I have lived in Oakland on and off for the past 30 years, and living and organizing in East Oakland for the past 10 years. I got involved in truck issues in East Oakland because it is not only a community issue, but also a neighborhood issue. When I started doing organizing with Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), we started doing outreach in schools and churches in East Oakland, near the Hegenberger Corridor area. At one of the first community meetings, we went over a survey of community concerns, and diesel trucks came up as one issue. We went on to do environmental justice, transportation justice, and educational trainings with residents. Diesel trucks, especially idling, stood out as a major concern for air pollution and health impacts from it.
Located on 98th Avenue and San Leandro Street, is The Oakland Foreign Trade Zone and Pacific American Services (PACAM). This huge company provides logistics and public warehousing services for the Port of Oakland and throughout San Francisco/Northern California. A lot of cargo comes from the Port to that location. The Port of Oakland is part of a global market, part of the movement of consumer goods.
The movement of “goods” happens at a huge cost to air quality and the health of East Oakland residents. Everything we buy, and we buy a lot – from the clothes on your back, to the cell phone in your pocket, to the food you eat – comes with impacts to the environment and health, whether in the extraction of resources, production of products or the transport of products world-wide. Products made abroad are shipped overseas by ocean-going vessels that are more polluting than diesel trucks. The shipping containers that hold these goods are moved by diesel-powered machinery onto trains and/or trucks and come to distribution centers in environmental justice communities like East Oakland. The trucks spew particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons and toxic pollution into the air. This is the same air that local residents breathe all day long. Diesel trucks often idle – leaving engines on while stopped or parked– in neighborhoods like in East Oakland Trucks often drive through residential streets.
Those of us who live in East Oakland see these cargo containers stacked up high in the air, skeletons discarded from the Port, instead we wish we had gardens, farmers, real food. The land that containers sit on could be places for community gardens. Things coming through the Port, like food and other goods, are not coming to grocery stores in East Oakland—we don’t have any grocery stores, and barely have any stores with healthy food. We are not benefiting from the Port, and yet we get more than our share of the trucks coming and going from the Port.
Having truck routes and truck parking to get trucks out of the neighborhood in East Oakland would mean less pollution, safer streets, and less potholes. These are not just East Oakland issues. Air pollution does not stop at the border of one neighborhood, or even at San Leandro or Emeryville. We need to look holistically at how to address air pollution and the communities that bear the brunt. Trucks are just one part of the issue.
For many Oakland residents that are working together to create healthier communities, diesel trucks are an issue that must be addressed. Asthma rates in Oakland are high compared to Alameda County and they are even higher in certain neighborhoods like East Oakland. Pollution that comes from the distribution centers, freeways and truck routes are contributing to the high asthma rates along the 880 corridor and other impacted communities.
Inspired by CBE’s 2010, “Diesel Truck Study,” the (former) City Redevelopment Agency and City Council Member Larry Reid funded the East Oakland Truck Route Assessment to reroute diesel trucks, add signage in heavy diesel truck areas and additional recommendations to improve local truck traffic. CBE entered a partnership with the City and participated in a Technical Advisory Group that developed the new East Oakland truck routes. A key partner was Alameda County Public Health Department. Finally, on July 21, 2015 the City of Oakland approved an ordinance for new truck routes in East Oakland. Thank you to CBE resident leaders and our partners that helped get this project on the road and moving forward. This is one positive step towards improving health in East Oakland, but we still have a long way to go.
To see the updated and old truck routes maps click New Truck Routes in East Oakland!
By Nehanda Imara
CBE East Oakland Organizer & Resident