Minority Jobs and Clean Air

Garcia gets great coverage in The Times. His views are reported on a regular basis and they almost invariably bear one implication: that the interests of environmentally concerned and affluent Westsiders are in direct conflict with the poor of the city’s South and East sides, and that the fight for clean air, pure water and sensitive land use must invariably lead to class conflict.

Why such conflict should be inevitable is not clear to me. Are residents of East and South-Central L.A. any less concerned about noxious air, poisoned water and rapacious developers? I doubt it. Witness the vote on Propositions P and O last November, when despite efforts to portray opposition to Palisades oil drilling as the peculiar enterprise of the privileged Westside, voters all over the city turned down Occidental Petroleum.

The point usually made by Garcia and others is that development fuels the local economy and creates jobs for the disadvantaged. Granted, if all development stopped in L.A. tomorrow there would be grievous economic consequences. But how do the poor benefit from taking the reins off development on the Westside? Making it harder to build in Westwood might just make building in Watts more attractive.

There is, of course, divergence in the interests and concerns of the city’s rich and poor halves. But I do not see the recent concern with quality of life as the root cause of the parting of the ways. A decade of unrestricted development has done nothing to even out prospects for the city’s wealthy and disadvantaged neighborhoods. If anything, the opposite has occurred. Quality of life issues need not divide the city along economic lines unless prominent people like Garcia insist publicly and repeatedly that they will.



Redondo Beach