- Reporters Desk
By Christian L. Guzman, Editorial Intern
This past Earth Day — April 22 — Mayor Eric Garcetti signed a new law called Clean Up Green Up.
Its purpose is to improve air quality in Boyle Heights, Pacoima and Wilmington, which are disproportionately affected by pollution.The air in those areas subjects residents to asthma, cardiovascular disease and cancer. With a population that is more than 85 percent Latino, Wilmington is a poignant example of a community unjustly affected by industry and its pollution.
“These areas have been impacted by environmental racism,” said Mark Lopez, executive director of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice. “Clean Up Green Up is setting a new tone for the city.”
Clean Up Green Up is a pilot program. Its regulations will apply to more than 1,000 businesses in the three aforesaid neighborhoods. Clean Up Green Up was introduced by the Los Angeles City Council in 2011. Since then, the city’s planning department drafted the details of the legislation, with input from community workshops in the three neighborhoods listed above.
Environmental groups see the law as a step in the right direction, but also one that should have happened earlier.
“Clean Up Green Up has very basic environmental standards,” said Alicia Rivera, Community Organizer in Wilmington for Communities for a Better Environment. “They should have been in practice by the city already. But it will make a difference.”
Air pollution will be reduced for Wilmington residents in two major ways. First, buffer zones, also known as “green” zones, will be placed near freeways and industrial businesses such as auto shops, refineries and hazardous waste facilities. New and expanding industrial businesses must now have health impacts assessments performed and obtain conditional use permits. The businesses will mitigate pollution in part by using landscape buffers and enclosing certain equipment. Existing facilities will not be affected unless they expand their operations.
The second major component of Clean Up Green Up is an ombudsperson who will help businesses adapt to the new regulations. The ombudsperson’s responsibilities will include educating business on how to operate more efficiently and identifying funding programs to support the businesses new operating procedures.
Environmental organizations are encouraging the City of Los Angeles to expand the program to include other neighborhoods.
“We are still fighting to improve public health,” Rivera said. “We need stronger standards.”