Why is the City of Monterey Park preparing a new Environmental Justice Element?
In September 2016, Senate Bill 1000 was adopted to require jurisdictions with “disadvantaged communities” to incorporate environmental justice policies into their general plans. Disadvantaged communities are neighborhoods with low-income households that are exposed to pollution (e.g., freeways, landfills). State law requires environmental justice policies to be incorporated into the general plan upon the adoption of two or more general elements. The City of Monterey Park is in the process of updating both the Housing Element and the Safety Element, which also requires the City to include the environmental justice policies in the general plan.
What is Environmental Justice?
Environmental justice provides an important opportunity to alleviate problems that previous State legislation and planning practices haven’t addressed, such as access to healthy food, affordable housing, and access to decisions made by governments. Although environmental degradation and pollution impact all communities, some, particularly low-income and communities of color, experience the impacts at a higher rate. In the United States, this has historically meant low-income and minority communities tend to be located closer in proximity to environmentally hazardous or degraded environments including hazard and toxic waste-producing facilities, landfills, and energy production facilities. These facilities are known to contribute to health issues for nearby communities. The Environmental Justice movement emerged as a political movement to fight abuses and discriminatory practices against historically impacted communities.
What is the multi-cultural history of Monterey Park?
Monterey Park is located in the San Gabriel Valley region of Los Angeles. Its history can be traced back to pre-colonial times when the area was home to members of the Shoshone Tribe as well as Gabrielino-Tongva people. Monterey Park was officially incorporated in 1916 post World War II when it received its current name. Before its incorporation, the area was sought out by Alhambra and Pasadena to be converted into a large sewage treatment facility. If not for local efforts and movements to not only incorporate a new city but also outlaw sewage plants, the city would not have become one of Los Angeles’ first Chinese, Japanese, and Chicano majority community. Often, Monterey Park was advertised and nicknamed as the “Chinese Beverly Hills”, “Mexican Beverly Hills” and “Banzai Hills”. Monterey Park has a historically diverse ethnic community including Chinese, Mexican, Japanese, Armenian, and Jewish communities.
Is Monterey Park exposed to pollution?
Monterey Park faces disproportionate exposure to air pollution associated with freeways. Monterey Park’s city core is between three major freeways which include the I-710, the I-10, and the SR-60. Historically, freeway construction in Los Angeles was located near lower-income and communities of color, further cementing residential segregation and disproportionately exposing non-white communities to degraded air quality. Monterey Park has high rates of exposure to ozone, PM 2.5, and diesel, air pollutants that impact the community’s health.
What are the challenges that face Monterey Park community members?
Language isolation has been a long-standing challenge for communities in Monterey Park. In the 1970s and 1980s, school districts serving Monterey Park determined to keep English as its single official language, maintaining a learning barrier for students with English as a second language. Linguistic isolation is still present today with certain areas of Monterey Park having the highest rates of linguistic isolation in the state. 35% of Monterey Park’s residents are foreign-born and 28% have limited English proficiency.
In addition to language isolation, 9% of homes lack access to technology and 15% of homes lack access to internet. Currently, only 30% of Monterey Park residents have attained university-level education.
Other community characteristics that place the communities in Monterey Park at a disadvantage include high rates of infants born at low birth weight, high rates of poverty in some areas of the city, and high rates of housing burden.
What types of policies will be included in the new Environmental Justice Element?
In light of the history of Monterey Park and existing community characteristics, the City of Monterey Park will prepare a new Environmental Justice Element that will seek to address these issues as well as others. New goals and policies will address:
- Reduction of pollution exposure and improving air quality
- Promoting access to public facilities
- Promoting access to healthy foods
- Promoting safe and sanitary homes
- Promoting physical activity
- Promoting civic engagement
Your participation will be fundamental for shaping the goals and policies of the Environmental Justice Element. We encourage all Monterey Park stakeholders and residents to participate in all upcoming community meetings.
Please join our e-mail list to receive updates on the Environmental Justice Element progress, including information on upcoming workshops.