Filipinos organize in Long Beach’s Westside

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Filipino residents stretch before the Saturday morning fun walk in Hudson Park.

As the sun rises over Hudson Park in west Long Beach, Filipino seniors gather for coffee, pandesal, and healthy group activities. In Cabrillo High School, Filipino youth in the Sama Sama club meet to talk about the social justice issues happening in the Philippines. At Grace United Methodist Church, low-wage Filipino workers are receiving free legal help to combat wage theft. Altogether, the organizers of the Filipino Migrant Center see these opportunities as avenues to empower the Filipino community and actively engage them in the movement for local and global justice.

California has the highest concentration of Filipinos in the United States. With over four million Filipinos in the country, approximately 17-25% (or one in four or six individuals) are undocumented, leading to issues of health access and immigration. In Long Beach, a large population of Filipinos have settled in the Westside between the bustling Port of Long Beach and the expanding 710 freeway. Many of the Filipino families on the Westside are low-income domestic workers due to lack of job opportunities in their community. As a result, labor trafficking and teenage pregnancies are problems many families face. Within these contexts, the Filipino Migrant Center works to educate, organize, and mobilize the community to address these long-standing problems.

Every week, organizers with the Filipino Migrant Center (FMC) knock on doors to talk about the issues facing Filipino residents and let people know about FMC’s services and activities. Through interactions with residents at clinics, schools, and social events, FMC learns more about the current problems Filipino families face, including the emotional needs of the members themselves. “We can’t address the Filipino community’s emotional and mental health just through our clinics and services,” says Executive Director Joanna Concepcion, “it’s also incorporated in the organizing work we do.”

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Filipino residents came together to celebrate Christmas at “Pasko Sa Westside!”

Beyond the legal services with labor and immigration issues, FMC organizers are also working with Filipinos of all ages to improve the health of the community. The Saturday morning Health and Fun Walks aim to engage more seniors in healthy activities. The Sama Sama youth club (meaning “coming together”) provides Filipino youth a space to learn about culturally relevant education. Social activities (such as their upcoming Christmas Party) provide community building space for residents to meet neighbors.

In addition, FMC is involved in local organizing campaigns to advance the rights and welfare of Filipino migrants within the broader community, such as the Coalition to End Wage Theft and the Language Access Coalition. Joanna Concepcion adds: “We want to help shape a new culture among Filipinos that they have the power, knowledge, and expertise to define what their future looks like here.”

For more information about the Filipino Migrant Center, visit

Long Beach Wins Grant to Study Removing Freeway on Westside

California Department of Transportation awards a quarter million dollar Environmental Justice Transportation Planning Grant to City of Long Beach to develop community-based, Terminal Island Freeway Transition Plan on Westside.

Long Beach – The City of Long Beach announced that they have been awarded a quarter million dollar Environmental Justice Transportation Planning grant through the California Department of Transportation [Caltrans] to develop the Terminal Islang Freeway Transition Plan.

The California Department of Transportation Environmental Justice Grant Program:

“promotes the involvement of low-income and minority communities, and Native American tribal governments in the planning for transportation projects. EJ grants have a clear focus on transportation and community development issues to prevent or mitigate disproportionate, negative impacts while improving mobility, access, safety, and opportunities for affordable housing an economic development.”

Based on the Caltrans Award Listing the plan is to:

“The Terminal Island (TI) Freeway Transition Plan will provide planning and conceptual design services to develop a vision for transforming the TI Freeway into an 88-acre greenbelt and local roads that will directly benefit a disproportionately impacted environmental justice community in West Long Beach. This plan presents a rare opportunity to coordinate replacing an underutilized freeway while mitigating pollution impacts to address long-standing community health concerns.”

From the City of Long Beach press release:

“This grant presents a unique opportunity to work with the community on a plan to replace the underutilized freeway while mitigating pollution impacts to address long-standing community health concerns,” Mayor Bob Foster said.

The transformation of the TI Freeway would constitute one of the largest freeway removal projects in Southern California history, and has the potential to significantly improve the quality of life for West Long Beach residents.

“The transition of the TI Freeway into a local-serving road would enable better circulation between the neighborhoods and schools that are consistently exposed to visual, air quality and noise impacts,” said Councilmember James Johnson, who represents the 7th District. “The community would benefit from improved public health and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.”

The landscape buffer would separate port and industrial uses from the residential and neighborhood uses, between Pacific Coast Highway and West Willow Street. For decades, the Terminal Island (TI) Freeway in West Long Beach has been a conduit for the nation’s cargo, carrying trucks loaded with goods from the Port of Long Beach on their way to distribution yards and the rest of the United States. This traffic had an impact on the community’s health.

Freeways have been removed in numerous other communities across the nation, most notably, the Central Freeway and Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco which together carried 150,000 vehicles daily. The concept for replacing the last mile of the Terminal Island Freeway was initiated to proactively address land-use conflicts and transportation impacts in West Long Beach.

Brian Ulaszewski, Executive Director of City Fabrick explains:

“Replacing the Terminal Island Freeway has been a collaborative effort between various city departments and officials, other government agencies, local stakeholders and community groups. The multitude of benefits including improving local traffic conditions and reducing public health impacts, all while creating a mile long park provides a solid foundation for everyone to build from as this community-based planning effort moves forward.”

The Terminal Island Freeway Transition Plan community process is projected to take place in 2014.

For Additional Information

City Fabrick: The Yards

CNU: Highways to Boulevards Blog: Long Beach, Part 2

Curbed LA: Long Beach Considering Tearing Out Terminal Island Freeway

LA Streetsblog: Terminal Island Freeway Removal Attempts to Find Funding for Study

City of Long Beach: Long Beach Wins Grant to Begin Visioning Terminal Island Freeway Transformation

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