07 Sep News Briefs
Toxic Waste and Demolition at Jordan Downs
The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles plans to demolish four structures at Jordan Downs public housing community in Watts despite the discovery of lead toxins at the site. The planned Aug. 16 demolition is a major step towards replacing the 700 unit community with a billion dollar multi-use development.
But many residents want the demolition held off until the lead toxics issue is resolved.
Two years ago testing was performed by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) on thirty housing sites at Jordan Downs. “That testing revealed there were elevated levels of lead and arsenic,” says Thelmy Perez, a community organizer for the L.A. Human Right to Housing Collective.
Nonetheless DTSC refused to order further testing or remediation to protect the 2,400 residents.
In May of this year, the issue was revived when DTSC discovered racist emails from its scientist William Bosan, who signed off on that refusal. In light of this, DTSC ordered a review of all of the scientist’s recent decisions, including at Jordan Downs.
No action has yet been taken, but in a letter sent to DTSC Director Barbara Lee last week, the Collective says its tests turned up 50 more soil samples with high levels of lead at Jordan Downs, some as high as four times the actionable level.
Congressmember Karen Bass brought members of Congress and other elected officials to South Los Angeles to discuss solutions to gun violence in the wake of the outburst of shootings and gun attacks in July.
More than 150 people attended the townhall meeting on July 30 at Community Coalition. Also in attendence were Congressmember Robin Kelly from Chicago, State Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer and Congressmember Janice Hahn.
South L.A. relative caregiver activist Doris James gave voice to a common dilemma.
“I worry about my grandsons. They’re faced with gang and other community violence and the solution that we always hear about is we need more police. But I also worry about the police, because my grandsons have been pulled over, over and over again.”
Residents Organize Healing Circles
The police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile motivated more than 300 hundred concerned residents to pack Community Coalition in July to discuss police violence.
Residents highlighted the need for safe spaces where they could comfortably talk about peace, safety and healing. One take-away from this event was the dire need for avenues and spaces where community members could vent, heal and push for change.
In response Community Coalition will be holding healing circles on Aug. 20 from 7-8:30 p.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. Park, Green Meadows Park, Van Ness Park and Algin Sutton Park.
Presidential Race Heats to a Boil
With the party conventions in the rear view mirror, the race for the presidency is reaching a fever pitch.
Donald Trump bills himself as the only person who can save the United States from ruin while his critics consider him a bigoted demagogue. President Barack Obama declared him “completely unfit” for the job.
Secretary Hillary Clinton says she is the candidate who represents American values but her critics say she’s untrustworthy and beholden to Wall Street.
The two present starkly different attitudes toward people of color and the present and future of the United States.
The election will be held on Nov. 8.
Residents Demand Better City Services
Sixty South Los Angeles residents met with members of the Board of Public Works at Community Coalition in July. Board President Kevin James and Board Commissioner Heather Repenning heard residents outline their priorities for cleaning up South L.A.
“South L.A. has suffered too long from neglect. We want a regular dialogue with the departments so we can inform where they focus resources and what their priorities are,” neighborhood activist Elida Mendez told the commissioners.
Residents asked that their streets be cleaned regularly, trees trimmed on a timely basis, sidewalks repaired, and illegally dumped items collected.
Residents called for improved responsiveness from the commissioners and asked to work with Public Works to create a budget that reflects South L.A.’s concerns.
The commissioners agreed that more equitable service delivery is critical to restoring public faith in city services, and that they would work with residents to make sure they have a greater voice in how services are delivered in South L.A.