On Wednesday, community groups from three Los Angeles “toxic hotspot” communities – Boyle Heights, Pacoima/Sun Valley and Wilmington – joined Councilmembers José Huizar and Nury Martinez at a rally at the Breed Street Elementary School playground in Boyle Heights in support of the landmark Clean Up Green Up anti-pollution measure. Hours later, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance.
The rally and vote brings Clean Up Green Up full-circle — the measure was launched as a City Council motion by Councilmember José Huizar, and former members Janice Hahn and Richard Alarcón and supporters at a Breed Street School rally in January 2011 —Martinez attended as then Executive Director of Pacoima Beautiful. Wednesday’s vote concludes that journey.
Clean Up Green Up combats adverse health effects related to concentrations of industrial uses and freight traffic in three L.A. pilot communities — Boyle Heights, Pacoima/Sun Valley and Wilmington.
“Clean Up Green Up is a groundbreaking effort where the City of Los Angeles is saying we want to do more to protect our most vulnerable communities from pollution while offering up green solutions for businesses,” said Councilmember Huizar, who championed the program and oversaw its implementation as Chair of PLUM. “I am particularly proud of our efforts to improve air filtration systems citywide. This will protect children and families who live near freeways for years to come. I thank all our partners for their support.”
Partners include Liberty Hill, Union de Vecinos, Pacoima Beautiful, Communities for a Better Environment and Coalition for a Safe Environment, Wilmington. All three areas in the Clean Up Green Up pilot zones are included in the California Environmental Protection Agency’s EnviroScreen top 5% of communities vulnerable to pollution health effects.
"With Clean Up Green Up we shift from the discussion being us versus them, to a conversation about how we can coexist," said Councilmember Nury Martinez. "It's not clean up by getting rid of industry. It's clean up by greening up together."
The measure aims to improve these neighborhoods with basic land-use guidelines for development where industrial use and residential neighborhoods collide, to make them more green-friendly and compatible.
One Citywide change is of particular importance: requiring new developments within 1,000’ of a freeway (or existing ones that change their HVAC mechanical systems) to use higher-rated air filtration systems, which can begin to remove the hazardous emissions from freeways.
This represents a major improvement as studies show higher rates of asthma and other adverse health issues for residents living near freeways with 1,000 feet as the distance within which freeway pollution is higher than general background air pollution.
The Clean Up Green initiative includes a support component for businesses, a City Hall ombudsperson office, located in the Bureau of Sanitation, to help local business owners navigate permitting and environmental compliance processes and guide them to existing resources that help them run energy efficient and clean and green.
Clean Up Green Up sets up a Supplemental Use District with development standards; requires air filtration near freeways Citywide as part of the building code; and creates an Ombudsperson to facilitate incentives and enforcement in three areas of the City where pollution levels are especially high: Boyle Heights, Wilmington & Pacoima/Sun Valley.
It promises a three prong approach, rooted in the City’s land-use authority, in order to reduce the negative impacts resulting from incompatible industrial & residential uses, and in a full-time, permanent Ombudsperson for the program:
1) Stricter standards on new developments or major expansions.
a) Specifically, land use guidelines will shape landscaping, lighting, building heights, parking lot orientation, fencing, enclosure of stored materials and dust/smoke/fumes; and a 500’ buffer between auto shops and residences.
b) A Conditional Use Permit for new refineries
2) Assist existing business by directing incentive funding to the area; and
3) Coordinated, improved enforcement against unpermitted operators who undercut permitted ones.
The rules apply to a lengthy list of “industries of concern,” from oil refineries to warehouses to auto body shops. They would affect new buildings, buildings undergoing “major improvements,” and those with changes of use.
The code changes will, over time, help soften the conflicts where industrial land uses mix with residential ones. Clean Up Green Up offers a reasonable set of development conditions to make industry-heavy areas near residential ones more livable and to reduce conflicts with adjacent uses, without jeopardizing viable industrial lands and uses.