Building Healthy Communities Long Beach: August 2016
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September 20:
Community Conversation on Jobs
Community Calendar   |   Partners   |   Jobs   |   Resources
Why Westside residents have huge concerns about the Tesoro refinery
For the working-class Latino, Filipino, and African American families in West Long Beach, the desire for safe streets, outdoor activities, and clean air is clouded by diesel exhaust, air pollution, and refinery gas flares. This combined threat to the health and wellbeing of all residents contributes to the LA area having the deadliest air quality in the nation, according to a new report by the American Thoracic Society. The consequences of pollution have moved many long-time residents into action to successfully organize against large-scale projects such as the Southern California International Gateway (SCIG), but the latest threat to health and safety is on the horizon. Now neighbors are uniting to say that the largest oil refinery on the West Coast doesn’t belong near people’s homes, children’s schools, or in their community. 

Since announcing the intention to expand refinery operations in January 2015, the Tesoro Corporation has unveiled their plans to merge the Carson and Wilmington refineries, which sit directly adjacent to West Long Beach. Among many enhancements, the plans include the construction of massive crude oil storage tanks totaling 3.4 million barrels, which can be likened to a whole new oil terminal. The Tesoro refinery already generates pollution that harms children and families living nearby--and their proposed expansion adds insult to injury for Long Beach residents, especially the working-class families already overburdened by air pollution and other toxic stressors. 

Among the concerns of residents and environmentalists is that an accident here could be catastrophic for the entire Southern California region and Tesoro has a “dirty” track record of safety. In 2010, at the Tesoro facility in Washington state, a heat exchanger exploded with a blast so intense that an enormous fireball blazed high above the refinery and resulted in the death of seven refinery employees. In 2013, a Tesoro pipeline in rural North Dakota ruptured, spilling an estimated 20,000 barrels of oil over seven acres. This spill, caused by a leak the size of a quarter, was one of the largest land-based oil releases in US history.

“With this expansion, Tesoro will continue to grow as the top climate polluter in California with its expanded Wilmington and Carson refinery adding increased greenhouse gas emissions. Profits shouldn’t be put above people’s health and safety,” explains Gisele Fong, chair of the Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach Environmental Health Workgroup.

Chief among all concerns from residents is how Tesoro has not acted in good faith. Tesoro has taken advantage of the short approval process required by the Air Quality Management District (AQMD, the regional government body tasked with protecting the environment) and attempted to minimize public outreach to directly affected residents of West Long Beach. Thanks to the labor and advocacy of community groups like Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) and East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ), a community meeting was held in addition to the public hearing, and the comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Report was extended. 

On top of fast-tracking the project, many residents have witnessed Tesoro attach strings to their community investments, resulting in organizations they fund publicly coming out to support the Tesoro expansion project with no acknowledgment of the harmful impacts. At the first and only community meeting held in West Long Beach after organizations demanded accountability from Tesoro and AQMD, some attendees were horrified that the advertised “free” dinner was only provided after they signed a pledge stating they supported the planned refinery expansion. Many of the attending residents who live in the refinery’s neighborhood were glad to skip the free meal so that they could freely articulate their concerns.

While AQMD works to answer community feedback and produce the final Environmental Impact Report this fall, neighbors and families in West Long Beach are continuing to raise their concerns to protect their already overburdened community. For more information or to stay up to date about efforts to stop Tesoro, email gfong@endoil.org.
Organizing to protect renters and keep Long Beach diverse
Thanks to increasing media coverage and the regional spotlight on rapidly rising rents, the entire Long Beach community is talking about what renters in Central, West, and North Long Beach have known for a long time: the housing crisis and need for local renter protections is real.

In response, a coalition organized by Housing Long Beach launched an effort to create sustainable change in the form of a responsible renter’s ordinance to keep hard working residents in their homes and help preserve the diversity that makes Long Beach unique.

Last month, Housing Long Beach and partner organizations gathered outside 601 Linden Avenue to declare the need for just-cause eviction protections and launch the campaign to have the Long Beach City Council pass a responsible renter’s ordinance. The residents at this building had their lives thrown into chaos earlier in the year when they received notice that the building had been purchased and every tenant was being evicted. Evictions such as this have further created difficulties as the amount of affordable housing remains low and rents across the city continue to rise. These factors, combined with low wages, lack of opportunities for low-income families, and new investment towards wealthier audiences have set the stage for gentrification and displacement in Long Beach. 

Amongst this storm, residents see a responsible renter's ordinance as a solution to begin changing this story. As proposed by Housing Long Beach, the ordinance will protect tenants from eviction without a legitimate reason. This will keep people in their homes and curb displacement while still allowing landlords to retain full rights to evict a tenant for breach of rental contract and non-payment of rent. For these reasons, the BHCLB steering committee unanimously voted to endorse the campaign for a responsible renter’s ordinance.  

Housing Long Beach and partners are currently collecting signatures for their online petition to the Long Beach City Council. To support the campaign, add your signature online or email jbutler@housinglb.org.
Photos: Art and social justice collide at Summer Gathering
On Saturday August 13th, Martin Luther King Jr. park was filled with dozens of community organizations and hundreds of local residents exploring art related to efforts to raise the minimum wage, promote racial equity, and expand health access for everyone. Over 315 people attended this year’s BHC Summer Gathering to learn about the movement for health equity and get connected to organizing efforts. The day featured creative social-justice-themed art pieces, cultural performances from Homeland Cultural Center, youth from the Every Student Matters campaign sharing spoken word, and much more from several BHC partner organizations. Thanks to all our collaborators who joined us and to Councilmember Dee Andrews for co-sponsoring the event with us! To view photos from the event, visit our Facebook photo album. 
BHCLB Updates: Thank-yous, congratulations, and new ED Blog
This summer has proved to be another busy time for our work. Thank you to Chelsea Puma and Devante Lindsey, our two interns this summer who have worked hard advance Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach’s health-equity work in the community! Both Chelsea and Devante are current community-health-education majors at California State University, Long Beach and Long Beach residents. Without their help, our Summer Gathering would not have been such an artistic success! 

Second, congratulations to Christine Petit on her new title of Executive Director! Christine has served in this capacity for over two years under the title of Hub Manager. During their July meeting, the BHCLB steering committee voted unanimously to change her title to something that is easier to communicate to others who are unfamiliar with the initiative while also being reflective of the work she’s been doing. 

This is just one small piece of the larger conversation the BHCLB steering committee is having about the sustainability of our work beyond The California Endowment’s 10-year initiative (set to sunset in 2021). More on that to come. In the meantime, check out Christine’s first Executive Director blog “Knowing Power.”
Deadline approaching: the People’s Planning School
What impacts does the physical environment in our city have on our lives? How does city planning influence the health, safety, and livability of our neighborhoods? How can we organize our neighborhoods to improve health and opportunity for all? Starting this fall, local residents will have the chance to find these answers and more at the new People’s Planning School in Long Beach. 
 
Organized by the BHC Neighborhoods Workgroup, the People’s Planning School is a free six-week program that meets on Monday evenings in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Park neighborhood. The program is designed for residents to learn critical city-planning tools and skills to improve the physical environment of their neighborhood and organize their neighbors for change. Each interactive class is centered on topics including active transportation, environmental health, violence prevention, healthy and affordable housing, food access, and more.  

For more information or if you are interested in joining the People’s Planning School, please contact Nicole Taylor at nicole@bhclongbeach.org
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