LA County is challenged: The American Lung Association says it’s the smoggiest place in the nation, and that 14% of children who live here have asthma. It is also the most congested, with travelers spending 93 hours in traffic per person per year. LA County is the nation’s capital of low-wage labor, with 28% of fulltime workers making $25,000 or less per year. And because of the high cost of transportation we pay more than 53% of income on housing and transportation combined – compared to 40% nationally.

These challenges – and the opportunities to address them – are laid out in the California Community Foundation-commissioned Los Angeles Equity Atlas, just completed by the national nonprofit Reconnecting America and released last week. The Equity Atlas, available here, is intended to help government agencies and advocates assess the impact of the unprecedented expansion of LA County’s transit system. In particular, it establishes a baseline for measuring outcomes on all Angelenos, especially those who are disadvantaged and could be pushed out of the neighborhoods where they now live if gentrification occurs.

The equity atlas literally maps opportunities and areas of concern, overlaying the transit network with job locations, average commute times, housing options, schools, bike paths and local businesses. It shows, for example, that today there are about 763,000 LA County residents living within walking distance of transit, a number that will nearly double to more than 1.4 million when the Measure-R sales-tax-funded system is built-out. The number of jobs near transit will also more than double to nearly 1.5 million.


At the release of the atlas at the California Community Foundation (CCF) last Tuesday, a panel discussed the ways it could be put to work, and the discussion ranged from the need to preserve and plan for more affordable housing near transit to the need to locate jobs and job training near transit as well, and the importance of making stations accessible by foot and by bike. CCF Housing and Economic Development VP Ann Sewill summed the discussion up with an idea for each panelist about how they could put the equity atlas to work:
·         LA City Attorney Mike Feuer: Enforce the city’s rent stabilization ordinance.
·         LA Metro Chief Planning Officer Martha Welborne: Award Metro planning grants to cities that have plans that consider equity and the impacts on the low-income people who are most likely to be transit riders, walkers, or bike riders.
·         LA Business Council President Mary Leslie: Start work on another $100 million housing bond campaign (the 2008 housing bond championed by LABC and others narrowly lost).
·         California Endowment Program Manager Craig Martinez: Help bring in more funders to support this work.
·         Little Tokyo Services Center CDC Executive Director Dean Matsubayashi: Organize the organizers.
·         LA Mayor Garcetti’s Associate Director of City Services Marcel Porras: Make sure equity is something considered in the mayor’s Great Streets program.


·         90% of transit commuters earn less than $50,000/year; 70% earn less than $25,000.
·         LA residents spend nearly a quarter of their incomes on transportation.
·         By 2035 LA County will need 250,000 new homes for low-income HHs and 100,000 for moderate-income HHs. Only 7,500 residential units were built for low and    moderate income HHs from 2006 to 2012, while 34,200 were built for higher income HHs.
·         14,000 rental units in the city were demolished or converted to condominiums between 2001 and 2007.
·         Between 2000 and 2010 79% of all housing was built near current or future transit areas.
·         52% of commute times on transit (mostly trips by low-income workers) take more than 45 minutes, compared to 21% of commutes overall.
·         Transit commuters are 4 times more likely than drivers to walk the recommended daily 10,000 steps.
·         Children living within a quarter mile of a freeway have an 89% higher risk of asthma than children living a mile away.
·         Neighborhoods within walking distance of transit have less than half the average park acreage than in the region at large.

(Photos from CCF.  Equity Atlas release event at CCF. Panel members in same order as in the bullet points above. Ann Sewill.)

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