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Below is one story that highlights the kind of change that Streetsblog’s reporting supports.
For more than two decades, pollution-burdened communities of color along the 710 Freeway have opposed Metro’s plans to widen the freeway. The Coalition for Environmental Health and Justice (CEHAJ) has long pushed for a 710 project that would be limited to the existing freeway footprint, truly advance zero-emission transportation, and include local hire.
Nonetheless, Metro continued to push a plan to spend six billion dollars to add two more lanes to the freeway. The lower 710 project would displace hundreds of homes and businesses.
Earlier this year, Metro Highway Program staff kept repeating that there was just one federal partner that needed to better understand the lower 710 Freeway project, and that the project would then move forward. Streetsblog L.A. Editor Joe Linton followed some hunches, and in early May, got his hands on letter from the Environmental Protection Agency. It laid out the EPA’s determination that the 710 Freeway widening would worsen air pollution in an area that already has the worst air quality in the United States.
Streetsblog published the 710 story and the EPA letter on May 4.
On May 12, the statewide head of Caltrans, Toks Omishakin, announced that the 710 widening would be put on hold.
On May 22, the L.A. Times picked up the 710 story – crediting Streetsblog’s earlier reporting.
On May 27, the L.A. Times editorial board termed Metro’s 710 widening “a zombie project from another era.”
On May 28, the Metro board suspended work on the 710 widening.
Not every project Streetsblog reports on has fierce and capable community leaders who have fought for decades to lay the groundwork for last month’s 710 pause. Not everything Streetsblog reports on gets such quick results. And the last chapters in the 710 story are still being written. That zombie project is suspended, but it’s far from dead.
Frankly, though, we’re pretty proud of our contribution to the taking down of this zombie.
And Streetsblog’s role in this wasn’t just limited to Linton’s reporting.
For many years, Streetsblog California Editor Melanie Curry has reported on the stacked representation of real estate interests on the California Transportation Commission, and on changing leadership amid a new multimodal and equity focus at Caltrans. Curry’s reporting shone a light on efforts to bring more diversity to the CTC, and those efforts are succeeding. Clean air advocates now on the commission asked Omishakin about the 710, thus getting his statement on the public record.
The 710 is not the only harmful freeway project that Streetsblog has reported on in the past year. When most mainstream media outlets have declined to cover the harms of freeway building, SBLA has provided key coverage of:
- Metro’s 605 Corridor Improvement Project, which would demolish hundreds of homes, mostly along the 5 in Downey and Santa Fe Spring. Streetsblog’s initial 605 CIP story, amplifying local voices opposed to demolitions, was our most-read story of the year
- Metro and Caltrans’ years-late, millions-over-budget widening of the 5 Freeway through Burbank
- Metro and Caltrans’ erasure of neighborhoods to widen Highway 5 between Orange County and the 605
- Metro and Caltrans’ SR-71 widening, including evictions happening right now
- Harmful induced driving caused by widening highways – and Metro’s denial that more freeway means more harm
And Communities Editor Sahra Sulaiman has spent many years reporting on how freeway construction both facilitated white flight and allowed the city to isolate, contain, and repressively police the Boyle Heights and South L.A. communities once racial covenants were struck down. See some of those stories here:
- Nipsey Hussle Understood Cities Better than You
- The Color of Law & Residential Segregation: A “Walking Toward Justice” Webinar
- Destination Crenshaw and the Rise of We-Built-this-Place-Making
- Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza Offers Window into History of Redevelopment, Legacy of White Flight
- As Vermont/Manchester Transportation School Moves Forward, Community Reckons with Past, Wrestles with Form Change Should Take
- Jobs or Housing? Historic South Central Residents Decry Feeling Asked to Choose by Billion Dollar Reef Project; What Constitutes Good Development? Luxury REEF Project Approved over South Central Residents’ Fears of Displacement; Measure S and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Status Quo
- Exploring the Legacy of Redlining via a New Documentary about Boyle Heights
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