Community organizing is the key to creating social change and addressing social inequities and injustices through its focus on power, the large-scale and continued involvement of people from the base, a continuing focus on leadership development, and the strategic role played by the professional organizer. We build power through large-scale and continued involvement of people from the base.
Westside San Bernardino
The Westside of the City of San Bernardino is a home to hundreds of families and is, unfortunately, a toxic hot spot for pollution and other industry facilities.
Omnitrans, the regional transportation agency, had a 20,000 gallon tank on their San Bernardino Westside facility that converts Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and 60,000 gallons of LNG storage tanks. The site is located adjacent to 700 homes as well as an elementary school and residents in this community have been complaining about the gas odor and health impacts such as headaches, nausea, and bloody noses since 1999. The facility was at high risk of potential explosion due to human error or at the event of an earthquake. Community leaders have pressured Omnitrans to remove the tanks for years with no success. In July 2016, Omnitrans agreed to remove the LNG tanks and install a CNG pipeline As of December 2017, Omnitrans has discontinued the use of the massive LNG storage tanks and has implemented an underground pipeline. This is a historical victory for the community members who have been actively fighting Omnitrans and the gas impacts of the facility for over 20 years. While this environmental justice victory means we can all breathe a sigh of relief, we will remain persistent in assuring that Omnitrans continues to have transparency about the safety of its operation.
The BNSF rail yard, or Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, is located directly in the Westside community of San Bernardino and poses extreme health risks to the residents of that community. BNSF is a primary source of the goods movement, and the area is teeming with trains and diesel trucks. Diesel pollution from the cargo trains, trucks, and warehouses make its way into the lungs of the nearby residents. Studies have shown that due to the high levels of pollution from diesel, children in San Bernardino have the highest levels of reduced lung function and have the slowest lung growth in the State of California. The risk of cancer for residents in San Bernardino that are near the rail yard are 3300 in a million, which is outrageously high compared with the average calculated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Current expansion of the yard in preparation for increased distribution areas in the county will increase deadly diesel emissions.
The community wants an effective buffer between their homes, parks, and schools and the BNSF property. This would include trees, brick walls, etc., and would greatly reduce the risk of asthma, cancer, and other serious ailments that are known to be triggered by diesel.
The unincorporated area of Bloomington has been the designated target for new warehouse developments in the Inland Valley. Developers have purchased lands next to homes, schools, and family-owned businesses and are slowly converting residential neighborhood into an industrial zone filled with warehouses and trucks. The newest warehouse development in Bloomington is being proposed to be less than 70-feet away from community homes and less than 1,500-feet from the local high school.
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) guidelines as of 2015 clearly states that a warehouse cannot be within 1,000-feet of a house, yet community leaders have been met with strong opposition in their efforts to stop the warehouse.
In the 1970s, agricultural uses declined in Jurupa Valley and land was converted to residential, industrial, and
commercial development. The concentration of highways and railroads has made the Inland Valley a major shipping hub and many manufacturing companies have located their warehouses here. Trucks and rail lines accessing these facilities generate increased levels of diesel emissions. In addition, the prevailing wind pattern of sea breezes from throughout Southern California blowing east brings emissions from cars, trucks, ports, power plants, and refineries which are blocked by the San Bernardino Mountains. This issue is further compounded as the pollution mixes with oxygen in the presence of sunlight to form ozone.
Mira Loma Village
Mira Loma Village (MLV; Etiwanda Ave. & Iberia St.), is a community of 101 homes located in the city of Jurupa Valley, CA. This neighborhood is surrounded by warehouses and plagued by constant high industrial truck traffic, noise and light pollution, as well as high levels of particulate matter. In February 2013, CCAEJ—with support from California Attorney General, Kamala Harris—won a lawsuit against Riverside County for allowing 6 mega-warehouses to be built and for violating Environmental Quality Acts in the process. MLV won a settlement of mitigation measures to lessen health impacts and improve the quality of life for the residents.