With the year coming to a close, reflecting back on 2016 reminds us of the progress we’ve made towards health equity and the complex challenges that continue to lie ahead. Fortunately, this year’s accomplishments and the future wins in 2017 and beyond are because of the organizing and community power built over years of working on community-centered solutions for positive social change. In 2016, Long Beach saw advancements in many of our target changes as laid out in our Community Action Plan 3.0, which was updated this past August.
Community Knowledge, Leadership, and Power
- Long Beach Rising! organizes the fifth annual People’s State of the City at Franklin Middle School where over 450 people attend.
- BHCLB hosts the Five-Year Celebration at the Molina Events Center to commemorate the first half of the Building Healthy Communities initiative in Long Beach.
- Community residents and organizers graduate from the BHC Interpreting for Social Justice training to support bilingual participation in community events and meetings.
- The first ever Adelante Long Beach course is launched; a one day version of the Long Beach Rising! training done entirely in Spanish.
- The first “Place Make the Vote” event takes place at the Long Beach Senior Center on Fourth Street for the June primary election in collaboration with City Fabrick, Long Beach Rising!, and the Long Beach City Clerk’s office.
- The BHC Summer Gathering hosts over 250 community residents and numerous partner organizations at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park to combine art and social justice and engage new community residents.
- Long Beach Rising! graduates 28 new community organizers as part of the Long Beach Rising leadership training program.
- Statewide ballot measures supported by Long Beach Rising! and other community partners are approved by voters, including taxes for education funding, cigarette tax for healthcare expansion, juvenile justice reform, and marijuana legalization.
- The Long Beach City Council votes to raise the citywide minimum wage with a pathway to $15 by 2021.
- BHCLB hosts a roundtable discussion on workforce development with 35 community organizations from across the city to dialogue about our workforce research and identify gaps within the landscape of workforce development.
- Community partners and residents win the lawsuit challenging the Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) railyard, effectively stopping the project from moving forward.
- The Environmental Health Workgroup kicks off the Green Zones campaign by hosting the first community workshop at the Westside Christian Church in West Long Beach.
Equity in School Culture and Climate
- A new school wellness center opens at the remodeled Roosevelt Elementary School campus as the result of a collaboration between Khmer Girls in Action and The Children’s Clinic.
- The Every Student Matters campaign and Parent Organizing Workgroup organize the Voices and Visions Town Hall for youth and parents in LBUSD to discuss school culture and climate and hear from candidates for school board. Over 100 parents, youth, and community members attend.
- Partners in the Youth Workgroup release the Untold Stories Behind One of America’s Best Urban School Districts report. The publication, release, and promotion of the report is supported by BHCLB.
Food Access and Sovereignty
- The Long Beach City Council approves a feasibility study to implement an urban agriculture incentive program to open up vacant lots for urban farming.
Mobility and Land Use
- The first bike lanes in Central Long Beach and a road diet are implemented on Alamitos Avenue from Pacific Coast Highway to Seventh Street to improve safety and bikeability.
- The Neighborhoods Workgroup launches the first class of the People’s Planning School in collaboration with Long Beach Advocates for Change and residents in the Martin Luther King, Jr. neighborhood.
Parent and Student Engagement
- The Parent Organizing Workgroup hosts a celebration to close the Parent Committee’s inaugural school year.
- Every Student Matters youth and parent leaders organize get-out-the-vote efforts in Central, West, and North Long Beach to target young voters and support education funding and juvenile justice reform.
All these accomplishments are due to the tireless work of our partner organizations and hub team. It’s been a full year, and we know this doesn’t capture it all! What else stands out to you? Leave us a comment below and share your thoughts.
For the working-class Latino, Filipino, and African American families in West Long Beach, the desire for safe streets, outdoor activities, and clean air is clouded by diesel exhaust, air pollution, and refinery gas flares. This combined threat to the health and wellbeing of all residents contributes to the LA area having the deadliest air quality in the nation, according to a new report by the American Thoracic Society. The consequences of pollution have moved many long-time residents into action to successfully organize against large-scale projects such as the Southern California International Gateway (SCIG), but the latest threat to health and safety is on the horizon. Now neighbors are uniting to say that the largest oil refinery on the West Coast doesn’t belong near people’s homes, children’s schools, or in their community.
Since announcing the intention to expand refinery operations in January 2015, the Tesoro Corporation has unveiled their plans to merge the Carson and Wilmington refineries, which sit directly adjacent to West Long Beach. Among many enhancements, the plans include the construction of massive crude oil storage tanks totaling 3.4 million barrels, which can be likened to a whole new oil terminal. The Tesoro refinery already generates pollution that harms children and families living nearby–and their proposed expansion adds insult to injury for Long Beach residents, especially the working-class families already overburdened by air pollution and other toxic stressors.
Among the concerns of residents and environmentalists is that an accident here could be catastrophic for the entire Southern California region and Tesoro has a “dirty” track record of safety. In 2010, at the Tesoro facility in Washington state, a heat exchanger exploded with a blast so intense that an enormous fireball blazed high above the refinery and resulted in the death of seven refinery employees. In 2013, a Tesoro pipeline in rural North Dakota ruptured, spilling an estimated 20,000 barrels of oil over seven acres. This spill, caused by a leak the size of a quarter, was one of the largest land-based oil releases in US history.
“With this expansion, Tesoro will continue to grow as the top climate polluter in California with its expanded Wilmington and Carson refinery adding increased greenhouse gas emissions. Profits shouldn’t be put above people’s health and safety,” explains Gisele Fong, chair of the Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach Environmental Health Workgroup.
Chief among all concerns from residents is how Tesoro has not acted in good faith. Tesoro has taken advantage of the short approval process required by the Air Quality Management District (AQMD, the regional government body tasked with protecting the environment) and attempted to minimize public outreach to directly affected residents of West Long Beach. Thanks to the labor and advocacy of community groups like Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) and East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ), a community meeting was held in addition to the public hearing, and the comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Report was extended.
On top of fast-tracking the project, many residents have witnessed Tesoro attach strings to their community investments, resulting in organizations they fund publicly coming out to support the Tesoro expansion project with no acknowledgment of the harmful impacts. At the first and only community meeting held in West Long Beach after organizations demanded accountability from Tesoro and AQMD, some attendees were horrified that the advertised “free” dinner was only provided after they signed a pledge stating they supported the planned refinery expansion. Many of the attending residents who live in the refinery’s neighborhood were glad to skip the free meal so that they could freely articulate their concerns.
While AQMD works to answer community feedback and produce the final Environmental Impact Report this fall, neighbors and families in West Long Beach are continuing to raise their concerns to protect their already overburdened community. For more information or to stay up to date about efforts to stop Tesoro, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Para las familias latinas, Filipinas y afroamericanas de clases trabajadoras en el oeste de Long Beach, el deseo por calles seguras, actividades al aire libre, y aire puro esta empañado por escapes de diésel, contaminación del aire, y llamaradas de gas de refinería. Esta combinación amenaza a la salud y bienestar de todos los residentes contribuyentes del área de LA teniendo la calidad de aire más mortal de la nación, de acuerdo al nuevo reporte de American Thoracic Society. Las consecuencias de la contaminación han movilizado a muchos residentes para que tomen acción y se organicen exitosamente en contra de proyectos a gran escala como el Southern California International Gateway (SCIG), pero la más reciente amenaza a la salud y seguridad está en el horizonte. Ahora los vecindarios se están uniendo para comunicar que la refinería más grande de la costa oeste no debe estar cerca de hogares, escuelas, o en la comunidad.
Desde el anuncio de la intención de expandir las operaciones de la refinería en enero 2015, la corporación Tesoro ha revelado sus planes para fusionar las refinerías de Carson y Wilmington, las cuales se encuentran directamente adyacentes al oeste de Long Beach. Entre muchas mejoras, los planes incluyen la construcción de tanques de almacenamiento masivo de petróleo crudo totalizando 3.4 millones de barriles, la cual puede compararse con una nueva terminal petrolera. La refinería Tesoro ya genera contaminación que perjudica a niños y familias que viven cerca y su propuesta de ampliación añade insulto a la herida de los residentes de Long Beach, especialmente a las familias de clase trabajadoras ya sobrecargadas por la contaminación del aire y otros factores de estrés tóxicos.
Entre las preocupaciones de residentes y ambientalistas es que un accidente aquí pudiera ser catastrófico para la región entera del sur de California y Tesoro tiene un historial de seguridad “sucio”. En 2010, en las instalaciones de Tesoro en el estado de Washington, un intercambiador de calor creo una explosión tan intensa que una bola de fuego enorme ardió por encima de la refinería y resulto en la muerte de siete empleados. En 2013, una tubería de Tesoro en el rural North Dakota se rompió derramando un estimado de 20,000 barriles de petróleo sobre siete hectáreas. Este derrame, causado por una fuga del tamaño de una moneda de veinticinco centavos, fue uno de los derrames de petróleo en tierra más grandes en la historia de USA.
“Con esta ampliación, Tesoro continuara creciendo como el más grande contaminador del clima en California con su refinería ampliada en Wilmington y Carson añadiendo emisiones de gas de efecto invernadero. Las ganancias no deben anteponerse a la salud y seguridad de las personas”, explica Gisele Fong, presidente de Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach Environmental Health Workgroup.
La mayor preocupación de los residentes es que Tesoro no ha actuado con buena fe. Tesoro ha tomado ventaja del corto proceso de aprobación requerido por el Air Quality Management District (AQMD, cuerpo regional gubernamental encargado de proteger el medio ambiente) e intento minimizar la divulgación a los residentes directamente afectados del oeste de Long Beach. Gracias al trabajo y apoyo de grupos comunitarios como Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) y East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ), se llevó a cabo una reunión comunitaria en adición a la audiencia pública y se extendió el periodo de comentarios para el proyecto de reporte de impacto ambiental.
Sobre el Proyecto de via-rapida, muchos residentes han sido testigos de cómo Tesoro ata cuerdas a sus inversiones comunitarias, resultando en organizaciones que financia públicamente y que lo apoyan sin conocimiento de los efectos perjudiciales. En la primer y única reunión comunitaria celebrada en el oeste de Long Beach después que organizaciones exigieron cuentas a Tesoro y AQMD, algunos asistentes se horrorizaron de que la anunciada cena “gratuita” fue provista únicamente después de firmar una promesa indicando que apoyaban la planeada expansión de la refinería. Muchos de los residentes que asistieron y que viven en el vecindario de la refinería, encantados despreciaron la comida gratuita para poder hablar libremente sobre sus preocupaciones.
Mientras AQMD trabaja para responder a comentarios y producir el reporte final de impacto ambiental este otoño, vecinos y familias en el oeste de Long Beach continúan elevando sus preocupaciones para proteger su ya sobrecargada comunidad. Para más información o para estar al día sobre los esfuerzos para detener a Tesoro, envíe un correo electrónico a email@example.com.
The news media have reported widely on the Superior Court ruling that may stop the development of the Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) rail yard and its threat to the health of surrounding communities like West Long Beach. Yet, we cannot forget the important role that the voice of the community has played in this struggle to prevent the rail yard next to our homes and schools. My personal story is just one of many neighbors who have been involved from the beginning.
I have lived in West Long Beach for approximately 20 years and have two children who graduated from university during the many years of this fight. Like most immigrants, I was seeking the American Dream and decided to make this neighborhood my home because of an employment opportunity and the presence of others in my family.
Once my children started school and began to make friends, I decided to become active in the community to better address their needs, first through advocating for programs at my son’s Head Start center. However, after my daughter began to attend Hudson Elementary School, I immediately noticed that the campus was near the freeway, refineries and railroads. Once when I was volunteering on the playground, the principal had announced that the children should return to their classrooms because of the dangerous level of air pollution.
I soon joined the Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma and learned about the consequences of air pollution on our health. One day, my daughter’s friend had a severe asthma attack and one of us had to run back to her school because that was where her only inhaler was kept. I hated to see this little girl suffering. Soon afterwards my daughter was diagnosed as pre-asthmatic. This experience motivated me to became even more involved in efforts to stop the growing threats to our children’s health.
Because the health of my children became such a personal issue for me, I became preoccupied in preventing the proposed development of the SCIG. I continued working with other residents as part of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, often putting in as many as 16 hours each day. I knocked on doors to share information and soon many neighbors began to respond with their concerns. In truth, my family did not always appreciate my overwhelming focus on environmental justice, especially my constant participation in public meetings that went on for hours, sometimes as late as midnight.
Repeatedly, public officials rejected the community’s voice but this gave me more motivation because I had faith that we would ultimately win. We even went to Omaha to rally in front of Warren Buffett’s headquarters of Berkshire Hathaway because its plans for the SCIG would expand operations of the BNSF railroad. We made a video for him called “Dear Mr. Warren Buffett” and made a giant inhaler that we used at a press conference. He didn’t meet with us but he certainly could not miss the media attention the community created.
After leading these community efforts and getting more people like me involved, I am optimistic about the progress we have made. While many of us now believe that the SCIG will not proceed, we still face other hazards, ranging from the expansion of the 710 Freeway to increased pollution from adjacent refineries. No matter the problem, our community will continue to be at the center of these solutions. As we celebrate this important victory, we encourage everyone to join us in making Long Beach a healthy community that we can all be proud to live in.
Elena Rodriguez is a 20-year resident of West Long Beach. This Guest Commentary was printed in the Long Beach Press-Telegram on April 28, 2016.