- Fund tree-planting program and create Historic tree registry
- Build Community Gardens and more Parks in the westside
- End the Belmont Pool Project
- Protect residents from unclean air
- Cover sulfur piles in the LA Port
What does this mean? Long Beach is a historic city and there is a vague dividing line from Signal Hill across to the LA River and also down to the Ocean which delineates the wealthier section of the City from the poorer districts. Equity means bringing equal access and equal opportunity to all our people, whether they be well off or struggling. Children don’t know the difference, and we should emulate them in their innocent perception.
When I first came to Long Beach in 1984 we were known as the Garden City or the International City. We were international because of the port and the Queen Mary, but we were the Garden City because we had more parks per capita than any other city in the south. I wish we could say the same today. Some very bad decisions have been made in the past two decades which has affected the greenspace of Long Beach. We need to define those mistakes and then correct them.
The City decided without much forethought to put all the median strips with their trees in the hands of the Public Works Department (which had no expertise in horticulture) and took all our treescape away from Parks and Rec (which had the talent, the knowledge, and the resources to treat, manage and maintain our green spaces). Whether the city thought that it was saving a buck, it was a horrible move, and it has cost this city tremendously. We have arbitrarily lost hundred-year-old trees, and we have lost bird and animal habitat with an appalling ferocity
If we want an equitable City we need a major tree-planting Program. (We used Community Block Grant Funding for such projects in the past, so we did not need to use City funds. We also used volunteer labor so again we were cost-effective.) Today throughout the West side of the City, the Crews are chopping down Magnolia Trees due to snail scale infestation. Not one tree has been planted to replace those removed. Had we gotten to this problem earlier we might have treated the trees and stopped the infestation, but we didn’t have anyone with expertise in the City to guide us. Just recently the City hired an arborist, but it was far too late. What we need is an Urban Forester. We need overall planning across the entire City to not only replace trees but to super plant trees. This is imperative if we are to make a challenge to Global warming in our City.
The Westside has a lack of parks. We have a huge opportunity now to use the space recently made available along the LA River for a large Park. I am in favor of keeping such a space free of concrete or any other non-permeable landscape. We need nature trails, wide-open meadows,
original habitat trees, and growth with a mindset to restore the landscape to its natural setting. This inclusion of new parkland would help to mitigate the greenspace inequity of the City.
Going out on a limb here; we have privately owned vacant lots in the westside. The City charges those owners $465.00 per quarter just to have a vacant lot. I suggest we make agreements to create local community gardens until such time as those lots are sold or developed. In this coming Recession, the availability of fresh vegetables will be most restricted in our communities of color and the Black Community. Community gardens bring joy and hope and bind neighborhoods together in common purpose. Children learn and enjoy, parents teach and participate and the community is glued together.
There was a discussion about the Belmont Pool during the League of Women Voters forum. I am against building the Olympic pool for a number of reasons, not the least of which it would be located on ground only 1 foot above ocean lever, and if all the City’s experts are correct that would give the pool a 15-year lifespan. And I have many other considerations. But think about this. The Belmont Pool is a photo op for politicians. It is not one of the greatest necessities on the Eastside. It would cost conservatively 85 million. 60 million would be funded by the Tidelands Trust fund. I submit that if we had 20 million dollars in the budget, we could build 5 pools throughout the westside to serve the greater population in those districts. Now that is what is meant by environmental equity.
Another complicated issue is the Diesel Death Row. We have a systematic problem with trucks idling along the 710 freeway. The exhaust is toxic. The people of the Westside suffer 35% more asthma, COPD, respiratory failure, and death than any other section of the city. The combination of Diesel and MHG from the refineries is a noxious fume cloud that descends upon unsuspecting residents. I think we can all agree that clean air is a human right. We need to work to end the congestion of the 710 and find another exit from the Port of Long Beach.
We need to stop the MHG emissions, and we need to cover the sulfur mountains in the Port of Los Angeles. We have waited over 30 years for the Port of Los Angeles to do the right thing. And they have not moved. Due to the strong work of Alan Lowenthal, we covered the coke dust piles in the Long Beach Port. We fully expected the LA Port to coordinate, but they did not. I don’t care if it is a lawsuit or anything else, we must force the Port of Los Angeles to cover the 10 story high mountains of sulfur in their jurisdiction. Every day from 3:00 PM onward the prevailing winds come from San Pedro into Long Beach. Every single one of us is impacted. ( the Westside worse than the east) Those little dots of yellow on your cars are moistened sulfur ( sulfuric acid) which is eroding your paint finish. Think about what it is doing to your lungs.
When you dig deep into it, doing the right thing for environmental equity is doing the right thing for all.