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L.A. to partner with 3 universities on clean technology

April 16, 2009|Maeve Reston

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced a partnership Wednesday with three local universities aimed at positioning the city to compete for hundreds of thousands of federal dollars for clean technology research and a proposed state institute to study climate change.

The partnership with Caltech, UCLA and USC is part of the agenda Villaraigosa outlined in his State of the City speech Tuesday to lure and retain companies that focus on green endeavors such as solar, wind, battery and hydrogen fuel cell technologies.

Villaraigosa said the CleanTech LA alliance, which also includes the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, Los Angeles Business Council and Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., represented a "giant leap forward in our effort to make this city the global capital of clean technology."

"We're formalizing a partnership to leverage what we've done over the last four years in the city, what we're doing at all three universities to develop the jobs of the new economy," the mayor said, touting the clean trucks program at the Port of Los Angeles and his goal of drawing 20% of the city's electrical power from renewable energy by 2010.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said the partnership would ensure that the region "asserts its place as a hub in the emerging new clean-technology business." Most recently, the mayor's office has been working with the Community Redevelopment Agency to transform a four-mile industrial stretch -- along the Los Angeles River east of downtown -- into an incubator for clean-technology companies.

The area, which is rich in tax incentives, would be anchored at the northern end by a planned Department of Water and Power research center at the agency's Main Street site that would house laboratory projects with researchers from Caltech, USC and UCLA.

UCLA officials said they hope to test small-scale wind turbines at the site. USC officials are drawing up plans for a research center with the DWP to study how to make data centers more energy efficient.

Officials said the partnership stemmed from the city's intent to compete for a possible California climate change institute. Los Angeles was not even in contention four years ago as a site for the California stem cell research institute, and many city officials now view that as a missed opportunity.

A version of the climate change center proposal was approved by the Legislature last year but vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said the legislation was "too limiting and too premature."

State Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Los Angeles) reintroduced a proposal for the center in February. No decisions have been made about the process for locating the center -- but it is clear that competition with other cities will be fierce if the proposal advances.

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maeve.reston@latimes.com

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