Warehouses vs. Safety of School Children: Conflicts in Bloomington

San Bernardino County’s Bloomington residents and local advocates have packed recent School Board meetings over concerns regarding a logistics industry development project near two elementary schools. A 680,000 square foot warehouse project was recently approved by San Bernardino County’s Planning Commission and it is scheduled to be developed within 700 feet of Walter Zimmerman and Crestmore Elementary schools. The development of warehouses near schools concerns us for two major reasons. First, children exposed to particulates from freight truck exhaust (especially while trucks may be idle) experience higher risks of health problems such as asthma and weaker lungs. Second, children walking and biking to school will be at significant risk given high volumes of truck traffic going in and out of the warehouses.  

The Partnership has been working with the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ) to provide public testimony to the school board and the San Bernardino County planning commission. Public testimony from advocates and community members have included an action calling on the board to adopt a school board resolution. Efforts against the development of warehouse projects near schools was also opposed by Senator Connie Leyva, as her staff representative provided testimony on her behalf. The resolution would serve as an acknowledgement of air quality environmental hazards and traffic safety concerns of freight trucks routed near schools and encourage agencies to work together address concerns.

Two school board meetings on August 3rd and 17th have yet to result in any board action on the resolution. The board might feel pressure to react as the story has now received local and regional attention.

Bloomington area schools lacks a safe routes to school plan or any such programming that could help ensure the safety of children walking to and from school. Currently, San Bernardino County is working on a Countywide SRTS Plan that includes two Bloomington schools but are not either Zimmerman or Crestmore schools. We look forward to continuing to work with CCAEJ, community members and allies to strategize on uplifting policies to ensure the safety of schoolchildren and the health and well-being of all residents.  

 

Concerned parent testifies about her son’s safety.IMG_4516

IMG_4365Packed room for public testimony on Bloomington area schools at the August meeting of the Colton Unified School Board Meeting.

 

 

Asking the Bay Area to Do Better on Active Transportation

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) unanimously approved adjustments to Plan Bay Area 2040 and the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) at a joint meeting on Wednesday, July 26. Plan Bay Area 2040 is a long-range plan to guide transportation investment and land-use decisions through 2040, while accommodating future population growth and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in accordance with SB 375. The National Partnership believes in strong planning efforts to address the health, safety, and climate goals of the region and are pleased that MTC and ABAG have committed to reducing by 10 percent the adverse health impacts associated with air quality, road safety, and physical activity. However, the adopted plan falls far short, with only a very small reduction of 1%. In a comment letter, the National Partnership recommends MTC and ABAG take stronger steps to create a healthier and more active Bay Area by hiring additional planning staff, devoting more resources to improving active transportation data, and increasing support for active transportation programming.

Join Us at the 2017 Orange County Active Transportation Forum

The Alliance for a Healthy Orange County is excited to host the 2017 Regional Active Transportation Forum on Friday, September 22. This year’s forum will focus on the intersection of active transportation and equitable development and how policy makers, active transportation advocates, and other partners can join forces to make Orange County communities smarter, equitable, healthier and sustainable for ALL. Please RSVP today!

Southern California Sets the Stage for Future Planning

The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is beginning to gather information needed for the development of the 2020 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy (RTP/SCS).  The RTP/SCS is a long-term planning framework to coordinate regional transportation, climate, and land use issues. Advocates from non-governmental organizations such as the National Partnership play a role in providing input on specific issue areas that will help our region achieve better outcomes. For example, we along with our partners were able to quadruple the amount of funding allocated for active transportation in the 2016 RTP/SCS.  

 

As a first step, SCAG is creating a Local Input Survey, which will collect information from jurisdictions on current local plans, policies, and land use practices. The current draft has 64 questions and is currently being reviewed by SCAG’s Technical Working Group; we will be reviewing to ensure the survey will collect useful and actionable information on active transportation. The release of the Local Input Survey will be this fall.  We will be regularly updating you on the RTP/SCS in the coming two years.

Speaking Up in Support of Vision Zero Projects

As part of its Vision Zero effort, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) has proposed a mile-long road diet on Venice Boulevard to calm traffic and improve safety for bicyclists.  A number of residents have organized a campaign to defeat the project due to concerns over loss of parking and increased traffic–including circulating a petition that got more than 2,000 signatures. Our staff has attended a neighborhood meeting, an LADOT town hall, and the Mar Vista Community Council to speak out in support of traffic calming and smart street design as a way to save lives.  At the Mar Vista Community Council meeting on July 11th, there was a nearly even split in attendees with 60 community members testifying in support and 54 speaking against the project. The council ultimately voted 9-2 to support the project and requesting more LADOT studies on the project’s impact on safety and traffic.
Misinformation among speakers at those events shows how much we all need to educate the public on the dangerous connections between fatalities and  high speeds. A particularly compelling argument is the statistic that if a pedestrian or bicyclist is hit by a car going 40mph, their survival rate is only 20%. We anticipate concerns like this will continue; if you want to help speak up please consider joining the LA Vision Zero Alliance.

Implementation of SB1 Transportation Law Moves Ahead

The California Transportation Commission (CTC) continued public workshops to get input on guidelines for the many grant programs created by this year’s transportation funding bill, SB 1. On July 21, CTC staff came to Los Angeles for stakeholder input into the Congested Corridors and Local Partnership programs. We are pleased that the Congested Corridors program will seek to reduce congestion by emphasizing people rather than just cars–meaning that solutions like biking and walking that reduce congestion would be eligible. However, we are concerned that CTC’s plan to create separate formulaic grant pools in the name of geographic equity misses an opportunity to steer funds to communities enduring the worst pollution, regardless of the size of the MPO in which they are located. We will keep working to influence SB1’s implementation, and will keep you posted as funding opportunities arise.

Cap-and-Trade Renewal Passes, But With Concerning Provisions

As has been widely reported, on July 18, the Legislature passed the climate bill AB 398 which extends the state’s cap-and-trade program through 2030. The extension was approved by a two-thirds majorities in both houses, a margin sought by Governor Brown to stave off potential constitutional challenges. Revenues from the cap-and-trade system are deposited into the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which in turn funds in part or in whole several programs that the National Partnership advocates for due to their ability to fund active transportation. This includes a portion of the Active Transportation Program, as well as critical grant programs for transit capital and affordable housing that can include active transportation in eligible projects. We are relieved that allocations to these programs will be extended along with the cap-and-trade system, as early negotiations indicated that legislators were considering ending those investments in favor of returning cap-and-trade proceeds to residents in the form of vouchers. Securing a two-thirds majority, however, required compromises that we fear may drastically weaken the state’s ability to reach its greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets, and exacerbate inequities and environmental injustice. Most problematic is the ban on local Air Resources Boards limiting or regulating polluting industries such as oil refineries in their districts. The extension of cap-and-trade does little to nothing to change the status quo in which such environmental hazards are disproportionately located in low income communities and communities of color.

Active Transportation Program: More Funds Available This Year; Providing Input on Next Year’s Cycle

On June 21, staff from the National Partnership attended a meeting of the Technical Advisory Committee of the Active Transportation Program to discuss the upcoming Cycle 4 grant process for the Active Transportation Program (ATP). We were encouraged to learn that the California Transportation Commission (CTC) and CalTrans are seriously considering a recommendation that we and other partners made to create separate grant categories for planning and non-infrastructure projects. CTC and CalTrans sought input from advocates and agencies about how those new categories of grants could be structured to invite more applicants. There was also much discussion about whether to have separate processes or applications for smaller, medium, and larger infrastructure projects, where the cut-offs would be for different size projects, and whether to have separate applications for each. This cycle will open in early 2018.

However, there is $200 million in new funding available for the ATP now due to the passage of SB1, and so there will be a 2017 ATP Augmentation cycle. In this augmentation cycle, the CTC will allow projects funded in 2017 to apply for consideration for an earlier funding window (meaning a project could be implemented sooner) and will also consider funding applications that competed in 2017 but were not selected for funding. The call for projects will be out within a few days, with a due date of August 1, 2017. If you applied in the 2017 cycle, scored well, but were not funded, please take a look and consider resubmitting your project for consideration.

Transportation, Goods Movement and Environmental Justice in the Inland Empire

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The National Partnership works on regional policy in several jurisdictions around the country, including in Southern California. Two of the counties we cover, Riverside and San Bernardino, known as the Inland Empire, have been subject of concern for many environmental and equity advocates. The California Environmental Protection Agency has identified both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties as having high amounts of pollution and high levels of low-income people. In addition, there are a lack of transit and active transportation options in the counties.  Compounding these issues, the region has seen many concerning land use planning decisions such as a dramatic increase of mega-warehouse logistic centers, contributing to its placement as one of the top 25 most polluted areas in the country. Close to 40 percent of the nation’s consumer goods travel through the Inland Empire and sit in warehouses before they are trucked out to other locations.  The booming goods movement industry means that Inland Empire residents are exposed to high levels of air pollution, traffic safety concerns from truck traffic, and poor land use planning.

On June 7th, the National Partnership participated in a meeting in the Inland Empire with the California Transportation Commission’s Executive Director Susan Bransen and Deputy Director of Transportation Finance Eric Thronson to discuss environmental justice and equity issues. The meeting was convened by Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, and several other area advocacy organizations joined as well, including Inland Empire Biking Alliance, Earth Justice, Policy Link as well as Leadership Council for Justice and Accountability.

At the June 7th meeting with CTC staff, much of the discussion was focused on the recent passage of California Senate Bill 1, which will pour significant transportation dollars, including planning, into communities throughout California. However, the bill had a controversial provision added at the last minute which exempts the trucking industry from complying with a requirement to retire or replace polluting diesel trucks. Advocates discussed how exactly the SB 1 provision hurts Inland Empire communities, where more warehouses are popping up all over the region, often near schools and affordable housing units, meaning truck pollution affects large numbers of people.

SB 1 does provide opportunities to expand alternative modes of transportation including active transportation and transit, an area in which the Inland Empire trails behind in investments. However, advocates discussed the need to strategize around environmental justice considerations and the need for these concerns to be heard from a community up approach. Advocates proposed that CTC create an environmental justice task force to represent community concerns. Another topic was Assembly Bill 179, which is currently being reviewed in the legislature. Introduced by Riverside’s District 60 Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes, AB 179 would establish an environmental justice seat within the California Transportation Commission Board. Environmental justice representation on state commission boards have been recently implemented by California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the California Coastal Commission (CCC).

In the end, the biggest recommendation from advocates included a call for inter-agency coordination, transparency and accountability to successfully accomplish California’s ambitious Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Reduction goals–without creating an even greater disproportionate impact on low-income communities like Inland Empire.

The Southern California Team of the National Partnership is proud to support leaders of the equity and environmental justice movement across the state and especially within the Inland Empire. We believe that all children and families should live in places that are toxin-free and are healthy places to live, work, walk and bike. For more information on our environmental justice work and why we believe safe routes to school should uphold environmental justice principles to protect disadvantaged communities, please read our local case study.

 

 

More input sought on Transformative Climate Communities guidelines

The Strategic Growth Council (SGC) hosted two workshops (Los Angeles and Fresno) and an online webinar to facilitate feedback on the third revision of the Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) guidelines. The TCC program, funded with $140 million in cap and trade revenue from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction fund, will build capacity to large scale community planning and implementation projects in disadvantaged communities.

We are pleased about some notable changes to guidelines, including strengthening community engagement requirements and modifying the language around high speed rail connectivity requirements. Another major change to the guidelines calls for project areas to overlap with census tracts within the top 5% of the disadvantaged communities as defined by the CalEnviroScreen 3.0.  A full list of cities meeting that requirement were added for reference as an appendix in the guidelines.

The online webinar came with many program questions from participants as the third location has yet to be designated as anticipated and instead will be a competitive process. Many had questions about the scoring criteria, which has not been determined at this stage. We are also joining with partners to submit comments expressing concern about the reimbursement nature of the program, which is a barrier for low-income communities. Finalized guidelines will be announced later this summer.

 

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