LA Green Zones Program: Groundtruthing

The Los Angeles County, California, Department of Regional Planning (DRP) developed the Green Zones Program in 2015, to attain equitable development for the next 20 years, and to help update the Los Angeles County General Plan. Centering on environmental justice and community engagement, the program aimed to ensure that residents of all income levels can enjoy the development of the County under the changing climate and severe heat. The program addressed the contamination problems in the unincorporated communities, and also secured affordable housing to avoid displacement of the existing residents due to development. The Green Zones Program Framework contained four elements: land use policy, community engagement, environmental justice screening map, and prevention and mitigation. "Groundtruthing" was the main procedural tool utilized by the program to collect and study the potential environmental hazards information in the communities. It emphasized the importance of collaboration with community members and community-based organizations. Groundtruthing was not a one-time event, but a continuing effort between the government and the local communities. 

In February and March 2018, two pilot communities in East Los Angeles and Florence-Firestone/Walnut Park were selected to conduct seven groundtruthing events. DRP collaborated with two environmental justice community-based organizations, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice in East Los Angeles and Communities for a Better Environment in Florence-Fireston/Walnut Park. Throughout the processes, DRP and its partners surveyed and documented the environmental hazards then utilized this data to develop the Green Zones Program. Notably, five months later, DRP gathered all participants again to share its development progress of the Green Zones Program which includes an Environmental Justice Screening Tool and a future draft zoning code ordinance. The meeting was called the “Groundtruthing Report-Back Meeting.” To honor the spirit of community engagement, the meeting also designed discussion sessions to listen to the concerns and opinions of the community members about the draft Green Zones Program. 

This program highlights equity development and community engagement throughout the land-use policy development process. It provides a feasible procedural framework for state and local governments to pursue environmental justice and develop compatible land-use planning policies in the future.


Publication Date: 2018

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  • Best practice
  • Engagement

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