The L.A. City Council approved a policy today that would require the installation of high-grade air filters in all new homes built within 1,000 feet of our busy, heavily polluting freeways. It appears to be a response to serious public health issues brought up by the Coalition to Preserve L.A.
On March 24, we wrote an article titled “They Harm Children’s Health, But Developers and L.A. City Council Love ‘Black Lung Lofts.'” It explains our deep concern that new mega-housing complexes built near L.A.’s freeways puts the health of children, senior citizens, the infirm and pregnant women in major jeopardy.
Today’s action by the City Council, however, is merely an ineffective band-aid. Here’s some background.
In 2010, L.A. Weekly published an investigative feature story that ultimately won a national award, titled “Black Lung Lofts.” The paper wrote:
In 2004, USC’s landmark Children’s Health Study made waves nationally, confirming that thousands of Southern California children living in near high-traffic roadways were contracting higher levels of crippling asthma and children living in smoggy areas were suffering impaired lung development.
The study proved long-held beliefs that fine particles such as those caused by tire rubber and brake metal — so tiny that scientists say the dust seeps through the smallest cracks and holes and thus is not blocked by air filtration systems or triple-paned windows — were burrowing into people’s lungs.
That’s right. Air filters, like the ones the City Council is pushing, DO NOT protect people from the most harmful, tiniest particulate matter that go into children’s lungs and cause life-long damage.
What’s worse, L.A. politicians and the city’s planning commission know this.
The Weekly revealed that in 2007 and 2008, top USC researchers went to the L.A. City Council and the city’s planning commission and explained the hard science of particulate matter and why children living within 500 feet of a freeway were endangered. A lot of big talk was uttered by City Council members back then. Again, here’s what the Weekly reported:
After listening to [USC} researcher [Jim] Gauderman, several City Council members sounded ready to act.
Council District 12 representative Greig Smith, from the San Fernando Valley, announced that he and Council District 1 representative Ed Reyes, from the city’s Eastside, had put forth a motion to study the idea of changing zoning laws to discourage or stop new housing within 500 feet of freeways.
“Maybe we should change the way of doing things around here,” Smith told Gauderman and his council colleagues. And City Council District 6 representative Tony Cardenas, also from the San Fernando Valley, declared, “We have a lot of issues in my district we’d like to address, but with science, in my opinion, it’s the best way for us to create the best defense in order to defend the community.”
Janice Hahn, who represents Council District 15 in San Pedro and is running this year for California’s lieutenant governor as an environmental candidate, was even more forceful, announcing, “I think the time for studies is over. I think the time for action is now.”
L.A.’s lawmakers talked a big game. But it was nothing more.
Councilman [Tom] LaBonge, who set up Gauderman’s visit to the City Council, concedes today that, after that downtown hearing nearly three years ago, the City Council did nothing. Smith and Reyes’ motion to “look into” a 500-foot barrier zone between new homes and freeways never turned into anything substantive; Smith and Reyes recently declined to comment to the Weekly about their long-abandoned motion.
From talk about a buffer zone in 2007 to the approval of ineffective air filters in 2016? And it took the City Council almost nine years to the day to even get to this point?
Obviously, the City Council’s action today is too little, too late — and grossly ineffective. And from what we understand, tenants who live near freeways are not even warned about the health hazards of living near a freeway.
In addition to serious health impacts on children, senior citizens and the infirm, pregnant women living near a freeway are at greater risk of having a premature baby than other pregnant women, according to a UCLA study.
This is a serious public health matter, and one that should not be addressed with half-baked, politically motivated measures. People’s health is on the line. We, the citizens, demand real, effective policy that will protect us.
With the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, we can start the process of bringing real change to the city’s General Plan and safeguard children, the sick, senior citizens and pregnant women.