Many visitors to California’s coasts arrive expecting a pleasant walk to warm sand, blue skies, and beautiful views, and in places like Malibu and Montecito they are often right. Unfortunately, for residents of south Oxnard—who are mostly people of color and immigrants—their ability to enjoy a coast within walking distance is threatened by growing industrialization and air pollution. But this is a community that has resisted and defeated other dangerous projects before, and they are poised to fight off yet another threat and stand by their vision of a healthy and thriving south Oxnard for all.
Residents have been speaking out ever since a 34-acre project to expand port operations was announced on land identified for a gateway park and visitor center. Instead of seeing progress made to develop this community-focused green space to provide a local coastal access point, residents are now confronted with a project that will operate and park cars imported by Hyundai GLOVIS, a major port customer, through their community. The GLOVIS project will create yet another industrial barrier that blocks access the beach.
The movement of goods from ports through communities creates diesel death zones by exposing residents and workers to pollution from diesel-powered ships, trains, equipment, and trucks associated with port operations. This results in the surrounding neighborhoods experiencing higher rates of asthma.
"When I started to volunteer with CAUSE at the start of the pandemic, I learned of the violence that exists in this comforting place–the Halaco site, powerplant, oil rigs, the reality of living next to a port, the harm of diesel to air and community health."
ODETTE MORAN LOPEZ, COMMUNITY ORGANIZER AND RESIDENT
A Broad Coalition Stands with Community Members Fighting Environmental Injustice
NRDC joins a coalition of organizations and residents, including the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), that have come together to advance a community-led vision for south Oxnard. The vision calls for:
- Eliminating diesel pollution through aggressive commitments by the Port of Hueneme to zero emission operations;
- Enhancing green space and coastal access, including through deindustrialization, and
- Full transparency about goods movement expansion projects in south Oxnard.
But the proposed GLOVIS expansion project puts this future at risk. A recently released draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) reveals that GLOVIS, a multi-national, multi-million-dollar shipping company, will use the 34-acre property to facilitate an increase in car imports.
Here are three reasons why this project threatens the community-led vision for a healthy south Oxnard and responsible port:
1. The Project May Worsen Air Quality Without Providing Tangible Benefits
The neighborhoods most heavily impacted by future port expansions are some of the most densely populated and low-income communities in Ventura County. These include the Southwinds and Cypress neighborhoods of south Oxnard, the location of public and farmworker housing, parks, elementary schools, one high school, and a community health clinic. Odette Moran Lopez, who lives in the neighborhood next to the project, describes the sadness they felt when they learned that the beautiful beach that has brought them “comfort, provided a home for my memories, and on multiple occasions, a space of self-revelation” would be further contaminated by a new industrial site.
These neighborhoods are already overburdened by pollution from a nearby power plant, a major toxic waste site, factories, warehouses, and heavy pesticide use. As a result, the surrounding census tracts face some of the highest pollution burdens in California, as shown in the map below from CalEnviroScreen, the state’s tool to identify environmental justice communities. Despite these cumulative harms, the project fails to prioritize the shift to zero-emission operations, meaning diesel pollution will grow as more ships, truck, and train trips will be needed to carry the influx of cargo accommodated by this car storage lot. In the face of these disproportionate harms, youth members of CAUSE have taken matters into their own hands and are carrying out their own air monitoring and truck counts near the proposed GLOVIS project to better understand the existing burdens on their health and community.
The few jobs promised by this project will not only be low-paying, non-union, and part-time, but also require workers to be on-call, making it impossible to supplement low wages with a second job. This is a disappointing trend away from the high-paying union jobs once associated with ports. In fact, as of 2018 only 12% of the jobs directly associated with the Port of Hueneme were longshoreperson union jobs.
But Odette remains grounded in their reasons for doing this work: “[t]he people of South Oxnard should be able to breathe air that will not do more violence to our bodies–give us asthma, cancer, low-birth weights. The South Oxnard coast that has provided so much for me and my community needs to be loved and treated with respect. I do this out of love for this happy space and my community.”
2. South Oxnard Residents Deserve to Enjoy Their Coast
Oxnard residents must deal with yet another proposed industrial site that will impede coastal access. Development of this site would limit the community’s access to the beachfront and the Ormond Beach Restoration and Access Project, while endangering pedestrians who cross the road to access the beach.
Residents like Shirley and Larry Godwin have long worked to restore Ormond Beach, deindustrialize the surrounding area, and ensure coastal communities like south Oxnard can enjoy the coast. “For many years,” shares Shirley, “community members have advocated for this site as the ‘Gateway’ to the Ormond Beach Wetlands with eight acres of this 34-acre property shown in the Oxnard General Plan as parkland.” This plan would include interpretive information displays, observation platforms, trails and walkways.
A similar project was proposed 20 years ago, which failed because of community resistance. Shirley sees this as an extension of the same fight: “Now 20 years later, a different port vehicle importer, GLOVIS, is proposing to store 4,944 vehicles on this same property. The project is all about what might be the most convenient parking lot location for the client, GLOVIS. It is not about what is best for our valuable coastal land and the quality of life for our community.”
Jorge Toledano, an organizer with the Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP) and another coalition member, is also concerned about how these expansions will limit access to green space: “If you look closely you can see that there are no safe parks and green spaces where our children and families can go out and play, if they put these 'temporary' projects in, we will not see more green spaces for our community, we want them to tell us the truth. We stand against the temporary expansion to safeguard our community’s health and wellbeing, we need clean air to breathe.”
3. The True Impacts from Planned Goods Movement Expansions are Being Hidden
Countless community members are still in the dark about the GLOVIS project due to a lack of transparency by the City of Oxnard and the Port of Hueneme and the decision to ignore calls for an extension and a public hearing. Jorge calls for honesty: “In the Port's ‘GLOVIS 34-acre project’ they are not telling the community the damage it is going to do to the environment, and we are against lying to the community. As organizers, we very well know that more than 80 percent of the community who lives in the area of South Oxnard, particularly those who live in 'Cuesta del Mar', work in the fields. Our indigenous farmworkers cultivate the land surrounding the region, the environmental impact it will cause to the air is detrimental to our health. We cannot use the community as currency.”
The draft EIR hides the true impacts of the project by failing to consider the Port’s broad plans for expansion, treating the 34-acre project instead as a stand-alone development. In reality, the 34-acre car lot is intended as a “stop gap” measure while the Port develops a much larger 250-acre logistics park down the street that will further expand its operations to benefit port customers.
Join Odette, Shirley, Larry, and Jorge in the fight for a healthy and just Oxnard
Submit a letter by Monday, February 14th to the City of Oxnard telling them to put people and health over profit and carry out a complete study of the GLOVIS project!
This blog provides general information, not legal advice. If you need legal help, please consult a lawyer in your state.