By Alfredo Santana
LOS ANGELES — How to achieve equity and sustainability with projects to improve air quality, health and movement of people and goods for communities near the Long Beach (710) Freeway dominated the discussion at the most recent task force meeting.
Task force members were told the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has secured $50 million from federal and state sources to fund south corridor projects attached to an environmental impact report and study with zero freeway expansion.
On May 9, the task force confirmed Sinetta Farley from East Rancho Dominguez as the newest Community Leadership Committee member, with five more seats still remaining vacant.
The gathering underscored the need to finalize a statement slated for final vote on June 13 with concepts that enhance mobility of people and goods linked to the group’s visions and goals.
Long Beach Harbor Commissioner Sharon Weissman pointed out that multimodal refers to a set of different transportation options, whereas the objective is to focus on projects that benefit movement of humans and freight.
“[We need] goods movement in a way that’s best for the community,” Weissman said. “If we don’t have it addressed, we run the risk of having trucks handling goods only in the last mile of the freeway. My point is that we need to address it for the benefit of the community.”
Weissman made the comments in relation to a petition made by Community Leadership Committee member Laura Cortez not to prioritize any mode of transportation amid the debate on crafting the final vision and statements draft.
A Bell Gardens resident, Cortez is also an organizer and co-executive director of the nonprofit East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice.
Kerry Cartwright, Port of Los Angeles director of goods movement, said that multimodal is a concept that refers to both people and forms of transportation.
“[I] just want to reiterate and support that movement of people and goods is part of our [task force] goals,” Cartwright said.
Last week, the Long Beach Harbor Commission announced a pilot plan to roll out 100 trucks that run on electricity to serve the twin ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, and will be operated by NFI and Schneider.
The electric semi-trailer trucks would reduce diesel emissions, according to a harbor commission report at a cost of $74 million, with a $27 million grant from the South Coast Air Quality Management District to help set up charging stations in Ontario and El Monte.
Also, the task force released a guiding principle of equity drafted by the equity work group that was well received by most attendees during the Zoom meeting.
It reads that “the I-710 South Corridor Investment Plan is founded on the guiding principle of equity, a commitment to: 1, strive to rectify past harms, 2, provide fair and just access to opportunities, and 3, eliminate disparities in project processes, outcomes and community results.”
Furthermore, “the plan seeks to elevate and engrain the principle of equity across all goals, objectives, strategies, and actions through a framework of procedural, distributive, structural and restorative equity, and by prioritizing an accessible and representative participation process for communities most impacted by the I-710.”
Gene Giuliano, a USC professor of transportation policy and metropolitan spatial structure, congratulated the equity work group for capturing a progressive message.
“I’m really impressed with this slide,” Giuliano said. “Typically, we like to bring discussion of equity to high levels so we can include it on anything.”
Several participants pushed the idea of bringing health as public policy and attaching it to works that will address more efficient ways to move people and goods along the corridor.
“Health is a good point to underscore in all projects,” Giuliano said.
Both East Los Angeles resident Sylvia Betancourt and Luke Klipp, senior transportation deputy for county Supervisor Janice Hahn, hailed the word structure used in the equity work group’s statement.
In the end, an informal tally resulted in 22 members in favor of keeping the equity group statement with three who said they can live with it plus an addendum committing to public health.
On sustainability, the task force released a guiding principle statement for discussion that read: “The I-710 south corridor investment plan is founded on the guiding principle of sustainability: Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’”
The draft further explained that “a commitment to sustainability is the satisfaction of basic social and economic needs, both present and future, and the responsible use of natural resources, all while maintaining or improving the well-being of the environment on which life depends.”
The statement mentions three sustainability types: economic, social and environmental.
Cartwright said that one key missing ingredient in the sustainability model is mobility.
“I think we should have that addressed in sustainability, whether we have that in social or not. But I think it should be added,” he said.
Cortez suggested adding housing to the block of environmental sustainable needs, while another task force member suggested to switch the word environmental for regional.
And task force member Natalia Ospina requested making air quality improvements to local and regional ecosystems a goal as opposed to global ones as it is described in the environmental sustainability paragraph.
Joe Lyou, president and CEO of the Coalition for Clean Air, proposed to include environmental justice and find ways to achieve it along the south corridor from Long Beach to the junction with the Pomona (60) Freeway in East Los Angeles.
“We can consider the fact to the extent that we can change this to its requirement under environment. I’d like to see some acknowledgment to the need,” Lyou told the task force.
Michael Cano, deputy executive officer of good movement and state policy programming with the MTA, said the discussion sets the stage for a comprehensive and edited final sustainability version.
“We have a good sense of where we are now, and we need to give folks room to digest the terms and work on edits looking forward to June,” Cano said.
He referred to air quality, community mobility, safety, economy, sustainability and the environment as the six goals to work in the 710 corridor projects.
Cano added that inserting housing to sustainability would answer concerns related to ongoing displacement threats to residents due to gentrification and historic ones cited for eminent domain when the freeway was built.
“We hope stability brings forth a sense of inclusiveness for the people living in the corridor,” Cano said.
However, input from the Community Leadership Committee is missing on their visions and goal statement, and Cano said the task force will not move forward until it gets a version with their own points of view within the next two weeks.
“This feedback will provide a clearer picture of the elements you wanted to see refined,” Cano said. “This session has been incredibly helpful to me. We will refine and edit a version you feel comfortable with to vote moving forward.”