Clean Up Green Up Campaign Update, August 2011

Greetings from Clean Up Green Up!

Union de Vecinos Director Leonardo Vilchis at Launch Event, Photo courtesy of Esteban Ramirez

Clean Up Green Up is a cutting-edge policy initiative that will establish “green zones” in three LA toxic hotspot communities where residents suffer dire health effects from the “cumulative environmental impacts” of too many near-by polluting industries. The first Clean Up Green Up neighborhoods will be inBoyleHeights, Pacoima and Wilmington.

So what’s been happening since January to make a Los Angeles Clean Up Green Up policy a reality?

Short answer: Lots! Read on and find out what you can do to help make LA neighborhoods cleaner and greener.

Clean Up Green Up —The Latest
Public Health Convening on Cumulative Impacts
Solid Research Supports the Clean Up Green Up Campaign
The Clean Up Green Up Team Gains a Policy Veteran
Community Spotlight: Walking the Walk with Pacoima Beautiful
Clean Up Green Up Leaders Making News
What’s Next?

Clean Up Green Up —The Latest

Los Angeles City Council Member Jose Huizar, with support from Councilmembers Janice Hahn, Tony Cardenas and Richard Alarcon, introduced the Clean Up Green Up motion in Los Angeles City Council on January 21st.

The next task: gathering the answers to the key questions about our cumulative impacts policy framework. People want to know which types of establishments would be covered by the Clean Up Green Up policy, the requirements they would have to follow and the incentives available to businesses to help them clean up and green up.

With the expert assistance of researchers at Occidental College and USC’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity, we are very close to the answers. Neighbors and researchers have joined in an effort to document the stationary sources of pollution in the proposed Clean Up Green Up pilot communities of Boyle Heights, Pacoima and Wilmington. Local members of Communities for a Better Environment, Coalition for a Safe Environment, Pacoima Beautiful and Union de Vecinos (the four organizations leading the Clean Up Green Up campaign) are analyzing research results and exploring policy options to address the concentration of polluting industries in their neighborhoods and create economically vital and livable Green Zone areas.

With the support of our Council allies, we anticipate that Committee hearings on the Clean Up Green Up motion will take place in the Fall. Stay tuned—we’re going to need to hear your voice! 

Public Health Convening on Cumulative Impacts
A first-of-its-kind gathering on April 6th drew over one hundred participants to downtown Los Angeles to discuss the issue of cumulative environmental impacts in urban areas. The event, sponsored by the Liberty Hill Foundation and the Prevention Institute, was designed to increase awareness and understanding of cumulative impacts as a critical public health problem.

This half-day briefing coincided with the release of Liberty Hill Foundation’s new report, Hidden Hazards: A Call to Action for Healthy, Livable Communities.

Dr. Richard Jackson of the UCLA School of Public Health, Photo courtesy of Diane Lefer, LA Progressive

A number of public health and environmental justice leaders presented the latest research findings on the disparate impact of concentrations of pollutants in low-income and African-American and Latino neighborhoods. But the discussion wasn’t confined to analyzing the problem; speakers also outlined emerging strategies to build healthy, vibrant communities.

The event signaled the beginning of a deeper dialogue between the public health community and groups that have been working on the issue of toxic hot spots for some time.

The event co-sponsors helped ensure an impressive turn out for the event: American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Breathe California of Los Angeles County, Community Health Councils, Inc., Healthy Places Coalition, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, Southern California Public Health Association and USC’s Environmental Health Sciences Center.

Solid Research Supports the Clean Up Green Up Campaign
Rigorous research continues to emerge to show the need for the Clean Up Green Up campaign. A research team consisting of Manuel Pastor, PhD, USC-Program for Environmental and Regional Equity, James Sadd, PhD, Occidental College, and Rachel Morello-Frosh, PhD, UC Berkeley, School ofPublic Health, has created an innovative screening tool that pinpoints areas where people are most at-risk for environmental harm. They have systematically documented what many environmental justice organizations knew from anecdotal evidence—there are inordinate concentrations of pollution sources in LA’s low-income, African-American and Latino communities.

The screening tool identifies the potential health dangers in toxic hotspot neighborhoods by using mapping technology and a number of data sources. The research tool includes maps of polluting sources overlaid with information about the income level of the residents and other factors that contribute to increased risk.

A new collaboration between these researchers and the Los Angeles Department of Public Health has the potential to yield even more specific information about local pollution sources and community health impacts.

They are working to combine the information the screening tool has collected with the County’s research on rates of asthma and other diseases associated with cumulative environmental impacts. This combination of information has the potential to yield a more complete and specific picture of the connection between pollution sources and disease.

The Clean Up Green Up campaign is enthusiastic about the Department of Public Health’s interest in environmental exposures and finding ways to enhance the evidence-based research tools that support our policy work.

The Clean Up Green Up Team Gains a Policy Veteran
Don Spivack, a 28-year veteran of the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA/LA) has joined the Clean Up Green Up team!

Don’s City Hall experience brings critical expertise to our efforts to devise a community environmental health policy inLos Angelesthat will discourage further environmental hazards in residential areas, reduce existing levels of pollution and create more vibrant neighborhoods through economic development strategies.

You may have met Don before—he was recently featured in a New York Times article about the work he has taken on since his retirement from the CRA/LA.

Welcome Don!

Community Spotlight: Walking the Walk with Pacoima Beautiful

Participants of Pacoima Beautiful Toxic Tour, May 7, 2011, Photo courtesy of Nury Martinez

On Saturday, May 7th, Pacoima Beautiful, one of the Clean up Green Up lead organizations, hosted a Toxic Tour as part of its ongoing efforts to build community support for the campaign. Pacoima Beautiful (PB) members invited residents of the other two proposed Green Zones,BoyleHeights andWilmington, to learn about cumulative impacts in thisNortheast San Fernando Valley community and what Pacoima residents are doing to improve environmental health.

After pan dulce and coffee, the multi-generational tour group filled two 15-passenger vans and started out from Hansen Dam Recreational Park. PB staffers Lauren Ahkiam and Marcos Zamora-Sánchez led the tour to Pacoima’s toxic hot spots—including the Bradley Landfill, long a source of concern for local residents because it processes such environmentally hazardous materials as concrete. The tour also moved along an industrial corridor of transmission repair, auto body paint shops, and granite cutting sites—all located adjacent to homes, schools, senior centers.

Another stop: the former site of Price Pfister, a plumbing fixture company that closed its doors and moved toMexicoin the wake of the 1992 NAFTA treaty. The closing took away jobs but left behind contaminated soil and groundwater.

Pacoima Beautiful led the effort to bring in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the Price-Pfister site. It is now the home of Plaza Pacoima, anchored by Costco and Best Buy stores. The final Toxic Tour stop was Haddon Avenue and Del Sur Street, where participants learned about PB’s plan to create a greenway with trails and native plants along the Pacoima Wash.

After witnessing Pacoima’s cumulative impact problems and visiting sites that embody the notion of clean up green up, participants came away with greater appreciation for the campaign’s comprehensive approach to addressing cumulative impacts: prevention, reduction and revitalization strategies in three pilot communities. Said one Wilmington resident who took part in the toxic tour, “It helped me put things into perspective.”

Clean Up Green Up Leaders Making News
The Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners recently appointed Clean Up Green Up leader—Jesse Marquez, Executive Director of Wilmington-based Coalition for a Safe Environment—to serve as a director of the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation.

The non-profit trust fund was established in April 2008 after a long community fight to oppose the expansion of the TraPac container terminal (TraPac, established by Mitsui O.S.K Lines, is a leading container terminal operator at the Port of Los Angeles.) A memorandum of understanding between the Port of Los Angeles and environmental, labor and neighborhood groups that opposed expansion of TraPac’s container terminal set up the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation to distribute funds for projects that protect public health and offset the environmental impact of current, past and future Port operations. The money comes from fees on containers entering the Port and could mean as much as $50 million over five years for environmental health projects.

The Harbor Community Benefit Foundation agreement requires an initial $12.04 million that includes $500,000 for organizational costs, $6 million for air filtration systems in select Wilmington schools, $300,000 for an off-Port impact study, and $5.24 million for other mitigation projects.

Other appointees to the trust fund board include Dr. James Sadd, Professor of environmental science at Occidental College, and Michele Prichard, Director of Common Agenda at the Liberty Hill Foundation, both involved for many years in work on environmental health and justice issues. Other directors include Professor Sean Hecht, Dr. Silvia Prieto, Peter Peyton and Kathleen Woodfield.

Congratulations to all!

What’s Next?
The Clean Up Green Up Campaign will be all over City Hall starting in the Fall. If your organization would like to provide a formal endorsement for the Clean Up Green Up Campaign, please email info@cleanupgreenupla.org and we’ll be happy to send materials or make a presentation.

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