Cool Blocks LA

submission by LisaHart
Cool Blocks LA

About Your Application

Organization(s) name(s):

Neighborhood Council Sustainability Alliance

Organization(s) website(s):

Organization(s) twitter handle(s):

Organization(s) facebook handle(s):

Please share the direct link for voters to sign up for your newsletter(s):

Describe Your Organization(s)

Non-profit organization

For-profit organization


Other (please specify below):


unincorporated association

In one sentence, please describe what your organization does.


The Neighborhood Council Sustainability Alliance (NCSA) advances sustainability and resilience across Los Angeles through advocacy, sharing of best practices, and community action.

In one to three sentences, please describe your proposal.


The “Cool Blocks LA” program will build planet-friendly, disaster resilient, socially connected neighborhoods in LA, block by block. By the end of the Cool Blocks LA pilot year, at least 10 neighborhood block teams across three Los Angeles communities will complete the program. In the process, these teams will reduce both their carbon and water footprints by an average of 25% while getting to know their neighbors and building their personal and shared resiliency.

Where will you be working? Please be specific (e.g. Third Street Middle School; Boyle Heights; LA County).

Central LA

East LA

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South LA


South Bay

Antelope Valley

County of Los Angeles (countywide)

City of Los Angeles (citywide)


Other (please specify below):

How do you plan to use these resources to make change? (check all that apply)

Conduct research

Engage residents and stakeholders

Implement a pilot or new project

Expand a pilot or program

Mobilize for systems change

Advocate with policymakers and leaders

Implement and track policy

Other (please specify below):

How will your proposal improve the following “Live” metrics? (check all that apply)

Access to healthy food

Healthcare access

Exposure to air toxins

Number of households below the self-sufficiency index

Percent of imported water

Obesity rates

Housing affordability

Rates of homelessness

Walk/bike/transit score

Acres and miles of polluted waterways

Rates of mental illness

Prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (Dream Metric)

Percentage of LA communities that are resilient (Dream Metric)

Percentage of residents receiving coordinated healthcare services (Dream Metric)

Percentage of tree canopy cover (Dream Metric)

Describe in greater detail how you will make LA the healthiest place to live.


As highlighted in the City of Los Angeles’s Sustainable City pLAn, “Climate change is...the biggest single challenge facing humanity, as it will bring dramatic changes to Los Angeles in the coming years, including wide-ranging effects on the health and welfare of residents.”

Forty percent of carbon emissions in Los Angeles come from households. The Cool Blocks LA pilot program will directly address household-level behavior change while fostering long-term health and quality of life for Angelenos. It supports both LA2050’s and the Sustainable City pLAn’s vision for sustainability and resilience for LA, and builds on the knowledge of what can be achieved based on decades of experience furthering pro-social behavior change and community engagement.

A cool block is the organizing unit for this social change initiative.

In collaboration with Neighborhood Councils and Cool Block program creator David Gershon, the NCSA will facilitate the selection of 10 Cool Block neighborhoods and leaders at three Cool Block Cafe events. Each participating neighborhood will be supported in the formation of a Cool Block Team of neighbors who live on a single block or in the same building. Following in-person training of Cool Block Leaders, each team will meet nine times over a five-month period, for the shared purpose of supporting their peers’ desires to live healthy and sustainable lifestyles, improve personal and collective disaster resiliency, build social bonds, and enhance the livability of their block.

Participants will select the actions that support their goals from a list of 112 actions provided in a companion book. Some actions will be completed as individuals, and others are collaborative and will be carried out by the Cool Block Team.

To address any challenges that arise and support desired outcomes, the NCSA will provide ongoing coaching to each Cool Block Team.

The program will culminate in a Cool Block Party to celebrate each Cool Block’s achievements.

Following completion of the Cool Blocks LA pilot, the NCSA will host a debriefing session with Cool Block Leaders to capture successes and lessons learned and begin planning for a broader rollout in Year 2.

One benefit of the program is the generation of social capital within Cool Blocks, leading to stronger networks and more livable and resilient communities. Also, this grassroots-level effort will heighten the demand for politicians to effect relevant public policy changes.

Please explain how you will evaluate your work.


Actions taken by participating households and blocks will be measured by
carbon pollution avoided
resiliency and livability
program growth
number of actions taken

Points will also be awarded for the qualitative contributions of
social innovation
This will help each team focus on the key performance indicators necessary for their success and the program’s growth.

In consultation with Mr. Gershon, the NCSA will design, implement, and analyze pre and post surveys related to the above measures.

The NCSA will also measure and report on such outputs as:
block leader recruitment rates
participation rate per neighborhood
number of LA residents and partners reached through Cool Block program education and outreach efforts

Finally, we will measure environmental outcomes that include carbon pollution reduction and water savings per household, using online calculator tools.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed? (check all that apply)

Money (financial capital)

Volunteers/staff (human capital)

Publicity/awareness (social capital)

Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)


Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)

Community outreach

Network/relationship support

Quality improvement research

Other (please specify below):

4 Pink talk bubble tail c96b4a07ef1417e25d0bcf5c4cba4766b8bbf0382f07677990a9d5577885d4d7

The residents of Cool Blocks that remove the interior fences and walls that separate their back yards to create a single large shared yard -- or several such yards -- could make a wonderful contribution to the care of homeless cats and dogs by creating Cat Yards and Dog Yards where animal-caring residents could cooperatively provide a safe home with food, shelters, care, and love for some several dozens of our city's animal co-residents. (The Cat Yards would need to be covered with bird-excluding netting, of course. The next iteration of the Trap/Neuter/Release paradigm?)

Pet-friendly goes with California-friendly, Water-friendly, Pollinator-friendly, and Solar-friendly, yes?

by GregoryWright
6 months ago

this sounds like a great idea but my concern is that this is brought to us by the same folks who are behind the poorly crafted save the drop campaign which told LA to stop watering their yards. Such a recommendation might seem responsible in the face of the California drought, but that rush to slash urban landscape water use, and in the process let trees, shrubs and lawns decline or die, is shortsighted, foolish, expensive and, most tragic of all, unnecessary.

It’s shortsighted because the urban landscape provides numerous benefits and amenities that add immeasurably to the quality of our lives. To list just a few, trees, shrubs and lawns provide: beauty and ornament; shade and energy savings in heating and cooling; privacy; food; wildlife habitat; oxygen; jobs; carbon sequestration to help mitigate global warming; rain capture for dust and erosion control; enhanced property values; recreational opportunities; cultural and historic value; and even psychological well-being.

It’s foolish because urban landscape irrigation accounts for such a small part of the water used in California. Although it’s true that 50% of residential water use takes place outdoors, data show that less than 9% of the developed water used in California ends up on the urban landscape. So if we never watered another tree, shrub, ground cover, lawn or flower again in California, the state would save at the most 9% of its water.

It’s expensive because, as landscapes go dry, the direct costs could be enormous to manage and clean up dead and dying trees, retrofit irrigation systems and replant landscapes. Also, numerous indirect or hidden costs are associated with this strategy, including lawsuits over property damage and human injury or even death from failing trees, increased fire risk and, in the long-term, lost jobs and reduced economic activity for gardeners and landscapers. And when all that vegetation dies, untold amounts of carbon is released back into the atmosphere.

It’s tragic because research at the University of California over the last 30 years shows that through appropriate landscape water management — the right amount, at the right time — we can reduce water use 30% or more. We could therefore meet most of the mandated cutback goals yet still retain our trees, shrubs, ground covers and, yes, even some area of lawn. It’s absolutely unnecessary to let them go brown and die. It’s also unnecessary to make wholesale changes in our landscape palette, ripping out established flora and replanting with “drought tolerant” plants, to save water. Our research has shown that most of our trees, shrubs and ground covers in California if planted, established, and cared for and irrigated properly are already quite drought tolerant.

by ittakesagarden
5 months ago

Gregory, thanks so much for your creative idea! While a focus of Cool
Blocks LA is on building healthy, resourceful, and resilient neighborhood blocks, the program format has also been shown to foster innovative solutions to neighborhood challenges such as the one you mention.

by ljmack1
5 months ago

We appreciate your feedback, Diana! To clarify, Cool Blocks LA is an initiative of the not-for-profit Neighborhood Council Sustainability Alliance, which was not responsible for creating the City of LA's Save the Drop campaign.

by ljmack1
5 months ago

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Submission Began
Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Submission Ended
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
at 07:00 PM UTC

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Voting Began
Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Voting Ended
Tuesday, November 03, 2015
at 08:00 PM UTC

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Winner Announced
Tuesday, December 08, 2015