The Weekly's cover story for March 6 -- "Black Lung Lofts," by Patrick Range McDonald -- revealed that the City of Los Angeles was allowing developers to build family housing alongside major freeways, despite glaring health risks for children.
As of this morning, there's another such smog-magnet in the works.
The Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles has received a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which they plan to put toward a redevelopment of 2,200 acres in the Glendale Narrows portion of the Los Angeles River.
Sounds like a pretty lush scene, right? Not so much. The plot is bordered by the 134 Ventura Freeway, the 110 Pasadena Freeway and a long stretch of I-5 on the Los Angeles River, and it's criss-crossed by the Glendale 2 Freeway.
CRA Chief Deputy Jim Dantona said that, based on California's Regional Housing Needs Assessment, the city will almost certainly require the agency to spend 20 percent of its budget on housing. HUD representative Brian Sullivan confirmed: "It does appear that the redevelopment plan includes a plan to build affordable housing."
Of course, the new development is still in its "study" phase. When asked if proximity to freeways was a concern, Dantona said they'd look into it.
"Because of the major intersections of freeways, the area has issues we need to look at," Dantona said. "In our studies, it's definitely something that we want to note."
Good to hear they're making notes.
USC's Children's Health Study, released in 2004, made it crystal clear that kids in freeway-adjacent buildings were at significantly greater risk for asthma and impaired lung development. (Especially if they were within 500 feet.)
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.
The CRA's priority is creating a "sustainable" community that includes commute-free, on-site jobs -- a noble cause, but perhaps not at the cost of snuggling children up to one of the city's busiest intersections.
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Coalition for Clean Air CEO Joseph Lyou said that family housing dangerously fringing on freeways is still a "high-priority issue" -- especially with all the recent attention to the state's gas-emission reduction goals, and their Prop. 23 adversary -- but that there isn't the manpower to make sure city supervisors regulate all new developments.
"In this economic downturn, a lot of activist groups don't have the resources to hold decision-makers as accountable as they should be," Lyou said.
He added that, in the interest of promoting growth and reducing costs, city planners and supervisors are often resistant to meeting clean-air requirements during construction. Last month, the Southern California Association of Governments rejected greenhouse gas-emission reduction targets proposed by the California Air Resources Board. Instead, they set their own, lower target of 8 percent by 2035.
So will the children of Glendale Narrows be eating the dust of half a million cars per day? Only time will tell.