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Following Months Of Less Traffic, LA City Council Votes To Encourage Businesses To Provide More Remote Work Options

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to seek ways to incentivize businesses to provide more ways for employees to work remotely to help decrease traffic and carbon emissions.

The unanimously approved motion, introduced in May by Councilman David Ryu, would have city staff report back to the council on methods to encourage businesses to adopt the policies in hopes of allowing more people to work from home, reducing commuter traffic, carbon emissions and smog.

A layer of pollution can be seen hovering over Los Angeles, California on October 17, 2017, where even though air quality has improved in recent decades, smog levels remain among the nations's worst, with wildfires in the region also contributing to poor air quality. / AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

"The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many businesses to adopt a remote work and telecommuting model," Ryu said.

"This also happens to be the more climate-friendly model and it should be the future of work in Los Angeles. I'm proud to see the City Council take this step to tackle climate change, reduce traffic and build a healthier future by changing the way we commute."

City departments and agencies will report on the health and economic costs related to unhealthy levels of smog, carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter, also known as PM2.5, one of the most harmful forms of air pollution.

Cost comparisons of telecommuting versus a traditional work setting would also be considered as part of the motion.

A breakdown of the cost of renting office space, furniture and utilities, and financial and tax relief options would be shown to incentivize private industries to adopt flexible work schedules and increased telecommuting options.

Ryu said that after decades of progress, the air quality in Los Angeles has been worsening in recent years, disproportionately harming Black, Latino and Asian communities.

In 2019, Los Angeles had 153 days of unhealthy levels of PM2.5 particulates, which have been linked to respiratory illnesses like asthma.

Air pollution-related illnesses cost the city roughly $22 billion a year, but the city saw significantly cleaner air at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and Safer at Home order, according to Physicians for Social Responsibility.

In April, the Safer-at-Home order decreased the number of cars on Southern California roads by about 80%.

Earth Day

"We saw that L.A. had some of the cleanest air quality in the world," said Glory Dolphin Hammes, CEO of IQ Air,  a tech company that tracks global air quality.

"About a year ago, Los Angeles was ranked the worst air quality in the entire country- and now we're seeing some of the best air quality in the world."

By August, a new study by the Southern California Association of Governments found that since mid-May traffic has nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels.

According to the study, 70% percent of traffic has returned.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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