of all of our customers across our economically and culturally diverse city,” said Martin Adams, LADWP’s general manager and chief engineer.
“It has been an extraordinary collaboration, led by the mayor and our board in partnership with myself and members of our staff, and one that we look forward to continuing through the hiring of our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer and by advancing other key equity strategies,” he said.