Martinez Looks to Tackle Record-High Heat by Requiring Cooling Appliances in Rentals

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez introduced legislation today to combat the impacts of the ever-worsening heat storms by looking at options to require cooling appliances, such as air conditioners, in residential rental units as well as other ways to financially assist low-income Angelenos cooling their households during extreme weather events.

“Two weeks of almost one-hundred degree temperatures is not normal for our City, and while we’re doing our best to fight climate change in the long-term, we have to address how it’saffecting Angelenos right now,” said Council President Martinez. “Our City needs to be prepared to provide relief during these times of extreme heat. This is becoming a matter of life-and-death, especially for low-income families in older housing units.”

Over the past month, Los Angeles has seen record-high temperatures in almost every neighborhood as the impacts of climate change continue to get more extreme. Last week was one of the hottest on record for Los Angeles, and in the San Fernando Valley residents saw temperatures rise to 110 degrees.

Across the city, Angelenos are experiencing harsh weather conditions without the necessary equipment to keep them safe and healthy, with residents of low-income neighborhoods being the most vulnerable to rising temperatures. The Climate Vulnerability Assessment report created by LA County showed that the largest increases in extreme heat will occur in low-income neighborhoods and will exacerbate social and economic inequality.

Low-income renters tend to live in older units that do not have the updated air conditioning and central air systems that come with luxury and modern rental properties. The legislation aims to assist tenants who do not have access to functioning air-conditioning despite their lease agreements saying as much. The motion would also instruct city departments to report back on ways that extreme weather events and climate change may impact housing conditions, especially in older units.

The motion asks for Department of Water and Power to report back on resources and programs to assist low-income households with their energy bills during extreme weather events, as well as rebates to buy more energy efficient cooling devices. It also asked the City Administrative Officer to report back on funding sources, such as the newly-launched Climate Equity Fund, that could assist low-income households with power bills and other issues during extreme weather events.

The Washington Post recently reported that, in 2019, California was the state with the highest percentage of homes without air conditioning in the continental United States. Currently, South LA, the Harbor area, and the Northeast San Fernando Valley show much higher emergency room visits during heat waves than the rest of the city.

“The lack of cooling appliances directly impacts our most marginalized communities, making them vulnerable to the extreme heat our City is facing,” said Councilmember Curren Price who seconded the motion. “In Council District 9, we have among the highest number of rental properties in the City and the stakes are just as extreme as the heat - and it is only going to get worse. There is no time to waste, climate change is real and we must utilize every tool available to preserve our quality of life for future generations.”

As climate change transforms Southern California, cooling devices are moving from being an amenity, to a necessity. This motion reflects on how the city needs to update its policies to address the ongoing climate crisis. As conditions become more common, the legislation states that “everyone should have a home that consistently fosters safe living conditions.”

The motion will be sent to the Housing Committee.

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