How many prominent studies does it take for Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to keep more kids from getting sick?

That's the huge, underlining question that now comes up after a very respected team of researchers from the Children's Hospital Los Angeles, the Keck School of Medicine at USC, and the UC-Davis MIND Institute recently found that kids born to mothers who live within 1,000 feet of a major freeway are twice as likely to end up with autism.

L.A. Weekly ran a March, 2010, cover story titled “Black Lung Lofts” that exposed the fact that the L.A. City Council and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have known for years that children and seniors who live near freeways come down with all kinds of horrible illnesses, such as asthma and respiratory problems. But they continue to ignore the science and do nothing significant on the preventive side of things — such as create a buffer zone between new housing and freeways, which was once suggested by USC researchers.

Actually, L.A. politicians have done something while study after study — like the one released yesterday — shows overwhelming scientific evidence that living near freeways screws people up.

L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti, Planning and Land Use Management Committee chairman and City Councilman Ed Reyes, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have approved one development project after another — development projects near freeways that include housing for children.

Rumor has it that Garcetti wants to be L.A.'s next mayor in 2013.

If he runs, we can already see the montage of an opponent's political ad, featuring air-polluting 18-wheelers, babies hacking in their cribs, and Garcetti looking confused as a deep-voiced announcer says the City Council president — the so-called “environmental” candidate — did nothing under his watch to protect kids from developing autism, asthma, and life-long lung problems.

That ad will work nicely for L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry, too, who's also running for mayor and hasn't done a thing.

L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry

L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry

Of course, Villaraigosa, Garcetti, Perry, and Reyes can surprise everyone and actually tackle this issue in 2011.

But why do we get the sinking feeling that they care more about the financial health of real estate developers than the psychical health of young children and seniors who live near the I-5 and 405 freeways?

They've been warned … yet again.

Thinking about it, how many warnings does it take before the city of Los Angeles finds itself neck deep in a costly lawsuit? Lawyers, we'd love to hear from you.

By the way, academics and environmentalists need to step up their games, too, particularly the academics who put out these important studies. During the reporting of our cover story, we found researchers who were careful not to rock the political boat and environmentalists who weren't applying much pressure on City Hall.

Carpe diem, no?

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at

LA Weekly