Los Angeles Clean Up Green Up Ordinance

In April 2016, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed a groundbreaking ordinance to address environmental justice concerns within three distinct neighborhoods: Boyle Heights, Pacoima-Sun Valley, and Wilmington. For decades, these three communities – comprised primarily of low-income, Latinx individuals and families – suffered a wide range of health effects, due mostly to the high concentration of polluting industrial sites within their neighborhoods. To address these inequalities, LA City Council passed and implemented the Clean Up Green Up Ordinance with three goals in mind: (1) to reduce pollution in the most toxic, hotspot areas; (2) to prevent additional pollution; and (3) to revitalize these neighborhoods through supporting local businesses and economic development.

The Clean Up Green Up Ordinance developed as a result of years of hard work, and through the collaboration of a variety of different non-profits, environmental groups, businesses, and more. Since 1996, interested stakeholders fighting for environmental justice in these communities have worked together to bring about positive change through their LA Collaborative for Environmental Health and Justice (“the Collaborative”). In 2010, the Collaborative released a formal report – Hidden Hazards – on the health impacts environmental hazards were having on surrounding communities. In many places, the air pollution levels exceeded statewide recommendations, and many of the leading polluters were closer to “sensitive areas,” such as churches, schools, playgrounds, and more. Many of these pollution sources were small businesses owned by community-members or locals driving through the area, and included auto shops, dry cleaners, and even idling cars. 

The Collaborative not only wanted to help protect communities from feeling the disproportionate effects of these pollution sources, but wanted to ensure that local businesses were able to adopt better labor practices that would lower emissions footprints in a way that wouldn’t hurt their bottom line. Their recommendations, contained in Hidden Hazards, were the framework that the Los Angeles City Council used to create the Clean Up Green Up Ordinance. 

The Ordinance contains a wide variety of provisions related to improving the environment of these three communities. It allows the City to restrict the expansion of oil refinery operations further. New or expanded industrial uses require environmental and health impact assessments for approval, and buffer zones were created that better insulate sensitive areas from industrial or vehicle emissions. Site planning for future projects must comply with noise standards and other proper emission mitigation procedures. 

Additionally, the Clean Up Green Up Ordinance makes it easier for businesses within the community to comply with these environmental standards. Due to the new Ordinance, inspections are more coordinated across agencies. Most importantly, an ombudsman was also created within the Bureau of Sanitation with the explicit purpose of assisting businesses with financial and technical support. The ombudsman was installed to aid local businesses in complying with the Ordinance, and to help owners apply for the correct permits, learn about grant opportunities, and ultimately operate as a “one-stop-shop” for help and support. Funding for these services comes from modest inspection fees and fines for companies that do not comply with the Ordinance’s safeguards. 

Since its passing in 2016, the Clean Up Green Up has not only helped mitigate the health hazards associated with industrial emissions within Boyle Heights, Pacoima-Sun Valley, and Wilmington, but it has also helped to facilitate economic resilience within these neighborhoods as well. Its success is proof that “healthy, equitable land use can be intentionally produced through strategic multi-sector policy action.”

Publication Date: April, 2016

Related Organizations:

  • Los Angeles City Council

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  • Engagement
  • Legislation

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