|English: The Port of Los Angeles, 1913. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
There is no doubt that the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles need on-dock rail facilities so that cargo can be quickly loaded off gigantic ships directly onto rail cars that can then take the goods to trucking facilities and distribute throughout California and the rest of the nation. The construction and operation of such a facility will create needed jobs in the region.
The key word in this discussion is “on-dock” – meaning as close as possible to the ships. Placement anywhere elsewhere requires off loading to trucks which then take cargo to rails which then takes them again to a truck facility.
An off dock rail project is being proposed on the Westside of Long Beach on property owned by the Port of Los Angeles. This project -- Southern California International Gateway Project (SCIG) – is being proposed by BSNF Railway Company. A second project is being proposed by Union Pacific Railway Company.
An online map and data tool released recently by the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal EPA) and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) that "presents the nation’s first comprehensive screening methodology to identify California communities that are disproportionately burdened by multiple sources of pollution and presents the statewide results of the analysis using the screening tool."
Westside Long Beach is among those communities.
The City Council never took a vote on whether or not to support a major rail yard adjacent to the homes and schools on the Westside of Long Beach. As far as we got was to direct City staff to send a letter to the Port of Los Angeles objecting to the lack of any measures to reach zero emissions of the railroads and the pollution, light and sound impact on the area with additional trucks and trains.
The City of Long Beach letter was sent and ignored by the Port of Los Angeles (which owns the property for the project) so the City Council then took a vote in closed session to direct the City Attorney to appeal the Environmental Impact Report on the Southern California International Gateway Project (SCIG).
Yesterday, I received a curious letter from Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino who represents the area containing the Port of Los Angeles. Buscaino’s letter states that he has been talking with the City of Long Beach which indicated that it has requested “mediation” on this project. His letter urged the Mayors of both Los Angeles and Long Beach to engage in mediation.
Mayor Bob Foster, without the approval of City Council or the City Attorney (which is our legal spokesperson) told LA Councilmember Buscaino that the City wanted to “mediate” instead of outright oppose the impact on our residents.
Really? Besides being a blatant violation of the City Charter which only gives the City Council authority to direct the City Attorney about litigation, no one has bothered to bring the residents into this process and ask them what they are willing to “mediate” about. (Hell, the Long Beach City Council doesn’t even know what he wants to mediate about.)
If “mediation” is about putting up a sound wall and getting a pot of money for new windows and air filters, these measures will do little to lessen the assault of this type of facility in the backyards and school yards of the Westside.
Instead, the City of Long Beach with a vote of the Council should continue its opposition to the EIR and take a look at the potential of putting such a project on Pier S in the Port of Long Beach.
This location would bring the railroad cars closer to the cargo ships and out of the neighborhoods. Such a project could be a joint effort of the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles and would require the two major railroads to work together and not build competing facilities. It would create construction and operation jobs.
Most importantly, it would start a real commitment toward stopping the “disproportionate burden” of pollution on our Westside residents and the rest of Long Beach.