CASE STUDY: A Clean Up Green  Up Ordinance for Los Angeles 

For the past 24 years, the Los Angeles  Collaborative for Environmental Health and Justice  has been taking on industries, local governments,  and regulatory agencies in order to improve the  quality of life for communities disproportionately  impacted by pollution. It was formed in 1996  when Communities for a Better Environment  and the Liberty Hill Foundation joined forces  with academic researchers to study, fund, and  support the burgeoning field of environmental  justice. [69] The Collaborative expanded to include  other environmental health and social justice  organizations performing groundbreaking  organizing, research, policy, and advocacy work  throughout the LA region.

In its 2010 Hidden Hazards report, the  Collaborative identified several parts of the city as “toxic hot spots,” or neighborhoods experiencing  “cumulative environmental impacts” that are  “particularly acute.”[70] These communities are  home to thousands of low-income, black, and  brown Angelenos who reside in neighborhoods  disproportionately overburdened with hazardous  uses such as oil wells, refineries, metal  plating operations, auto body shops, and other  manufacturing facilities. While a number of  agencies are charged with establishing regulations  to ensure the safety of those living near hazardous  industrial facilities, these watered-down regulations  coupled with lax oversight and enforcement had  repeatedly proven to be inadequate protections  for vulnerable communities. What’s more, many  industrial facilities’ true adverse health impacts  have yet to be identified by regulatory agencies,  creating an even greater concern for those living  near unchecked facilities.

In recognition of these realities, the Collaborative  mobilized community residents to advocate for  improved environmental health policies and  launched a campaign that would result in greater  protections in some of the city’s most vulnerable  neighborhoods. The Collaborative engaged in  ground-truthing and community air monitoring to highlight key neighborhood issues and further  engage the community through research. All  of their findings elevated the case for new and  improved policies for protecting the community.  In fact, the data revealed that many pollution  sources were either misidentified or entirely missed  by regulatory agencies. [71] Using these findings,  the Collaborative was able to develop appropriate  place-based solutions and launch the nearly  10-year Clean Up Green Up (CUGU) campaign.  In 2016, the CUGU campaign won a precedent- setting city ordinance that for the first time officially acknowledged the significant challenges  that EJ communities face. The Clean Up Green Up  ordinance also enacted policies to mitigate some of  the impacts of incompatible land use in three Los  Angeles neighborhoods: Boyle Heights, Pacoima,  and Wilmington.

While CUGU’s measures largely focus on  prevention, they also include provisions for  identifying existing harmful practices in order to  mitigate harm. Regulations implemented under  CUGU include stricter health-protective standards  for new and expanding industrial operations,  specified enclosures for certain air emissions,  required signage to deter diesel idling, and buffers  for auto-related facilities. In addition, on a citywide scale, the ordinance mandates high-grade filters for  developments sited within 1,000 feet of a freeway  and requires conditional use permits for the  geographic expansion of oil refineries and asphalt  manufacturing plants. However, the Collaborative’s  attempt to create a robust framework for issuing  conditional use permits for all refinery operations in  LA was unfortunately taken out of the initial draft  ordinance under pressure from major oil lobbyists.*

Lastly, the ordinance also created an ombudsman  position within the city to help oversee the  implementation of the program and to assist small businesses in navigating the cleaning and greening  up processes (such as permitting, achieving  compliance, and accessing resources). Since  2016, the Collaborative has been working with the  LA Department of Sanitation & Environment to  implement the CUGU ordinance.   Despite decades of regulatory failure at multiple  levels, LA community organizations and residents  were able to successfully advocate for the  establishment of a local Green Zones policy that  would take the first step in transforming some of  the city’s most heavily polluted neighborhoods.  The work and visioning of these impacted residents  resulted in the city acknowledging the problems  and enacting policies that would mitigate and even  reverse many of the area’s historically harmful  policies—not only in their neighborhoods, but in  other overburdened communities throughout Los  Angeles as well.

Endnotes are numbered as in the full report:





Los Angeles Collaborative for Environmental Health and

Justice. 2010. Hidden Hazards: A Call to Action for Healthy,
Livable Communities (11–14);

The Wilmington/Carson neighborhood hosts the largest concentration  of oil refining on the West Coast, and the city of LA has been reluctant  to exercise its much-needed jurisdiction over refineries for community  protection. See, for example, Suzanne Rust and Tony Barboza. Feb.  27, 2020. “Fire Exploded from Part of Carson Refinery Recently  Cited for Workplace Safety Issues.” Los Angeles Times; https://www. workplace-safety-violations.