Lead Story West Edition

Inglewood seeks to improve air quality, housing

INGLEWOOD – Affordable housing, good air quality and better transportation options are among the focal points in a new city initiative designed to improve the quality of life for local residents into the 21st century.

The program is designed to improve the future of the city and its residents by ensuring that new development and major city initiatives address key areas such as health, housing, air quality and transportation, officials said.

The new initiative will become part of an environmental justice element in the city’s master plan, officials said.

The city’s general plan has not been updated since a wave of development swept into Inglewood following the announcement of the multi-billion dollar L.A. Rams and Chargers Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park and the proposed Los Angeles Clippers Arena next to the recently renovated Forum.

“When they made the general plan last time, they didn’t have these things in mind. The goals were much more modest,” Mayor James T. Butts Jr. said. “We as a community have much greater aspirations and we will also not let anyone determine how big we can be. We will determine that.”

For Inglewood resident Julie LaBeach, the new focus is well timed. As an Inglewood renter, LaBeach said she was recently hit with a proposed rent increase of more than 100 percent.

“I’ve lived in Inglewood for 20 years. I work nearby… and we don’t want to leave, we like it here,” LaBeach said.

LaBeach was one of a handful of residents whose rent more than doubled before Butts intervened — when the increase went viral online — and negotiated the increase down to a 30 percent.

“I am so thankful that the mayor has taken notice,” LaBeach said.

The goal of environmental justice is to provide equal access to a healthy environment for all residents of a community. Officials say they are committed to developing policies and programs that positively affect environments where city residents live, work and play.

Residents attended a public workshop recently wherein they discussed how environmental justice affects Inglewood. After nearly an hour of brainstorming, residents agreed that more affordable housing for working class residents and not just low-income housing should be the city’s top priority.

Other residents suggested launching a weekly farmer’s market to increase access to healthy food options. Others suggested that city officials start a text alert program intended to improve community engagement.

City planners said the environmental justice program will set goals, policies and objectives to ensure that new development and major initiatives take a diversity of opinions into account and consider the effect of minority and disadvantaged populations.

Officials said they will continue to meet with residents and conduct social media outreach to get more public input before preparing a final environmental justice element draft this summer.

 “We’re very proud of what we’re doing [and] we’re very proud of the community support that we have because we can’t do this alone,” said Councilman Alex Padilla, who represents Inglewood’s 2nd district.

LaBeach said she’s pleased that the city is reaching out to residents, but said she believes environmental justice comes down to one thing: protecting the people.

“My number one concern is rent control,” she said. “We’re very proud of this city. We want to stay here. We want to benefit from the fruits of the improvements that are obviously coming.”