The CBE Brown to Green Projects: Transforming Brownfields Into Green and Sustainable Community Space
Residents of Huntington Park, CA, are working with Communities for a Better Environment to create a greener, more prosperous hometown in the small city six miles south of downtown Los Angeles.
The goal: revitalize a 110-acre “brownfield” area in one corner of the city by replacing it with green space, quality housing, economic development.
A community-led vision is central to CBE’s approach.
Huntington Park Lives With Pollution
Huntington Park, a vibrant town with a majority-Latino population of 60,000, is one of the several small cities southeast of downtown Los Angeles whose residents live with the accumulated effects of many pollution sources–from the emissions that waft from the largely industrial City of Vernon next door; exhaust from nearby high-traffic roads, truck routes and freeways; toxic emissions from local industrial operations within the city itself; and the smog that frequently hangs over the Southern California Air Basin.
Not only air pollution affects the city, however; Huntington Park is the site of several brownfields—areas previously used for heavy manufacturing and industrial uses that may still be contaminated by industrial chemicals.
Community Residents Lead the Way from Brown to Green
Huntington Park is home to a largely immigrant community that has successfully taken on other local pollution sources. For example, years of community organizing and pressure forced authorities in 2004 to remove a mountain of noxious rubble—”La Montana“–dumped in Huntington Park after the Santa Monica Freeway’s collapse during the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
In 2009, Huntington Park residents stopped a planned power plant in adjacent Vernon that would have added substantially more contaminants to the already-polluted southeastern Los Angeles air.
Communities for a Better Environment took a lead in both of those campaigns, and CBE remains a part of the Huntington Park community (CBE’s office is on the downtown’s bustling Pacific Avenue). CBE is committed to local efforts to turn brown to green in the city’s northwest area.
In partnership with the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the City of Huntington Park (view the Brownfields fact sheet), CBE and local residents have begun the visioning phase for the 110-acre brownfield area in the northwestern corner of Huntington Park (click here for the Brown to Green map) to transform it from a blighted landscape of vacant lots and pollution into a sustainable mixed-use area that supports environmental health as well as a healthy local economy. (Economic revitalization is key–twenty-one percent of Huntington Park families live below the federal poverty level.)
CBE is partnering with the City of Huntington Park and the California Environmental Justice Alliance on the Brown to Green project. Center for Public Environmental Oversight, Center for Creative Land Recycling, EPA region 9, and Cal/EPA’s Department of Toxic Substances Control have provided invaluable technical support and information to support this project.
From Vision to Planning and Strategy
CBE has taken a lead in supporting the development of a community vision in innovative ways that place neighbors’ ideas front and center.
At a visioning forum in the Huntington Park High School cafeteria, innovative urban planner James Rojas invited community members to approach the tables and select a collection of the thousands of little colorful objects he had poured on the tables and use them to construct their idea of a revitalized Huntington Park community.The community will agree on a vision and a way forward in 2012. Then it will be time to create the plan and strategies to achieve it.
A successful Brown to Green development shaped by the community’s vision in Huntington Park will not only have a positive effect for residents there—it could set the stage as a redevelopment model for other brownfields sites in the Los Angeles County.