Table 1. Case Studies: The Power of Community-Led Decision-Making

CEJA’s Rethinking Local Control Report highlights eight case studies to illustrate how community-led decision-making can lead to more effective policies, programs, and planning decisions that can create healthy and thriving neighborhoods.

Local Community Campaigns
A Community Fights against a Crema-torium:
East Oakland
In 2011, the city of Oakland deliberately classified a Stewart Enterprises crematorium as a manufacturing activity  and thus  a by-right use  consistent with its zoning.  East  Oakland community residents were  outraged at the city’s decision as they were  never  notified  of the decision to approve the crematorium.

Local  residents with assistance from Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) organized to pressure the city to pass an emergency ordinance to require discretionary review  for all crematoriums in Oakland.  Despite  this  success, the new policy  was  too late  to stop  the crematorium project. The story illustrates the importance of including affected local  residents in land  use  decisions.

Overcoming Politics  with People Power and a Plan: National City In 2017, the city of National  City considered issuing a permit  for a Perry Ford auto body shop  situated across the street from the Paradise Creek affordable housing development. Nearby families were concerned that the new operations would pose  a significant health threat  to the local  community.

During the hearing, resident leaders turned  out in force  with the Environmental Health  Coalition (EHC) to fight against the proposed permit,  pointing  out how it would conflict  with policies in the city’s Westside Specific Plan.  As a result, the city decided to approve the permit  but with conditions that would safeguard local  health.

Community Leaders Shut Down a Metal Recycling Facility: Southeast LA In a predominantly people of color neighborhood in Southeast Los Angeles, the Central  Metal recycling facility polluted the area  for years despite committing numerous violations and operating with an outdated permit.  Residents’ concerns about  the facility’s harms  initially  received little attention by local  decision-makers.

Together  with CBE, resident leaders documented Central  Metal’s harms  on their neighborhood

and successfully convinced the LA County Planning Commission to deny the facility’s conditional use  permit.  The community is now working collaboratively with the county  to turn the site  into a neighborhood-serving resource.

Amortization Ordinance:
National City
Incompatible land  use  in National  City has  led to severe air quality  problems and high asthma rates for local  residents. City planners were  unwilling  to address the environmental problems that were mostly  due to poor land  use  decisions over time.

Concerned for their children’s well-being, a group of mothers refused to take  no for an answer. They organized their community with the EHC to see if a nuisance-related policy  could  work for land  use. It did, prompting  the city to pass the amortization ordinance.

Clean Up Green Up:
Los Angeles
In Los Angeles, several neighborhoods suffer from exposure to multiple sources of pollution  and toxics, incompatible land  use, and poor air quality. Unfortunately, regulatory agencies lack  an accurate database of industrial facilities in these areas, allowing  these harms  to continue.

The LA Collaborative for Environmental Health  and Justice brought  residents together to gather data on air quality  and industrial uses in their neighborhoods. Together,  they devised policies to reduce

the impacts of these hazardous facilities. As a result of their work, the Clean Up Green Up ordinance was  passed in 2016 to establish overlay  zones in three  of LA’s most overburdened communities: Boyle Heights, Pacoima, and Wilmington.

Committee  for a Better  Arvin:
Oil and Gas Ordinance
In 2018, the city of Arvin approved four new oil and gas  wells  near  people’s homes, despite working with community leaders to pass a new health-protective oil and gas  ordinance.

The community responded by bringing  a lawsuit against the city for approving the new wells

using  the California  Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Just  as the new oil and gas  ordinance is a remarkable demonstration of a community-driven, health-protective land  use  policy,  the litigation underscores how CEQA allows  residents to speak for themselves and be a part of decision-making. CEQA is one of the few tools  EJ communities have  to protect polluted families from harmful  projects on the ground.