Los Angeles neighborhoods stand up for new pollution regulations
Environmentalists in Los Angeles say they have a new approach to cleaning up some of the city's most polluted neighborhoods. The pilot project called Clean Up Green Up aligns environmental interests with those of local businesses.
Residents in Los Angeles' most polluted neighborhoods are ready for a breath of fresh air.
Outside a meeting of the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee late last week, a crowd of Los Angeles residents voiced support for the Clean Up Green Up project.
The Clean Up Green Up plan calls for special zoning, limiting pollution, and prioritizing funding for small industries to purchase cleaner equipment in some of Los Angeles' most polluted neighborhoods. The "toxic hotspots" include Boyle Heights, Pacoima and Wilmington. The proposal is a response to residents who say enough is enough — no more pollution.
High school senior Janet Loredo spoke about the damaging effects of pollution in her neighborhood outside the Planning and Land Use Management Committee meeting.
"I have eye infections and my vision has been affected by the pollution," Loredo said. "Doctors have said it was due to pollution that I have eye infections. My sister is allergic and often gets rashes. My cousin suffers from asthma."
Last month, the American Lung Association published their annual "State of the Air" report, and the Los Angeles metropolitan area was again ranked the most ozone-polluted area in the United States. The population density in Los Angeles combined with local industry in neighborhoods like Loredo's have contributed to high rates of health problems.
According to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, children who grow up in Boyle Heights, one of the neighborhoods slated for Clean Up Green Up regulations, are twice as likely as the average Californian to go to the hospital for asthma.
Researchers at UC Berkeley, the University of Southern California and Occidental College created one-of-a-kind maps to determine which neighborhoods would become Clean Up Green Up zones. To do this, researchers took into account sources of local air pollution such as auto paint and body shops, and combined that with social information including where there is less access to health care or where babies are being born early.
The researchers also asked residents to wear personal air monitors to measure actual exposure to small particles. Professor Jim Sadd at Occidental College said the results of those air tests were jarring.
"What we found was the levels we measured exceeded the state health protective limit about half the time," Sadd said.
As part of the project, businesses within the Clean Up Green Up zones would need to limit new noise pollution or bright lights if they want to expand. But the project isn’t only about limits. It also channels money to businesses so they can make improvements.
Leonardo Vilchis, with the group Union de Vecinos, said keeping businesses in the neighborhoods is a crucial part of the pilot project.
"This is working with them so they continue being participants in their community, contributing to our economy and continue being our neighbors," Vilchis said. "This is not about punishing. This is about modernization."
While some local business owners think the project will encourage businesses to update their equipment, public policy manager Jessica Duboff said it will be ineffective.
"The city is currently in a fiscal crisis, making tough choices and eliminating positions," Duboff said. "Without a strong incentive component, this program becomes a duplicative set of regulations for business that are trying to grow through further investment in our city."
Bill Gallegos, executive director of Communities for a Better Environment, thinks the changes outlined by Clean Up Green Up are groundbreaking.
"This will be the first time in the country that a regulatory entity has considered cumulative impacts, the overall burden of pollution that a community faces, in making its land use and regulatory decisions. That’s huge," Gallegos said.
The Planning and Land Use Management Committee voted in favor of Clean Up Green Up and more planning is underway.
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