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Displacement

L.A. Times Analysis Shows Racist Harms of Freeway Projects

10:44 AM PST on November 15, 2021

This vacant land, viewed from Norwalk’s Silverbow Avenue pedestrian overpass, was more than a dozen homes. Metro and Caltrans have demolished hundreds of homes for their South 5 Freeway widening project. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

This week the Los Angeles Times published a three-article series on freeway expansion's present and past harms to communities of color. The Times examined three decades of freeway expansion projects in five states - California, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas - and found that large highway building projects demolished homes predominantly (nearly two-thirds) in Black and Latino neighborhoods.

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The L.A. Times analysis of freeway expansion over 30 years in five states found a predominance of home demolitions in communities of color. Graph via LAT article
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For Caltrans projects, the L.A. Times found that 100 percent of the 1,254 homes demolished were in non-white areas. Note that the Times focused on projects that displaced 100 or more households. Many of California's highway widening projects fall below that threshold - for example: Metro and Caltrans under-construction widening of the 71 Freeway through Pomona has demolished 21 homes in the Latino/Asian Westmont neighborhood.

The three Times pieces are:

The Times series features fantastic aerial photography graphics showing home demolitions in Tampa and in the L.A. County city of Norwalk.

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Norwalk neighborhoods in 2005, prior to Metro and Caltrans 5 Freeway widening - detail of L.A. Times graphic
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The same Norwalk neighborhoods in 2021, as Metro and Caltrans $2 billion 5 Freeway widening nears completion - detail of L.A. Times graphic
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Streetsblog L.A. readers will recall earlier SBLA reporting on these neighborhoods erased by Metro and Caltrans 5 Freeway widening demolitions. The $2 billion I-5 South freeway widening, expected to be completed in 2022, took 423 full parcels - mostly homes - in majority Latino neighborhoods in the southeast L.A. County cities of Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs, Downey and La Mirada. Metro and Caltrans are already planning hundreds more home demolitions along the 5 Freeway through Santa Fe Springs and Downey.

SBLA's January 2021 coverage included several before/after images, including the pair below.

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A stretch of Maidstone Avenue in the city of Norwalk in 2007 – via Google Street View
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The same stretch of Maidstone in 2021. Note the outsized height of the 5 Freeway walls here - taller than the ~40-foot utility poles. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
The same stretch of Maidstone in 2021: home demolition sites along the outsized freeway wall. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
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Read the Times coverage - linked above.

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