Study: L.A.’s Wealthier Residents ‘Export’ Air Pollution to Poorer Neighborhoods

“Los Angelenos who drive less are exposed to more air pollution, as commuters from predominantly white neighborhoods travel through non-white areas,” according to a new study from the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. A larger share of the city’s non-white residents experience air pollution than their white peers, regardless of their income.

As Christian Hetrick explains, this is in large part a result of historical planning decisions that discriminated against communities of color. “Twentieth-century planners bulldozed urban areas to build freeways for suburban residents to drive to job centers. Although whiter and wealthier areas like Beverly Hills successfully blocked such projects, similar opposition efforts failed in less-white and less-wealthy parts of L.A., such as Boyle Heights, which was carved up by five freeways and two enormous interchanges.”

The study’s authors suggest some policy fixes that could begin undoing these inequities. These include raising fuel efficiency standards and promoting cleaner transportation, enacting congestion pricing and promoting remote work to reduce driving, and reforming zoning laws to permit more housing construction in job-rich areas and less polluted neighborhoods.

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