LOS ANGELES, CA – Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion authored by Supervisor Hilda L. Solis to investigate safe maximum indoor temperature thresholds to assist heat-vulnerable tenants and workers in high-risk workplaces.
The negative health impacts of climate change are already being felt in the County as heat-related emergency department visits have more than doubled between 2005 and 2017. The California Health and Safety Code establishes the State Housing Law to regulate new and existing housing. Specifically, Title 25 mandates that existing rental units be capable of maintaining a minimum indoor temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit during cold weather. There is no parallel requirement for air conditioning or other cooling mechanisms to keep residents safe from times of extreme heat, which is quickly becoming more frequent due to climate change.
“Climate change has exposed and deepened health, social, environmental, racial, and economic inequities in Los Angeles County,” said Supervisor Solis. “Marginalized populations, including people of color, people with disabilities, the unhoused, immigrants, and youth are disproportionately impacted by climate change and will continue to face significant health threats. To that end, immediate assistance is needed for residents who lack sufficient indoor cooling and other protections against extreme heat. This motion seeks to explore targeted interventions for the County to set its maximum temperature requirements to protect our most heat-vulnerable tenants and workers in high-risk workplaces.”
Los Angeles County’s Chief Sustainability Office (CSO) released a comprehensive Climate Vulnerability Assessment showing that, while 48.5% of the County’s population is Hispanic, this population comprises 66.9% of the people in communities that have a high vulnerability to extreme heat. The lack of tree canopy, lack of access to park space, lack of necessary cooling devices, and/or presence of high-asphalt infrastructure in these areas inhibit the ability of these neighborhoods to mitigate extreme heat. These impacts will continue to increase in severity, frequency, and duration without meaningful and sustained intervention.
“An estimated 2.2 million L.A. County residents will reside in areas with high social vulnerability to extreme heat by 2050. That staggering figure compels us to create new ways to protect residents, like examining a safe maximum indoor temperature threshold,” said Rita Kampalath, Acting Chief Sustainability Officer with Los Angeles County’s Chief Sustainability Office. “We need to move from thinking about extreme heat as an occasional discomfort and reframe it as a persistent threat.”
The motion directs the County’s Chief Executive Office – Legislative Affairs and Intergovernmental Relations Branch, in coordination with the Chief Sustainability Office, to send a 5-signature letter to Chief Jeffrey T. Killip of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), with a copy to Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, in support of establishing statewide safe maximum indoor temperature threshold standards for residential units and workplace settings; and requiring covered employers to develop and implement a comprehensive workplace excessive heat prevention plan to protect covered employees from the excessive heat that may lead to heat-related injuries and illnesses.
The motion also directs the County’s Department of Public Health (DPH) to investigate safe maximum temperature thresholds for dwelling units and high-risk workplaces and coordinate with the Chief Sustainability Office to identify policy options for promoting cost- and energy-efficient indoor cooling and funding sources to assist low-income households and small business. Additionally, the motion requests that the Los Angeles County Development Authority (LACDA) assess the cooling amenities currently present in LACDA’s residential buildings and report back to the Board of Supervisors.
Read today’s full motion here. Read this Q&A to learn more about how the measure will affect residents and workers. The County’s recently completed Climate Vulnerability Assessment details which communities are most at risk from extreme heat.