July 3 2017

A facility with two million cubic feet of flammable, combustible gas across the street from homes.

Auto body shops just steps from schools. A massive port complex situated in a community with all the related impacts–air pollution, trucks parking in residential areas, noise, traffic, hazardous conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists.

This scene could easily describe the devastating conditions in Long Beach, Wilmington and Carson. But we know our communities aren’t suffering the impacts of environmental injustice alone. Communities in San Diego like City Heights, National City and Barrio Logan are impacted too.

This Industrial site with two million feet of flammable gas sits next to homes in City Heights.

 

About forty of us from BHC Long Beach and our partners in LA chartered a bus to meet up with our colleagues at EHC. During our cross site visit, we gained insights that will inform our own Green Zones Long Beach campaign. We were eager to discuss the following provocations:

  • What were the difficulties that you’ve overcome?
  • What were some of the strategic levers that you’ve used to propel the work forward?
  • How have you kept people engaged in community campaigns that take many years?

It was thrilling for us to see the tangible wins, which were the result of years of work by EHC and community resident organizers. Such as Paradise Creek, a gorgeous affordable housing project, first envisioned in 2005 that has 201 new homes, with a built-in 100% priority for National City residents. Paradise Creek is just steps from a light rail stop and a beautiful, recently restored creek. The timely implementation of the Green Zones prove that when the community gets organized, real impact is possible.

In Long Beach, it will take deep tenacity, a commitment to work together, leadership by residents and community organizers, creativity, and a strong vision of health equity.

Our field trip showed us that Green Zones are not representative of a single policy; rather, they represent the impact of actualized People Power. Furthermore, we realized our environmental health and justice partners in Long Beach achieved Green Zone successes even before the term “Green Zones” existed!

To end our day, we were honored to experience a Chicano Park murals tour by Mario Torero. He painted many of the murals in the park. This was a compelling way to be reminded of the power of art in our movements, and the necessity to Know Our History.

Thank you to our partners at Environmental Health Coalition, California Environmental Justice Alliance, SCOPE LA, and Building Healthy Communities Long Beach—EndOil, East Yard Communities for EJ, Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma (LBACA), Green Education, Century Villages at Cabrillo, Healthy Active LB, Walk LB, Long Beach Alliance for Food & Fitness, AOC7 Neighborhood Association, CSULB, and Long Beach Residents Empowered (LiBRE).

We know the work of building healthier communities is daunting but thanks to Green Zones we’re beginning to “breathe easy”.