Board awards contract to demolish Ujima Village

The Board of Supervisors Tuesday awarded a contract to National Demolition Contractors to remove the hazardous materials from the Ujima Village housing development and demolish the property located at 941 East 126th Street in the unincorporated area of Willowbrook. Residents moved out of the 300-unit complex in August 2010, after an environmental investigation found asbestos and other hazardous materials on the property. Since that time, the empty complex has become a source of decay and community blight. Today’s action paves the way for new uses of the property by authorizing the contractor to begin demolition this summer. The County of Los Angeles is committed to using the space for parkland and recreational purposes and will seek feedback from interested community residents and stakeholders on the site’s design.

“We are starting fresh and setting a new path for the Willowbrook community,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “Once Ujima Village is demolished, the site can be re-envisioned and redeveloped into a quality, community serving destination.”

The recreational improvements will be planned in consultation with the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. The agency is responsible for overseeing an environmental investigation and clean up activities at the site and within the surrounding community.

Prior to the demolition of Ujima Village, the privately operated daycare center Honey’s Little Angels, which is adjacent to Ujima Village, will be relocated to a County building located at 8300 South Vermont Avenue in Athens. On June 6, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ motion was unanimously adopted by the Board to facilitate the prompt relocation of the daycare center.

As is typical of many structures built before 1978, the units in Ujima Village were found to have both lead-based paint and asbestos-containing materials. Although the Los Angeles County Housing Authority considered investing in the rehabilitation of the property, the rent revenue would not cover the cost of the significant repairs and remediation that would have been required to eliminate the hazardous material found throughout the property.

The demolition cost of $3 million will be funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Second Supervisorial District Community Development Block Grant funds and Second Supervisorial District discretionary funds.

Statement on hydraulic fracking and the Inglewood Oil Field

Hydraulic fracking continues to be a subject not only of local, but international concern.  I too am very concerned about this issue, and the potential environmental, economic and social impacts of hydraulic fracking, specifically as it relates to the communities that surround the Inglewood Oil Field.

It is important that interested stake holders are cognizant of the differences between hydraulic fracking in the mid-west and north east, and in California. While most of the controversy has revolved around hydraulic fracking for natural gas, in California the geology only allows for fracking for oil. In addition, the majority of the states are only now adopting regulations on well integrity that California has relied on for years.

Nonetheless, we don’t have a complete understanding of the potential risks and appropriate regulations, and it’s important that the State of California, which has authority over this activity, act nimbly and thoroughly to develop regulations over this practice.

Over the past few years, I have advocated for a variety of strategies to address this concern.

Study of Environmental Impacts
After residents and community groups sued PXP and the County of Los Angeles in November 2008 over concerns generated by drilling at the Inglewood Oil Field, we required PXP to conduct a study to assess the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracking at the oil field. Also, the County has hired a independent consultant to peer review the study.

Support for Transparency in the Hydraulic Fracking Process
In May 2011, at my request, the Board of Supervisors unanimously supported statewide legislation that would require disclosure of the types of chemicals injected underground during oil and gas extraction.

Support for Department of Conservation’s Efforts to Develop Regulations
Given that the State’s Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources is the governmental entity responsible for regulating activities that take place underground, including hydraulic fracking, I have urged the Governor to take a leadership role in developing regulations.

Support for Moratorium on Hydraulic Fracking
Last week, Assemblywoman Betsy Butler authored statewide legislation to implement a moratorium on hydraulic fracking until the Department of Conservation’s regulations are put in place.

I fully  support this legislation. While the local study that is being prepared will provide valuable information about the environmental, safety and health risks potentially posed by hydraulic fracking in the Inglewood Oil Field, the findings of the study will not universally be applicable for oil production fields in the rest of the state.  Accordingly, I strongly urge the Department of Conservation to be comprehensive and deliberative in its study, research, and regulatory proceedings relative to this critical topic.

Contribute your input to the updated draft of the Los Angeles County General Plan

The  Los Angeles  General Plan Update will guide growth and development in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County through the year 2035.  It provides a framework of goals, policies and implementation strategies centered on the theme of sustainability –  basically how to meet our current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their economic, social and environmental needs. Major policies include:

- Expanding Transit Oriented Districts (TODs) to focus growth in areas with existing infrastructure and access to transit choices.
- Promoting Mixed-Use to encourage higher-density commercial/residential development along identified major commercial corridors within proposed TODs.
- Expanding Significant Ecological Areas to ensure long-term biotic diversity in the County without precluding development in those areas.
- Creating Employment Protection Districts to ensure that valuable industrial land remains available for quality jobs-producing industries and businesses.
- Protecting Agricultural Resources by recognizing the importance of local agriculture and protecting it from incompatible surrounding development.

The Revised Draft General Plan and Land Use Policy Maps can be found here.

Click here to look up any parcel in the unincorporated areas to find out its current and proposed land use designations and other related information.

The General Plan Update is lengthy and comprehensive in scope. If you  are interested in particular information, please contact the General Plan Update Team at (213) 974-6417 or genplan@planning.lacounty.gov and they will provide you with the  specific information you are looking for.  Your comments and questions are welcome.

Board of Supervisors Relocates Honey’s Little Angels Day Care Center

At the urging of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors today voted to relocate Honey’s Little Angels day care center, which sits on the site of a state-led toxic substances investigation in Willowbrook. Beginning this summer, the center will be housed in a brand new County-leased building in Athens. Moving the center from its present location — the site of the former Athens Tank Farm, where there is residual oil contamination — has been a priority for the Supervisor.

For the past year, negotiations have been taking place between ExxonMobil, which bears substantial responsibility for the resulting pollution, the day care operator and the County. The County, however, ultimately took the lead in identifying a location and will facilitate the day care center’s move. The facility’s residence at 8300 South Vermont Avenue in Athens is expected to be temporary, and all three parties are still working on identifying a permanent site.

”I have consistently maintained that it is best to act out of an abundance of caution and move these young children as soon as possible,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. . “Fortunately, environmental assessments indicate there is no present risk to the children’s health, but the families with children at the day care center deserve complete peace of mind.”

Acting on a motion sponsored by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, the board also took a number of other steps with regard to the investigation at the site and to address concerns voiced by neighbors in the community. In addition to moving Honey’s Little Angels, the Supervisors also voted to:

  • Encourage Gov. Jerry Brown to designate the Department of Toxic Substance Control as the lead agency for future community meetings related to the former Athens Tank Farm Site. It is the Department of Toxic Substances Control –not the L.A. Regional Water Quality Control Board — that has expertise in determining community health risks associated with contaminated sites and responding to concerns raised by residents.
  • Direct the County Department of Public Health to investigate if past exposures on the site may have contributed to elevated levels of illnesses amongst residents who lived on or near the site, once occupied by the former Ujima Village.
  • Support legislation that would require the state Environmental Protection Agency and affiliated agencies to contract directly with independent consultants to complete contamination investigations. This step comes in response to concerns raised by neighborhood residents about the validity of an investigation conducted by the entity responsible for contamination at the site.

As a whole, the steps are part of comprehensive program undertaken by the Supervisor to promote the prompt and thorough remediation of the contaminated site and safeguard the health of area residents.

At his urging, in May the Water Board convened a community meeting to update residents on its investigation. In response to related concerns about health care access, the Supervisor also arranged for the Department of Health Services to enroll eligible residents in low-cost health insurance programs. “ExxonMobil and the State of California should be exhausting every available resource to provide comprehensive and timely justice for the Willowbrook community,” Ridley-Thomas said. This site has been under investigation for over six years. The residents deserve answers and a resolution to this issue.”

The Baldwin Hills community health assessment is complete

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has completed the final component of the Baldwin Hills Community Health Assessment, which consisted of a health survey of the residents surrounding the oil field. One thousand individuals were interviewed and self-reported illnesses, including asthma and other health concerns. The findings were compared to information for Los Angeles County residents as a whole.

The report can be found here.

Representatives from the Department of Public Health discussed the findings of the health survey at the July Meeting of the Baldwin Hills Community Advisory Panel. Click here to see their presentation.

The Department of Public Health previously presented the findings from the first phase of their Community Health Assessment in February 2011. The initial phase analyzed cancer rates, and mortality, low-birth weight and birth defect data for the communities surrounding the oil field.  The report was peer reviewed by Professor Vickie Mays of the UCLA Center on Minority Health Disparities, Dr. Stephen Thacker,  Director, Office of Surveillance, Epidemiology and Laboratory Services at the Centers for Disease Control and Dr. Carlos Castillo-Salgado, an Associate Professor at Johns Hopkins University.

To see a PowerPoint Presentation on Phase 1 of the community health assessment click here.

To see the Phase 1 report click here.


After over two years of critical and collaborative discussions between petitioners including the City of Culver City, Concerned Citizens of South Los Angeles, the Citizens Coalition for a Safe Community, and Community Health Councils, and the oil field operator, Plains Exploration and Production Co., all parties have agreed to 15 additional mitigations that when combined with the existing provisions of the Baldwin Hills Community Standards District (CSD), provide a strong framework for safeguarding the health, safety and security of the surrounding community. All parties have negotiated in good faith a settlement containing important improvements to the CSD that could not have been compelled by a court order resulting from the current litigation challenging the County’s Environmental Impact Report and the CSD. The completion of this settlement expedites the resolution of significant community concerns and allows the focus of this process to shift to constructive dialogue, implementation, monitoring and establishment of a more effective working relationship between the parties.

View more videos at: http://nbclosangeles.com.

A contentious legal battle over oil drilling in the Baldwin Hills has been settled, resulting in a reduction in the number of oil wells in the area, tighter restrictions on new wells and a series of measures to protect air quality, reduce noise and beautify the landscape.

The settlement, approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on July 5th, will be implemented immediately.

“This settlement is the victory area residents and I have sought after working together for nearly five years,” said supervisor Ridley-Thomas.

“Those who live near the oil field will see fewer wells, hear less noise from drilling and have in place stronger air quality protections than exist today. I’m confident this set of reforms is far more thorough than what could have been achieved through a contentious and protracted court battle,” he said.

Covering 1,100 acres, the so-called Inglewood Oil Field is not in the city of Inglewood, but surrounded by Culver City and Los Angeles communities including Baldwin Hills, View Park, Windsor Hills and Ladera Heights. Its name is derived from its position on the Inglewood fault.

Oil drilling at the site dates from 1924, long before sprawling residential communities were built around its perimeter. Over the decades, as the number of homes surrounding the site increased, so too did the concerns of residents.

In 2008 four lawsuits challenged the County’s set of environmental regulations of the oil field and its operator, Plains Exploration and Production Co. The plaintiffs were the City of Culver City, Concerned Citizens of South Los Angeles, the Citizens Coalition for a Safe Community and Community Health Councils, Inc.

Approval of the settlement by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors completed the acceptance of the agreement by all parties.

Key elements of the settlement include:

  • Reducing the total number of oil wells
  • Increased monitoring of air quality
  • More stringent noise limits
  • Improved landscaping
  • Mandatory, recurring health and environmental justice assessments

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas began working with area residents and advocates to address  oil field concerns in 2007, when he was a State Senator; members of the Empowerment Congress, a grassroots governing partnership founded by the Supervisor in 1992, brought the issue to his attention.

Two years ago, Ridley-Thomas sought assistance from then-Attorney General Jerry Brown to help mediate the disputing parties in the law suits. Brown assigned two attorneys to the task, who worked with his office to find common ground among the parties. When Kamala Harris was inaugurated attorney general last year, she continued to uphold mediating the Inglewood oil field dispute as a top priority.

“The arrival of the Attorney General’s experts marked a turning point,” said Ridley-Thomas, “they brought cool heads to a heated environment and in doing so guided us all to a solution that gives all sides more than we would have gotten from a court battle.”

 

 

Community Health Assessment – Phase 1

The Community Update on the Inglewood Oil Field on April 25, 2011 at the Junior Blind of America Auditorium provided an opportunity for ongoing candid dialogue regarding drilling and oil field operations at the Inglewood Oil Field.

The Department of Public Health presented the findings from the first phase of their Community Health Assessment of the communities surrounding the oil field. This report was peer reviewed by Professor Vickie Mays of the UCLA Center on Minority Health Disparities, Dr. Stephen Thacker,  Director, Office of Surveillance, Epidemiology and Laboratory Services at the Centers for Disease Control and Dr. Carlos Castillo-Salgado, an Associate Professor at Johns Hopkins University.

To see a PowerPoint Presentation on DPH’s findings click here.

To see the full report click here.

 

For more information about the CSD, please contact:

Department of Regional Planning

Contact: Leon Freeman

Email: lfreeman@planning.lacounty.gov

Phone: 213-974-6453

Website: Department of Regional Planning

To report a complaint, please contact:

Plains Exploration and Production (PXP)

Ombudsperson: Lisa Paillet

Email: LPaillet@pxp.com

Phone: 800-766-4108 (24 hours a day/seven days a week)

Website: www.inglewoodoilfield.com

In addition, please also contact SCAQMD if the complaint specifically relates to smoke, dust and odors:

South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD)

Phone: 800-288-7664

Important Links:


On August 4th, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas initiated a review of the Baldwin Hills Community Standards District (CSD), the zoning ordinance which regulates oil drilling and operations in Baldwin Hills. With the goal of identifying additional enhancements to the CSD, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas hosted a Town Hall meeting to gain community feedback on October 15th at West Los Angeles College. Read about the Town Hall meeting.

Town Hall Meeting Slideshow

To watch videos from the public comment period click here

Important Documents:

Links: