East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice info@eycej.org 323.263.2113

East Yard Summer Water Tours

Writen by Janet Valenzuela

What an honor and privilege it has been to work with East Yard members on this Water Tour series for the month of August. This month we visited Dominguez Gap Wetlands in Long Beach, Ford Park in Bell Gardens, Riverfront Park in Maywood, Roosevelt Park in Florence-Firestone, and San Gabriel River Basin in Pico Rivera. The goal and intent of this series are to learn more about water access and sustainability in our communities. At the same time, this will be a great opportunity to envision and imagine the possibilities of what water capture and filtration can look like in our hoods. The tours are intended for EYCEJ members and families to learn and hear about water infrastructure in our communities and how these projects are part of addressing water conservation and contamination.

At each location, members toured the site and learned about the benefits of water capture systems that reduce runoff and mitigate water toxins from the Lower Los Angeles River Basin. It was a great way to highlight how much we have learned about storm water regulation and water conservation. The program left us thinking how we can act as water stewards and allies to our Tongva and Indigenous diaspora community who continue to model traditional ecological knowledge and practices that remind us that water has memory and water is sacred.

A big thank you goes out to Council for Watershed Health, Sacred Places Institute, Tree People, Bell Garden Public Works (Grissel and Desi) and L.A. County Public Works (Andrew) and Miguel Ramos (East LA member) leading us in a bike ride to the basin and Marlene (East LA member) for leading a Full Moon Ceremony.

We’d also like to take a moment and acknowledge the natural disasters impacting vulnerable families. Our hearts go out to the families impacted by the flooding, wildfires, and drought disasters everywhere.

Reflections from our trip to Mono Lake

For years, East Yard has participated in The Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center (OEC) program, connecting our members and team to the source of the Los Angeles basin’s municipal water, and the restoration efforts of the Mono Lake Committee and the Kutzadika’a tribe after decades of continued extraction from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. This year, the East Yard team got together at Mono Lake to reconnect with one another after being apart from each other for more than a year. Prioritizing and centering our collective care enables us to continue moving forward with our day-to-day work of fighting for life and justice in our communities

During our time at Mono Lake, the East Yard team learned about the history of the region, the numerous issues impacting different communities, preservation work, and the ongoing fight to restore the lake’s water levels.

What is now Mono Lake has and always will be the land of the Kutzadika’a Tribe. We learned about the history of the Kutzadika’a in the region, their traditions, and the eventual theft and exploitation of their lands by capitalist colonizers. They lived off the land and migrated as needed throughout Payahuunadü (now known as Owens Valley and the Eastern Sierra region), their way of life was severely impacted and eventually destroyed, first in the late 1800s when white people started destroying the natural landscape to mine for gold and silver in the mountains. Hunting grounds and food resources were destroyed to feed people’s greed for money. The people of Payahuunadü were viciously forced off their lands to make way for speculators and secure water for Los Angeles.

Years later, the building of the Owens Valley aqueduct destroyed even more of the resources they relied on for their livelihood and their water was stolen by what is now known as the L.A. Department of Water and Power. The construction of the aqueduct eventually led to the complete destruction of the Owens Lake ecosystem. To this day, LADWP has continuously failed the Kutzadika’a people and the greater region by not honoring their obligations to restore the health of the Mono Lake ecosystem and all those who rely on it.

Despite everything that has been done to the Kutzadika’a people, they continue living at Mono Lake and other surrounding areas. They maintain their traditional practices and educate others who aren’t familiar with their history and traditions. They also continue to fight for federal recognition – a process that flies in the face of reason for an Indigenous people to have to be “recognized” by the very government that stole their lands. Passage of the bill would not only mean the tribe would possess certain inherent rights of self-government and tribal sovereignty, but it will be a testament to the generations of work and land stewardship they have kept alive.

For some of us, this was the first time we learned some of the history of the L.A. aqueduct and how water gets to our homes. Growing up in a city, there is an inherent disconnect from nature and from the knowledge of where our food, water, and other vital resources come from. Through our participation in the outdoor education program, we now have a better understanding of how these systems are impacted by our water consumption, but most importantly, we learned that our conservation efforts can go a long way. In our communities, we are taught by our families that conservation of water, food, electricity, etc., will help save money, but not preserve natural resources. Balanced solutions will ensure that we don’t take more than what we need from nature while doing our part to improve the conditions of the Payahuunadü.

Our East Yard communities are indebted and carry the responsibility to ensure violence- such as what happened in Manzanar, the Paiute river, and Mono lake- does not continue and is repaired. The agencies and institutions that perpetuate poor air quality, water pollution, and soil contamination are the same as those who have harmed the land and its indigenous caretakers for centuries. Ultimately, this trip to Mono lake reminds us all to continue in resistance, in solidarity, and in community.

To learn more about the history and ongoing struggles at Payahuunadü, you can visit Reimaging Payahuunadü. You can also follow @theaqueductbetweenus, @where_water_flows, and @owens_valley_indian_water on Instagram to learn more and stay up to date on conservation efforts.

CEHAJ Statement Regarding EPA Statement on I-710 Corridor Expansion Project

May 5, 2021 – CEHAJ Statement Regarding I-710 Corridor Expansion Project

More than 20 years ago transportation planners proposed expanding a diesel truck pipeline through the Gateway Cities called the I-710 Expansion Project. Communities along the I-710 corridor, neighborhoods that are predominantly made up of people of color and have been negatively impacted by the freight industry, immediately began to organize. Throughout the last two decades, these communities, already experts about what it was like to live alongside one the busiest freeways, have also become technical experts that have consistently asked our transportation agencies to consider a better approach that centers public health. This effort was often met with opposition from our transportation planners – with the prevailing notion that we need to pursue this project to expand the freight industry even though it would perpetuate the racist legacy of our transportation system.

Region 9 of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently advised Caltrans and LA Metro that they cannot proceed with the project without doing a quantitative analysis under the Clean Air Act called a “hotspot” analysis. This analysis makes sure that new transportation projects will not result in violations of federal clean air standards or make existing violations worse. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) makes conformity determinations for highway projects like the I-710, but EPA plays an important advisory role. It is our understanding that the project proponents cannot show this project will meet the standard of the Clean Air Act, and EPA advised that they must do this quantitative hotspot analysis – despite LA Metro and Caltrans trying to figure a way out of doing this quantitative hotspot analysis. EPA articulated and came to the conclusions the community had known all along that a project adding diesel truck lanes would be bad for air quality. As a result, this EPA letter provides the perfect opportunity to stop this harmful project proposal, which is pushing forward decades old thinking of how to solve our transportation and air quality problems.

Caltrans and Metro must start over and work with impacted corridor communities to develop a transformational and modern set of solutions that truly addresses the urgent need to improve local air quality, safeguard housing, businesses, and public spaces, and provides much needed career opportunities for corridor residents. The approach rejected by EPA – of just paving additional truck lanes to stuff more diesel and fossil fuel trucks in our communities – is not a real solution to address our transportation and public health problems. This approach is also averse to what the current Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, noted:

“Black and brown neighborhoods have been disproportionately divided by highway projects or left isolated by the lack of adequate transit and transportation resources. In the Biden-Harris administration, we will make righting these wrongs an imperative.”

Now is the time for LA Metro and Caltrans to innovate. Innovation means stopping the current legacy of oppression that ignores community concerns while pushing to expand a transportation system that disproportionately impacts BIPOC communities. In the greater Los Angeles area, and frankly everywhere, we can and must do better, especially now. Caltrans recognized the need for this shift in its 2020 Equity Statement, where it committed to “meaningfully engage communities most impacted by structural racism in the creation and implementation of the programs and projects that impact their daily lives” and to “reform [their] programs, policies and procedures based on this engagement.” The Coalition for Environmental Health and Justice (CEHAJ) invites our transportation leaders to stand by these commitments by working with us on a project that centers community health and needs first by advancing:  

  • Zero-Emissions – Create a project with a zero-emissions only corridor using the existing right of way to allow our communities to breathe and address harms caused by the freight industry. This freight corridor will be well-timed to serve the zero-emission transition identified as necessary to meet clean air standards.
  • No Displacement – Our communities are facing a housing crisis of epic levels, further exasperated by the devastating and unequal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, with low vacancy rates, rising rents and limited housing supply. This project must not displace residents, homeless serving facilities, or local businesses.
  • Better Public Transit and Alternatives to Driving – Our communities have suffered from a traditional disinvestment in public transit, and LA Metro should invest in more robust public transit. In addition, the project must dramatically expand bike and pedestrian infrastructure in the corridor.
  • Targeted Hiring – Whatever strategies are generated, they must include robust targeted hiring for local and disadvantaged residents for all the employment opportunities created, especially for constructions careers jobs.  
  • Health – The 710 Corridor has a legacy of health harms that cannot be ignored. We must support comprehensive health programs that advance our communities to be healthy and thriving, where the harms imposed from the freight industry are repaired and where health measures are preventive.

By actually partnering with impacted communities, we can do something truly innovative. CEHAJ applauds the EPA advice letter that articulates what we have known and said for decades – more lanes for diesel trucks will not solve our air quality crisis, it will only make it worse.

Here are the steps to move forward

  • LA Metro and Caltrans must make clear that they are no longer pursuing Alternative 5C outlined in the 710 Expansion proposed Revised Draft Environmental Impact Report.
  • LA Metro shall undertake a process to create a zero-emissions freight highway using the existing right of way, including identifying strategies to push for the conversion of the port truck fleet to zero-emission technology.
  • LA Metro shall undertake a robust stakeholder process to identify key strategies to advance public transportation and alternatives to driving in the 710 corridor. In addition, the agency should work with health experts to address the public health harms the freight industry has imposed on communities.
  • LA Metro and Caltrans shall commit to robust employment opportunities for any projects along the 710 corridor through targeted hiring for local and disadvantaged residents.
  • LA Metro and Caltrans must work with community-based organizations and community members to create a meaningful community engagement processes that is transparent and intentional.

Communities for a Better Environment ■ East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice ■ Earthjustice ■ Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles ■ Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma ■ Long Beach Residents Empowered ■ Natural Resources Defense Council ■ Urban & Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI) at Occidental College

 

Nadie Debería Tener que Vivir al lado de una Estación de Gasolina

Adriana y su familia en el lote vacío en la ciudad de Commerce

Lea esta publicación en inglés haciendo clic aquí
Read this blog post in English by clicking here

Adriana Reyes, miembra de East Yard, y su familia han vivido a pasos de la esquina de Atlantic y Washington en la ciudad de Commerce por años. Han visto cómo el lote cambia de un negocio a otro, ninguno durando demasiado ni satisfaciendo las necesidades comunitarias. Pero cuando se enteraron de que se iba a construir una combinación propuesta de gasolinera y 7-eleven, decidieron hablar y luchar.

East Yard y nuestra membresía se enteraron por primera vez de esta propuesta en 2020, cuando el desarrollador Elliot Megdal estaba en una reunión de la Comisión de Planificación de la ciudad de Commerce para obtener la aprobación de su proyecto. Les miembres y organizadores siguieron realizando una investigación para obtener más información sobre el proyecto de Megdal, solo para descubrir que estaban tratando de eludir el sistema al solicitar permisos de exención para evitar las reglas de CEQA y AQMD. Las regulaciones de salud de AQMD establecen que gasolineras deben estar a 300 pies de distancia de casas residenciales, lo que Megdal no cumplió. Si bien la comisión de planificación de la ciudad rechazó el proyecto, el Ayuntamiento de Commerce City votó para permitir que el proyecto continuara con una Declaración Negativa … y sin considerar la salud de la comunidad.

Jennifer en el lote vacío en la ciudad de Commerce

Les miembres del vecindario no querían que se abriera una estación de servicio junto a elles, por lo que asistieron a las reuniones del consejo de la ciudad de Commerce para hacer comentarios públicos en contra del proyecto. Una de esas oradoras fue Jennifer Reyes, la hija de Adriana. “Tenemos la ferroviaria, la autopista 710 y muchas más gasolineras. Si fuera solo una tienda, está bien, pero he oído hablar de tantos incendios en gasolineras, por lo que tener uno cerca de nuestra casa no es una buena idea “, dijo Jennifer.

Esta fue la primera vez que hablo en público y, aunque al principio podría haber estado nerviosa, sabía que no podía simplemente sentarse y permitir los impactos significativos que tendría este proyecto para la salud del vecindario. “¿A cuánta más contaminación estaríamos expuestos? Mi mamá tiene problemas de salud y su amiga vivía cerca y sufría de cáncer. Ya respiramos tantas toxinas, por lo que aprobar otra envía un mensaje de esos miembros del consejo de que en realidad no les importa, que se preocupan más por las ganancias. Ellos saben quiénes son ,” dijo Jennifer.

Adriana en el lote vacío en la ciudad de Commerce

East Yard finalmente tuvo que luchar contra la propuesta en los tribunales porque las mismas agencias que existen para proteger a las comunidades de sitios tóxicos como las estaciones de servicio no estaban haciendo su trabajo. Los desarrolladores siempre toman ventaja de la situación política para salirse con la suya y capitalizar su codicia a costo de los demás. “Si bien las demandas nunca son una solución, son una herramienta que podemos utilizar para responsabilizar a los contaminadores y al gobierno”, explica Co-Directora Ejecutiva de East Yard, Taylor Thomas.

El tribunal falló a favor de East Yard y a Megdal se le negaron los permisos necesarios para construir una gasolinera junto a las casas. East Yard no se opuso a la construcción de la tienda, pero Megdal se mostró inflexible en la construcción de la tienda y la gasolinera juntas, por lo que el proyecto de desarrollo no avanzó. Adriana y su familia se alegraron de saber que el proyecto no seguiría adelante, a pesar de que el lote sigue vacío y es una plaga para el vecindario. Esperan que cualquier negocio que abra allí, sea algo que contribuya al vecindario, no lo envenene.

Por eso es fundamental que los miembros de la comunidad sepan lo que está sucediendo en sus vecindarios y que las organizaciones comunitarias como East Yard apoyen el liderazgo de sus miembres y hagan que las agencias y los gobiernos locales rindan cuentas a sus residentes. Los desarrolladores no intimidarán a nuestra comunidad y ciudades para que contaminen negocios.

No One Should Have to Live Next to a Gas Station

Adriana and her family at the empty lot in Commerce

Lea esta publicación en español haciendo clic aquí
Read this blog post in Spanish by clicking here

East Yard member Adriana Reyes and her family have lived steps away from the corner of Atlantic and Washington in the city of Commerce for years. They have seen the lot change from one business to another, never lasting too long or meeting the communities needs. But when they learned that a proposed combination gas station and 7-eleven was going to be built, they decided to speak up and fight it.  

East Yard and our membership first learned about this proposal in 2020, when developer Elliot Megdal was at a Planning Commission meeting for the city of Commerce looking to get his project approved. Members and organizers followed up by conducting research to learn more about Megdal’s project, only to find out that they were trying to go around the system by applying for exemption permits to bypass CEQA and AQMD policies. AQMD health regulations state that gas stations must be 300 feet away from residential homes, which Megdal was not in compliance with.  While the city’s planning commission rejected the project, the Commerce City Council voted to allow the project to continue with a Negative Declaration… and without considering the community’s health. 

Jennifer in front of the abandoned store in Commerce

Members in the neighborhood didn’t want a gas station opening up next to them, so they attended Commerce city council meetings to give public comment against the project. One of those speakers was Jennifer Reyes, Adriana’s daughter.  “We have the railyard, the 710 freeway, and we have so many more gas stations. If it was just a store it’s ok, but I’ve heard of so many fires by gas stations so having one close to our house is not a good idea,” said Jennifer. This was their first time speaking in public and while they might have been nervous at first, they knew they couldn’t just sit back and watch because of what it would mean for the health of the neighborhood. “How much more contamination would we be exposed to? My mom has health issues and her friends lived close and suffered from cancer. We already breathe in so many toxins, so to approve another sends a message from those council members that they don’t really care, they care more about the profit. They know who they are,” said Jennifer.

East Yard eventually had to fight the proposal in court because the same agencies that are in place to protect communities from toxic sites like gas stations were not doing their job. Loopholes are always exploited by developers so they can get their way and capitalize on their greed at the expense of others. “While lawsuits are never a solution, they are a tool we can use to hold polluters and government accountable,” explains East Yard co-executive director, Taylor Thomas.

Adriana in front of the abandoned store in Commerce

The court decided in East Yard’s favor and Megdal was denied the permits needed to build a gas station next to homes. East Yard was not opposed to the construction of the store, but Megdal was adamant about building both the store and the gas station together, so the development project didn’t move forward. Adriana and their family were happy to hear that the project would not move forward, despite the lot remaining empty and a blight to the neighborhood. They hope that whatever business does open up there, it will be something that contributes to the neighborhood, not poison it.

This is why it is critical for community members to know what is going on in their neighborhoods and for community-based organizations like East Yard to support the leadership of their members and hold agencies and local governments accountable to their residents. Developers will not bully our community and cities into polluting businesses.

EYCEJ – Opposed to Measure US

East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, made up of residents on the frontline of toxic polluters, has been fighting for the health of our communities – and by extension the planet – for two decades. We challenge bigoted stereotypes about us – that our communities are lazy, uneducated, and aren’t equipped for self-determination. One of the biggest enemies in our quest for justice has been the fossil fuel industry. Our meetings have been astroturfed by paid actors, our schools have been taken over with bribes in the form of new programs and giveaways, and our communities have literally choked and burned so these corporate interests can gain profits. So it may seem counterintuitive to oppose a measure to tax oil production. We need to be clear that we are not opposed to industry paying for the rampant damage they cause. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. What we’re facing is a ballot measure that is high on promises and empty on deliverance, which is why we are adamantly opposed to it.

We recognize that this statement is coming out relatively late, and we are not putting this out to sway voters. However, following our consensus process, we decided we needed to make this statement to share our principles so folks understand our perspective. 

The optics around this measure has been intentionally deceptive. While there are large aspirations to fund equity initiatives throughout the City, actual commitments are curiously absent. Although the resolution the City made references the intent to fund community, youth, and climate programs, the actual text of the resolution says these things may be funded. The resolution even explicitly states: “this Resolution is non-binding on any future or 18 subsequently constituted City Council.” Besides that, even if the language was firmer, resolutions are promises – policy-wise they are as good as Monopoly money. They have been used as ways to give the illusion that a government body will move on something without actually giving the legal means to do so.

In the media, you will see a lot of what this tax “may” fund, but less so about what it actually will fund. The revenues from this tax will go to the General Fund, which will largely fund policing as the Police Department receives close to half of the funds in the General Fund. The City Council and City Manager have control over the budget and how money in the General Fund is spent. The makeup of the City council changes every four years, so the promises of any sitting council devoid of a tangible policy with clear metrics, targets, outcomes, and mechanisms of accountability are worthless. While it’d be nice to believe that the City will actually spend resources the way our communities want them to, these elected and appointed decision-makers have shown time and time again that they will maintain the status quo at all costs; only throwing us bread crumbs here and there to keep up the guise that they care about our collective well-being. 

Speaking from an environmental justice perspective, the City and the current council have had opportunities to address inequities due to environmental racism:

    1. In 2018, with 72 hours’ notice, the I-710 Freeway Expansion Project Local Advisory Council (Uranga, Austin, and Richardson) voted to support Alternative 5C against community wishes. Alternative 5C will bring home and business displacement, diesel pollution, and no targeted jobs to the 710 S corridor communities. Subsequently, as a part of the Metro Board, Mayor Robert Garcia voted to move this alternative forward against community opposition. Alternative 5C never went to the full council for endorsement.
    2. In 2018, the City voted to spend millions on keeping our failing incinerator open. Prior to that, our City was supporting the push behind AB 655 (O’Donnell), which would have given renewable energy credits to incinerators. Mayor Robert Garcia testified in support of the bill, but we defeated it. 
    3. The current draft of the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan is woefully inadequate in setting proactive and concrete steps to mitigating our climate risks, especially in frontline neighborhoods such as the Westside. The actions fail to get us to zero-emissions powered by renewable energy. We do not have a plan that works to end the extraction and use of fossil fuels here. It does not have a pathway to a community choice energy program. There is no plan to close our incinerator and reform our waste system. The City has even wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on the consulting firm AECOM over the last three years for a plan that was supposed to be completed in January. They extended the contract earlier this month.
    4. The City regularly downplays the impacts of its biggest source of pollution in its jurisdiction – the Port of Long Beach. We regularly see and hear the PR around the benefits of the Ports, from the billboards to the sponsored events, but we rarely hear about the immense health impacts they have on our City, and particularly West and North Long Beach. We often hear of the high percentages of emissions reductions from the Ports over the years; but these stats are always using a baseline of 2005, and not being compared against immediate past years, where you will see that different emission categories have either remained relatively flat or even increased. It is also rarely advertised how often the Ports pass soft policies or escape being regulated through voluntary measures such as Memorandums of Understanding, which health advocates have opposed. 

It is not lost on the membership of EYCEJ why this ballot measure is confusing, especially when we see folks whom we trust in our communities supporting it. But when we look at the fine details of it, the proposed magic of this measure does not hold up. We see it for what it really is – another performative gesture by the City that will dangle the hope of closing equity gaps by taxing oil, while not actually moving the needle on equity whatsoever. How will programs and initiatives addressing climate, youth, and environment be created or expanded when this revenue source, already a limited amount of money, is guaranteed to decline over time?

We want people to remember that politicians do not lead us, and every victory we’ve ever had has been hard-fought by everyday community members. There is a lot to be said about the continued stalling of our movements due to co-option, political posturing, and accepting gradual progress for the sake of gaining political capital. We hope that these conversations will be brought to the forefront and expose the gaps and opportunities in our shared spaces and that we can continue to uplift the grassroots knowledge, experience, and hard work in our hoods.

Signed – EYCEJ Long Beach Membership 


————–

Yes on Prop. 15 & 21/Si en Prop. 15 y 21

EYCEJ says Yes on Prop 15 & Prop 21 *espanol al siguiente*

Through an extensive and democratic process, the hundreds of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice members from East LA, Southeast LA and Long Beach have reached consensus in support of both Proposition 15 and 21, two propositions that will be voted on in November.

 What is consensus? 

Consensus is when the collective membership decides to support, be against, or stay neutral on a topic. Our intention is for the collective to come to an understanding of why the whole is moving forward even if the vote on it isn’t unanimous. Some folks may not support or want to be neutral but can support the organization as a whole in moving in a direction as agreed upon by the membership. Both Proposition 15 and Prop 21 were presented to our members, the former in late July and latter in August, we deliberated, and reached consensus in support of both propositions in September. 

How does Prop 15 & 21 impact our communities?

With property values and inflation skyrocketing in the 1970’s, many landlords and homeowners, most of whom were concentrated in wealthier communities, pushed to curb annual property taxes. Prop 13 was passed with the understanding it would address rising rental housing prices as well. When landlords instead decided to pocket their savings from capped property taxes, individual cities began passing rent control. In response, the landlord/real estate lobby pushed for Costa Hawkins in 1995, which heavily limited to what extent cities can stabilize local rents. We are now dealing with the implications of both Proposition 13 and the Costa Hawkins Act.

We are in support of Prop 15 because it would increase property taxes on corporations worth more than $3 million, such as Chevron, Disney, and BNSF, and allocate this revenue towards our local schools and communities. It is time we make these polluters pay their fair share in property taxes while protecting all homeowners, renters, and small businesses. Currently, because of Prop 13 commercial and industrial properties are taxed based on their original purchase price. Chevron, for example, has saved over $100 million a year on taxes for 45 years, as its property is assessed at 1975 rates. Big polluters like BNSF, which we have been in a long fight against, are valued at over $81 billion (2016), yet are taxed at rates set in the 1970s. They are among the corporations that have flooded large amounts of money into the fight against Proposition 15. Prop 15 will provide minority-owned small businesses with the biggest tax cut in decades while also reclaiming billions every year for our schools, community colleges, and essential local services in every county to invest in things like: class sizes, healthcare services, fighting homelessness, firefighters and their equipment, safe drinking water, and preparing for future disasters such as wildfire, pandemic, or earthquake. If Proposition 15 fails, these large corporations will continue to get richer at the expense of our health and our environment. Our communities have been subsidizing the goods movement with our health for far too long.

EYCEJ stands in favor of Prop 21 because it allows cities to set their own rent limits and expand protections to vulnerable renters while still protecting mom and pop landlords. Prop 21 will benefit a large portion of our membership, a majority of whom are renters of single-family homes or duplexes throughout East LA, Southeast LA, and Long Beach. This is an environmental justice issue because increased housing costs are worsening traffic congestion by forcing us to live further away from our jobs. Our economy needs essential workers, yet fails to provide them adequate housing. Due to the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, these are the people most vulnerable to large rent increases and unjust evictions. However, Prop 21 would allow us to expand protections to those hardest hit.  Even our members who are landlords and homeowners support Prop 21, partly because it does not impact landlords of 2 units or less, but mainly because it is the right thing to do to promote community stability.  As several of our members said, “We’re not greedy landlords! We’re not here to capitalize off of someone else.”  The California Apartment Association is a major opponent of Prop 21, and spoke against Long Beach and SELA eviction moratoriums last year, claiming to represent mom and pop landlords. However they are mainly funded by the same Wall Street corporations that own a large portion of single family rentals in our communities and pricing us out.  

What’s at risk?

If Proposition 15 and 21 fail, our current housing and educational situation will not improve; we cannot continue with the status quo. We know that there are various concerns and lies about both Prop 15 and 21 and we are here to dyspell them.

Proposition 15 will not impact homeowners. It only involves commercial property valued over $3 million. If Prop 15 does not pass, our public schools and communities will continue to be hurting for much needed funding, especially during this pandemic. This is why we are demanding that these companies that have gotten off paying the bare minimum for decades, pay their fair share! 

We also demand that corporate landlords stop profiting off the backs of heavily rent-burdened tenants! Proposition 21 does not target mom and pop landlords, it is specifically written to target corporate landlords that capitalized from the Foreclosure Crisis at the expense of Black and Brown communities. Post-pandemic, we do not want a repeat of 2008. Proposition 21 will allow cities to keep people in their homes and protect single family home property owners. As many of our members who own or rent out properties acknowledged, Proposition 21 doesn’t prevent a landlord’s right to a fair rate of return; it would only allow cities to cap unreasonable rent increases. Although Prop 21 is a small remedy, it will help more of our communities stay in their homes. It will prevent displacement, allow us to push for more expansive tenant protections at the local level, and it won’t stop us from fighting for the complete repeal of Costa Hawkins. Should both Propositions 15 and 21 fail, we as an organization will make sure that our voices are heard and we will continue to advocate and fight for stronger regulations to keep our communities safe and make sure that we can thrive in a healthy and sustainable manner. 

——–

EYCEJ dice sí a la Propuesta 15 & Prop 21 

Por medio de un proceso extenso y democratico, les cientos de miembres de East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice del Este de LA, Sureste de Los Angeles, y Long Beach han llegado a consenso en apoyar ambas propuestas 15 y 21, dos proposiciones que pasarán a voto en Noviembre.  

 Que es consenso? 

El consenso es cuando la membresía colectivamente decide apoyar, estar en contra, o neutral sobre un tema.  Nuestra intención es que el colectivo llegue a un entendimiento de porque el grupo sigue adelante aunque el voto no sea unánime. Algunas personas quizás no apoyen o desean permanecer neutral pero apoyan que la organización siga en esa dirección de acuerdo con la membresía. Ambas propuestas 15 y 21 fueron presentadas a nuestres miembres, la primera en julio, la segunda en agosto, deliberamos, y logramos consenso para apoyar ambas propuestas en Septiembre. 

¿Cómo impactan las propuestas 15 y 21 a nuestras comunidades? 

Con valores de propiedad e inflación rápida de los 1970’s, muchos propietarios, la mayoría de los cuáles estaban concentrados en comunidades ricas, empujaron para reducir los impuestos de propiedad anual. Propuesta 13 paso con el entendido que respondería a los aumentos en precios de viviendas rentadas.

  Cuando los propietarios decidieron meter sus ahorros de límites en los impuestos de propiedad en sus bolsillos, ciudades individuales empezaron a pasar control de rentas. En respuesta, grupos de presión de propietarios/bienes raíces empujaron la ley Costa Hawkins en 1995, que fuertemente limitó la estabilización de rentas locales por ciudades. Ahora estamos enfrentando las consecuencias de ambas Proposición 13 y la ley Costa Hawkins.

Estamos en apoyo de proposición 15 porque aumentará los impuestos de propiedad para corporaciones que valen más de $3 millones, como Chevron, Disney, y BNSF, y dirigirá los fondos hacia nuestras escuelas y comunidades. Es hora que contaminadores paguen su porción justa de impuestos propietarios y al mismo tiempo proteger a dueñes de vivienda, inquilines, y negocios pequeños. En el presente, por Proposición 13, propiedades comerciales e industriales pagan impuesto basado en el precio de la compra original. Chevron, por ejemplo, ha ahorrado más de $100 millones al año en impuestos por 45 años porque su propiedad está asesorada a los niveles de 1975. Estas son las compañías que necesitan pagar su porción justa, contaminadores grandes como BNSF, contra quien hemos luchado por mucho tiempo, tienen valor de $81 billones (2016), sin embargo sus impuestos son los mismos fijados en los 1970’s. Están entre las corporaciones que han inundado con sumas grandes de dinero la lucha en contra de Proposición 15. Proposición 15 proveerá negocios pequeños cuyos dueñes sean menorias con los cortes más grandes  a sus impuestos que han visto en décadas y al mismo tiempo reclamar billones anualmente para nuestras escuelas, colegios comunitarios, y servicios locales esenciales en cada condado para invertir en cosas como: tamaño de clases, servicios de salud, luchar contra indigencia, bomberos y sus herramientas, agua potable segura y preparación para futuros desastres como incendios, pandemias, o sismos. Si la proposición 15 no pasa, estas corporaciones grandes continuarán haciéndose ricos a costo de nuestra salud y ambiente. Nuestras comunidades han estado subvencionando el movimiento de mercancías con nuestra salud por demasiado tiempo.

EYCEJ está a favor de Proposición 21 porque permite que ciudades fijen sus propios límites de renta y expande protecciones a inquilines vulnerables y al mismo tiempo protege a dueñes de propiedad pequeños. Proposición 21 beneficiará a una gran porción de nuestra membresía, la mayoría son inquilines de viviendas únicas o duplex en el Este de LA, Sureste de LA y Long Beach. Este es un tema de justicia ambiental por que  aumentos en costo de vivienda están empeorando la congestión de tráfico al forzarnos a vivir más lejos de nuestros trabajos. Nuestra comunidad necesita trabajadores esenciales, pero falla en proveer vivienda adecuada. Por la ley de rentas de vivienda Costa-Hawkins, estas son las personas mas vulnerables a aumentos altos de renta y desalojos injustos.  Sin embargo, Proposición 21 nos permitirá expandir protecciones a les mas afectades. Hasta nuestres miembres que son dueñes de propiedades apoyan Proposición 21, parcialmente porque no impacta a dueñes con 2 unidades o menos, pero principalmente porque es lo correcto para promover estabilidad comunitaria. Como varies de nuestres miembres dijeron, “No somos dueñes codicioses! No estamos aquí para tomar ventaja financiera de alguien mas.” La Asociación de Apartamentos de California es un contrincante principal de Proposición 21, y el año pasado se presentó en Long Beach y SELA en contra de protecciones de desalojo, diciendo que representaban propietarios pequeños.  Sin embargo, sus fondos principales vienen de las mismas corporaciones de Wall Street que son dueñes de grandes cantidades de casas individuales de renta en nuestras comunidades y nos están cobrando hasta tener que mudarnos. 

¿Que está a riesgo?

Si las Proposiciones 15 y 21 no pasan, nuestras situaciones de vivienda y educación no mejorarían; no podemos continuar así. Sabemos que hay varias preocupaciones y mentiras sobre ambas Proposiciones 15 y 21 y estamos aquí para corregirlas. 

Proposición 15 no va a impactar dueñes de casa. Solo incluye propiedad comercial valorada en más de $3 millones. Si la Proposición 15 no pasa, nuestras escuelas públicas y comunidades continuarán sufriendo por la necesidad de fondos, especialmente durante la pandemia. Por eso estamos exigiendo que estas compañías que hasta ahorita solo han pagado lo mínimo paguen lo justo!  

También exigimos que propietarios corporativos dejen de hacer ganancia sobre las espaldas de inquilines que batallan en pagar la renta! Proposición 21 no incluye propietaries pequeñes. Esta especificamente escrito para incluir propietaries corporativos que han beneficiado de la Crisis de Ejecucion de Hipoteca a costa de comunidades Negras y de color. Después de la pandemia, no queremos que se repita lo del 2008. Proposición 21 permitirá que las ciudades mantengan a personas en sus hogares y protejan a inquilines en viviendas individuales. Como reconocieron muches de nuestres miembres que son dueñes o rentan, Proposición 21 no previene el derecho a que un propietario no reciba un regreso financiero justo; solo permitirá que ciudades pongan límites en aumentos de renta no razonables.  Aunque Proposición 21 es un remedio pequeño, ayudará a que nuestres miembres permanezcan en sus hogares. Será prevención de desalojo, nos permitirá empujar para más protecciones de inquiline extensas a nivel local y no nos detendrá de luchar por la revocación completa de Costa Hawkins. Si ambas Proposiciones 15 y 21 fallan, como organización nos aseguraremos  que nuestras voces sean escuchadas y continuaremos abogando y luchando por reglamentos fuertes para mantener a nuestras comunidades seguras y asegurarnos que podamos prosperar de forma saludable y sostenible. 

New Leadership, same community// Nuevo Liderazgo, misma comunidad

Statement from EYCEJ’s board President// Mensaje de Presidenta de la Junta Directiva de EYCEJ

Marina Pando Social Justice Research Collaborative 2020

I have had the privilege to have been part of EYCEJ through each stage of its exceptional leadership transitions, and I am not only excited for our most recent transition but also immensely proud to have Laura and Taylor take on the Directorship. 

As mark! explained in his announcement of our restructuring, “The presence of our strength is most felt in our community building and leadership development.” This is what I have witnessed since 2007, community building and leadership development in ways I have never seen elsewhere even through my 15 years as a school and district leader. 

East Yard’s unique ability to center the voices of our community as well as empower and build leadership throughout our intergenerational membership bodies and our team, will only be strengthened with Laura and Taylor as Directors. Laura and Taylor have, indeed, been EYCEJ leaders from the time they were members and have continued to lead us in their respective roles as only fierce Black and brown femmes do. 

I am confident that with the same Black and brown fierce femme energy they have led in their previous roles, as directors, Laura and Taylor will propel EYCEJ to our next chapter of community building and leadership development–centering and uplifting the voices of our community while relentlessly fighting for our lives against the environmental racism and oppressive systems we are forced to experience. 

Angelo Logan our c0-founder has often reminded us that EYCEJ is an aspirational organization. There is very little that we do that is like any other organization and having a tri-directorship between mark!, Laura, and Taylor to support their transition to co-directors is just one more example of our aspirational nature. We are truly blessed to be surrounded by a team and intergenerational members and funders and allies who get this and who live and breathe the “lifelong lucha”.

I and the rest of the Board are absolutely looking forward to continuing to rock with you Laura and Taylor! The revolution has come–La lucha sigue y sigue y seguirá hasta la victoria siempre. 

Many blessings on this next part of our journey honoring our ancestors as we fight for our lives and the lives of our communities. 

In solidarity, 
Yesenia 


He tenido el privilegio de ser parte de EYCEJ  por cada etapa de sus transiciones de liderazgo excepcionales, y no solo estoy emocionada por nuestra transición más reciente si no también inmensamente orgullosa de Laura y Taylor que tomen el ser Directoras. 

Como explicó mark! En su anuncio sobre nuestra reestructura, “La presencia de nuestra fuerza se siente más en nuestra creación de comunidad y desarrollo de liderazgo.” Esto es lo que he atestiguado desde 2007, creación de comunidad y desarrollo de liderazgo  en maneras que nunca he visto en otro lugar en mis 15 años como líder escolar y de distrito. 

La habilidad única de East Yard de  centrar las voces de nuestra comunidad y también empoderar y crear liderazgo a través de nuestras membresías intergeneracionales y nuestro equipo solo será más fuerte con Laura y Taylor como Directoras. Laura y Taylor han sido líderes en EYCEJ desde que empezaron como miembras y han continuado a dirigirnos en sus papeles respectivos como solo mujeres fieras Negra y de color pueden. 

Tengo confianza que con la misma energia fiera Negra y de color que han dirigido sus papeles anteriores, como directoras, Laura y Taylor propulsaran a EYCEJ al proximo capitulo de crecimiento comunitario y desarrollo de liderazgo–centrando y alzando las voces de nuestra comunidad mientras luchando implacablemente por nuestras vidas en contra del racismo ambiental y sistemas opresivos que somos forzades a vivir. 

Nuestro co-fundador Angelo Logan nos ha recordado frecuentemente que EYCEJ es una organización con aspiraciones. Hay muy poco que hacemos que es como otras organizaciones y tener tres directores, mark!, Laura, y Taylor para apoyar su transición a co-directoras es solo un ejemplo más de nuestra naturaleza aspiracional. Estamos realmente bendecides de estar rodeades por un equipo y miembres intergeneracionales y fundadores y aliades que entienden esto y que viven y respiran por la “lucha de por vida.”  

Yo y el resto de Junta Directiva estamos completamente listes para seguir con ustedes Laura y Taylor! La revolución ha llegado–La lucha sigue y sigue y seguirá hasta la victoria siempre. 

Muchas bendiciones en esta proxima parte de nuestra travesía honrando a nuestres ancestros mientras continuamos luchando por nuestras vidas y las vidas de nuestras comunidades. 

En solidaridad, 
Yesenia 

Statement from EYCEJ’s Co-Executive Directors/Anuncio de Co-Directoras Ejecutivas de EYCEJ

*Español abajo*

We are so appreciative of the love and support that our communities and East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (“EYCEJ”) has given us. Upon starting at EYCEJ, our knowledge of the environmental racism, pollution and health impacts that surrounded us was limited; we stand now as examples of East Yard’s leadership development and investment in our hoods. 

We are excited that EYCEJ members and team have entrusted us to continue leading this distributive leadership organization. As long standing friends, we are particularly excited to take on this responsibility together.

This year has brought us COVID-19 and magnified the need to stand with our Black comrades for racial justice. We do not know what else will come this week, this year, or in the next ten years. We are fully aware of the challenges to “success” that come with being Black and brown femmes.

Despite this, our vision to grow EYCEJ’s transformative change centering community is resolute.

This is an exceptionally critical time for us not only because of COVID-19, but because organizational transitions sometimes give the impression of internal instability, so community organizations can experience a significant drop in funding during those periods. This fear is heightened for us because as a non-hierarchical organization with a flat pay structure, our organizing and community building model is often misunderstood and not taken seriously.

That said, we appreciate our members, allies, and funders who are part of and champion EYCEJ, as well as those folks who have thought about engaging with us, we see you, and we invite you to attend our events, come to our community meetings, get to know us and see us in action, because that’s where the work happens and that’s where our bonds and relationships with each other are formed.

EYCEJ will continue to thrive because our Co-Directorship  will continue to center our members as the leaders of this organization . Through our transition, we will be carrying on EYCEJ’s legacy of leading with and centering community concern. For us, it is a way of life and a lifelong lucha, and we hope you will still rock with us going forward as we continue to challenge these oppressive systems and fight for the health and well-being of our communities.

La lucha sigue!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Estamos tan agradecidas del amor y apoyo que nuestras comunidades y East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (“EYCEJ”) nos a brindado. Al empezar en EYCEJ, nuestro conocimiento sobre racismo ambiental, contaminación e impactos de salud era muy limitado; ahora estamos ante ustedes como ejemplos del desarrollo de liderazgo de East Yard’s e inversión que ha aportado a nuestros vecindarios.

Estamos felices que les miembres y equipo de EYCEJ nos confíen en dirigir esta organización de liderazgo distribuido. Como viejas amigas, estamos particularmente felices de tomar esta responsabilidad juntas.

Este año nos ha traido COVID-19 y a resaltado la necesidad de pararnos junto a nuestres compañeres Negres por justicia racial. No sabemos qué vendrá esta semana, este año, o los próximos 10 años. También sabemos completamente los enfrentamientos as ser “exitosas” que vienen con ser mujeres Negra y cafe.

Sin embargo, nuestra visión para crear un cambio transformativo con EYCEJ centrado en la comunidad sigue.

Este es un momento especialmente crítico no solo por COVID-19, si no porque transiciones en organizaciones pueden dar la impresión de inestabilidad interna, así que organizaciones comunitarias pueden tener una reducción de fondos durante esos periodos. Esta preocupación aumenta para nosotros por ser organización sin jerarquía con paga igual, y que nuestro organizar y modelo de crear comunidad frecuentemente son mal entendidos y no tomados en serio.

Eso dicho, agradecemos nuestres miembres, aliades y fundadores que son parte y campeones de EYCEJ, al igual a esas personas que han pensado en involucrarse, te vemos, y te invitamos a participar en nuestros eventos, venir a nuestras reuniones, conocernos y vernos en acción, porque ahí pasa el trabajo y se forman nuestros lazos y relaciones.

EYCEJ continuará floreciendo porque nuestra dirección ejecutiva seguirá al centro de nuestres miembres como líderes de esta organización. Por medio de nuestra transición cargaremos el legado de EYCEJ a dirigir con las preocupaciones de la comunidad. Para nosotros, este es un estilo de vida y lucha de por vida, y esperamos que sigan con nosotros mientras continuamos retando estos sistemas opresivos y luchamos por la salud y bienestar de nuestras comunidades.

La lucha sigue!

East Yard Leadership in Transition

Last night at our 7th Annual Fighting For Life Celebration our Executive Director mark! Lopez announced his transition out of the ED role. mark! joined East Yard as a Member in 2009, came on to the Team in 2012 as the Lead Organizer, became a Co-Director along with one of EYCEJ’s founders Angelo Logan, and has served as our Executive Director for over 6 years. mark! will continue to be an active Member and over the next couple of months transition into a new role, Director of Special Projects, while Laura Cortez and Taylor Thomas transition into Co-Executive Directors of East Yard. Please find the text of the speech he gave last night below:

****Speech given by mark! 8.27.20****

We don’t measure East Yard by the deliverables we meet, the policies we pass or defeat, the funds we raise, or even the polluters we smash.

The presence of our strength is most felt in our community building and leadership development.

It’s visible from our membership spaces where new leadership is developed consistently, to our team, most of whom have come through our membership, and our Board of Directors which come exclusively from our membership.

We engage thousands of community members every year. Our membership spaces on the Eastside, in Southeast LA & Long Beach bring together hundreds of our members weekly, bi weekly and monthly.

Because of the strength of our foundation, our organizational culture continues to get stronger. Because of our organizational culture, the impact of our movement deepens and widens. And through this we continually innovate, reflect, restrategize and keep it moving.

It is in this spirit that we have been processing restructuring internally for years. Over the last year and a half we have been engaging in dialogue with our team, our Board, and all of our membership bodies to transition Laura and Taylor into the Executive leadership positions for East Yard. This has been a long and deliberate process and though this transition is news to many of you, we, East Yard collectively, have been working at it for some time now.

Laura, Taylor and I will be in a tri-Directorship into 2021, after which Laura and Taylor will become Co-Executive Directors of East Yard. I will be stepping down, but not out, as I will serve as the Director of Special Projects. I am beyond excited for this transition. This transition feels reinvigorating for me and I hope you all are as excited as I am to continue following the leadership of Laura and Taylor.