LA2050 Grants Challenge applications are open now through June 28th, 2024.
2022 Grants Challenge
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Youth Leaders for Environmental Justice

Youth leaders from the Ramona Gardens public housing development in Boyle Heights will continue a campaign to build the Ramona Gardens Natural Park with an anti-pollution green buffer to protect 2,000 low-income primarily Latino residents from transit-related air pollution from the adjacent fifteen-lane Interstate-10 Highway. Air quality in Ramona Gardens is among the worst statewide, according to a CalEnviroScreen map, leaving residents at a disproportionately high risk for chronic health conditions from air pollution.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Climate and Environment

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

East LA

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Air quality in Ramona Gardens (in northern Boyle Heights) is among the worst statewide, according to a CalEnviroScreen map, due to transit pollution. The 15-lane Interstate-10 Highway, El Monte busway, and Metrolink rail line are immediately adjacent to Ramona Gardens. Per US Census data, 37.7% of families in the area have income below poverty & 86.5% of residents identify as Latino (zip code 90033, census tracts 2031 and 2033). In comparison, those figures are 14.3% and 48.2%, respectively, countywide. Research from UCLA shows “Black, Latino, Asian American and low-income communities are exposed to substantially more air pollution than other demographic groups in California”. “Long-term exposure to air pollution related to traffic is associated with elevated rates of coronary heart disease, hospitalization and death” (Jocelyn Apodaca Schlossberg with Dr. Lara Cushing, “Air Pollution: A Health Equity Issue”, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, November 2021).

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

Legacy LA will train and engage 40 youth leaders to continue the campaign for the Ramona Gardens Natural Park. Once built, the Park will serve as an anti-pollution green buffer to reduce the impact of air pollution from the Interstate-10 Highway adjacent to Ramona Gardens. Legacy LA youth began this campaign by conducting environmental studies on air quality (2016); and conceptualizing a Natural Park to mitigate air pollution. Youth engaged 500 community residents, who provided input on park design. The Park campaign is now in the design development phase including obtaining environmental clearances. A technical team prepared reports on the conceptual plan, schematic design, and air pollution reduction measures. With the LA2050 grant, Legacy LA will build a new cohort of youth leaders to advance the Park campaign and enhance community capacity to address emerging environmental issues. Legacy LA will provide 40 youth with 80 hours of leadership and environmental justice training over 8-10 months including (a) 30 workshops, 2 hours each, on leadership, environmental justice, and how to engage stakeholders, public agencies, and elected officials; and (b) Youth Leaders in Action meetings focused on environmental justice and Park campaign updates. Youth will update residents on the Park campaign through community and house meetings. Youth will plan and facilitate a culminating town hall meeting for community, elected officials, and environmental justice organizations.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

The proposed project will advance environmental justice in a low-income primarily Latino community in Boyle Heights. Forty youth will participate in 80 hours of leadership and environmental justice programming, and help advance the campaign for the Natural Park. Youth will engage community residents, elected officials, and environmental justice organizations, resulting in the adoption of a Community Plan to build the Park. A key project outcome will be enhanced community capacity to address emerging environmental justice issues, promoting youth participation in civic life and local decision-making. Once built, the Park will serve as an anti-pollution green buffer to reduce the impact of air pollution from the adjacent Interstate-10 Highway. The Park will help protect 2,000 low-income, primarily Latino residents from chronic health conditions due to transit-related air pollution, while providing green space for play and fitness, restoring native habitat, and recycling stormwater.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Legacy LA measures impact at the community and individual level. At the community level, youth leaders conceptualized the Natural Park campaign and successfully outreached to 500 residents to gather input on park design. As a result, the community now has a resident-driven design for a Natural Park including features that will reduce air pollution, increase green space, and provide play and fitness areas. At the individual level, Legacy LA has trained 40-60 youth/year in leadership skills and environmental justice over the past three years. In 2020-2021, 89% of youth agreed “I have learned about the benefits of the Natural Park Anti-Pollution Solution”. In prior years, Legacy LA youth leaders successfully advocated for installation of a $400,000 air filtration system to improve student health at Murchison Elementary School. Jacky Rodriguez, Legacy LA program alumna and staff, was appointed to the Air Quality Management District Community Steering Committee for East LA.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 40

Indirect Impact: 2,000