Thu 24 Jan 2008
Just a few days ago I was discussing the woes of Los Angeles’ near-freeway-construction with a colleague, and we were thinking about health and the built environment. We’ve known for a while that LA Unified School District schools have often been built dangerously close to freeways. And now good news arrives:
Making broad pronouncements about the need to protect the health of children in their care, the Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday restricted the district’s ability to build schools near freeways and other sources of air pollution.
After a string of public speakers supporting the measure and impassioned debate, the board approved a resolution calling for the school system to study airborne pollutants up to half a mile from a potential site, rather than the current quarter mile requirement. It also seeks air quality health-risk assessments for all schools, including charter schools, although officials said it is unclear whether they could force the independently run but publicly-funded schools to do so.
“Basically I’m trying to push the envelope as far as we can,” said board member Yolie Flores Aguilar, who co-wrote the resolution with board member Julie Korenstein.
Flores Aguilar took on the issue after The Times reported in September that the district continued to build schools close to freeways, despite a state law discouraging it and recent studies indicating that children living near them showed signs of increased respiratory harm. About 60,000 Los Angeles Unified School District students attend campuses within 500 feet of a freeway.
Sheesh. Sometimes I wonder who plans this city. Obviously a group of people who can’t seem to connect the dots on the built environment and health.. I have grand hopes that all of this craziness can be reversed, and that with enough public pressure, future urban planning in this gargantuan sprawling city can be done right, with benefit to all (ok, most) involved.