NPS Rim of the Valley Draft Study Best Practice for Expanding Green Access, Health, and Environmental Justice for All

May 26th, 2015

The National Park Service has released its 2015 Rim of the Valley draft study on expanding the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and increasing the presence of NPS in the greater Los Angeles area.

This study is a best practice for improving access to healthy green land use for underserved communities in Los Angeles. NPS recognizes that there are disparities in access to green space for low-income communities and communities of color, that those disparities contribute to health disparities, and that environmental justice requires agencies to address those disparities. [1]

Analysis of Green Access and Health

NPS addresses environmental justice and equal access to park and recreation programs for all. NPS relies on Executive Order 12898 on environmental justice and health, which “requires all federal agencies to incorporate environmental justice into their missions by identifying and addressing disproportionately high and adverse levels of human health or environmental effects from their programs and policies” on people of color and low income people (ROTV Study, page 278).

The draft study cites The City Project’s work on green access, including our policy reports and mapping and demographic analysis, to document that there are disparities in access to green space for low income communities and communities of color in the Los Angeles region.

“Many nearby local communities are currently deficient in providing adequate parks and recreational opportunities for residents. This is particularly true of communities in the City of Los Angeles. Neighborhoods around downtown Los Angeles have the highest population density within the study area and the greatest concentration of residents that lack adequate access to park resources. In addition, most of these residents are from predominantly minority and lower income communities (The City Project 2011).” (page 211)

NPS also cites the related health disparities, documenting that “children in communities that do not have adequate access to outdoor recreation tend to have higher rates of childhood diseases related to obesity, such as diabetes” (page 250).

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Map of Park Poverty, Income Poverty and People of Color Throughout the Study Area (Figure 2-14, page 127)

Transportation is a significant barrier for many low income communities and communities of color in accessing the existing green space in the region. “Though large open space areas such as SMMNRA and the Angeles National Forest give the appearance of high per capita available recreation space in the Los Angeles area, there is a major issue with equitable access to these areas. As demonstrated in The City Project’s work in Los Angeles, many families in the low income neighborhoods of the region often do not have cars nor live near public transportation systems that allow for access to regional parks. Few, if any sites, within SMMNRA and the Angeles National Forest can be accessed by public transportation, a major barrier for urban residents without a car.” (page 128)

One purpose of the ROTV study is to provide “close-to-home recreational opportunities for urban residents living in areas that currently do not meet standards for access to parks and recreation areas” (page 278). NPS recommends expanding the boundaries of the SMMNRA as the best option to accomplish this, as it will provide more open space and recreational opportunities for all, and can lead to long-term beneficial impacts on underserved communities. Realizing these goals will require long-term commitments to working with public transportation providers, cities, and communities (page 329).

There are several best practice examples in addition to the NPS 2015 Rim of the Valley study on how to use civil rights and environmental justice tools. These include the NPS San Gabriels study [2] and the US Army Corps of Engineers L.A. River study. [3] NPS’s national work on its Healthy Parks, Healthy People Community Engagement eGuide is also a valuable resource. [4]

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides another best practice example. [5]

Andrew Cuomo, as Secretary of HUD, would not issue federal subsidies for a proposed warehouse project in downtown L.A. unless there was a full environmental study that considered the impact on people of color and low-income people, and considered the park alternative. HUD cited Executive Order 12898 on environmental justice and health, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its regulations in reaching that decision. HUD’s action led to the creation of the Los Angeles State Historic Park and the greening of the L.A. River.

In addition, the Federal Transit Administration articulates these compliance and planning principles in its guidance on Title VI and Executive Order 12898. [6] The United States Department of Agriculture has articulated these compliance and planning principles as well. [7]

The Values at Stake

The values at stake in expanding the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area include:

  • Fun, health, and human development.
  • Conservation values including climate justice, clean air, water, and land, complete green streets with transit, biking, hiking, and safe routes to schools, and saving habitat.
  • Economic values include meaningful work and wealth creation, and avoiding displacement.
  • Art, culture, history, and spiritual values, including Native American values.
  • Equal justice, democracy, and livability for all.

Specific outcomes related to Rim of the Valley include getting people of color and low-income people to the parks now through Transit to Trails and other community engagement and public health programs; protecting some of the region’s last wild lands, open spaces, and historic sites, including habitat for threatened species; diversifying the NPS and park agency work force; educational materials on art, culture, and history; and providing multilingual rangers and signs. The expanded presence of NPS will facilitate new partnerships with schools, local governments, and community-based organizations to improve outreach and interpretive programs, better connect youth and families to the outdoors, and build a new generation of national park enthusiasts.

The Planning Process

The following planning process applies to federal agencies and recipients of federal funding to help ensure compliance and equity under environmental justice and civil rights laws and principles.

  1. Describe what you plan to do
  2. Analyze the benefits and burdens on all people. This includes demographic mapping and analysis.
  3. Analyze the alternatives.
  4. Include people of color and low-income people in the planning and decision-making process.
  5. Develop and implement an equity and compliance plan to distribute the benefits and burdens fairly and avoid discrimination.


The NPS Rim of the Valley draft study provides a best practice framework to address environmental and health disparities. This can be done through a planning process that ensures voluntary compliance with civil rights and environmental justice laws and principles. Federal agencies provide a framework (a) to address such evidence of disparities, (b) to promote the values at stake, (c) through voluntary compliance with those laws and principles, and (d) through the planning process. Applying NPS’s best practice framework to expand the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area will ensure access to healthy green land use and promote health and environmental justice values for all.

diverse alliance is currently building support for Rim of the Valley. To learn more click here.


[1] NPS, Rim of the Valley Corridor: Draft Special Resource Study and Environmental Assessment, April 2015, (ROTV Study). Click here to view relevant excerpts from the study. The full report is available at:

The City Project and the following diverse alliance committed to health and environmental justice submitted public comments in 2013 to NPS to diversify access to and support for the expanded National Recreation Area: Robert Bracamontes, Acjachemen Nation, Juaneño Tribe; Amigos De Los Rios; Anahuak Youth Soccer Association; Asian and Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance; Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council; California Black Health Network, Inc.; California League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles; Latino Coalition for a Healthy California; National Parks Conservation Association; PolicyLink; Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy; Search To Involve Pilipino Americans; Sierra Club; Social Justice Consultancy; and SPARC (Social & Public Art Resource Center).

[2] NPS, San Gabriel Watershed and Mountains Special Resource Study & Environmental Assessment, p. 231 (Newsletter #5, Nov. 2011) (San Gabriel Study). Click here to view relevant excerpts from the study. See The City Project’s blog post, San Gabriel Mountains Best Practice Environmental Justice Framework for Parks, Health, and Conservation Values.

[3] USACE, Los Angeles River Ecosystem Restoration Integrated Feasibility Report. Relevant excerpts of the study are available here. The complete draft study is available at See The City Project’s blog post, US Army Corps of Engineers Study Best Practice Framework for Revitalizing L.A. River

[4] NPS, Healthy Parks, Healthy People Community Engagement eGuide. The complete eGuide is available at

[5] See The City Project’s blog post, Best Practice HUD Los Angeles State Historic Park Healthy Green Land Use for All

[6] Federal Transit Administration, Environmental justice policy guidance for Federal Transit Administration recipients, Circular (FTA C 4703.1) (Washington, DC: Department of Transportation, Aug. 15, 2012); FTA, Title VI Requirements and Guidelines for Federal Transit Administration Recipients, Circular (FTA C 4702.1B) (Washington, DC: Oct. 1, 2012); Letters from FTA to Metropolitan Transportation Commission and San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (Jan. 15, 2010 and Feb. 12, 2010), available at

[7] Office of Civil Rights, U.S. Dep’t of Agric., DR 4300-4, Civil Rights Impact Analysis (2003), available at

Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change to US EPA: Clean Power Plan and Ozone Standard Must Comply with Civil Rights and Environmental Justice Laws

May 22nd, 2015


Over 60 environmental justice and civil rights leaders have submitted public comments to Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency on the ozone standard and Clean Power Plan. The comments urge that the final US EPA Clean Power Plan rule require a compliance review and analysis under the President’s Executive Order 12898 on environmental justice and health, under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and under the National Environmental Policy Act as part of the implementation plans that each state is required to submit to US EPA. We represent diverse communities in the United States that are experiencing the effects of climate change in varying ways. Whether it is volatile weather trends or severe droughts, our greatest concern is the health of our children, the elderly, and people who are economically disadvantaged or of color. The comments also urge a final ozone standard of 60 parts per billion to protect human health and the environment.

The letter from the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change, and partners and allies, including The City Project, is available here.


Opera Cubanacán Art Schools: When Fidel and Che Compared Golf Swings NY Times

May 21st, 2015

The New York Times reports on the opera “Cubanacán: A Revolution in Forms” in Habana.

[Charles] Koppelman was drawn to the subject after he saw an exhibition about the schools in San Francisco by John A. Loomis, a professor of interior design at San Jose State University, and found himself intrigued by Mr. Loomis’s book, “Revolution of Forms: Cuba’s Forgotten Art Schools.” . . .

He contacted Mr. Loomis and asked about turning the book into an opera. ‘I thought it was one of these kooks from Berkeley,’ Mr. Loomis recalled. ‘I humored Charles. I thought it was just a ridiculous idea — he’d never done an opera before. But he was incredibly persistent.’ . . .

Its score combines Cuban rhythms and lyric, operatic passages with modern edges. In the end, Mr. [Roberto] Valera, the composer, said that he thought that the story would highlight the importance and perseverance of the schools, where he has taught since 1968.

“In spite of all the difficulties, in this school we trained more than 90 percent of the most important artists in Cuba in every art — music, fine arts, drama, dance,” he said. “In one way or another, 90 percent of them were here.”

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Congratulations to my Stanford classmate John Loomis on his book becoming an opera!

The City Project supports restoring relations between Cuba and the US. The Cuban people are not our enemies.

The New York Times photo caption is misleading regarding the golfers in fatigues. It’s Fidel Castro on the right, Antonio Nuñez Jimenez in the center, and Che on the far left (not Camilo Cienfuegos in the center as we originally wrote).

- Robert García

May 17 Brown v Board of Education Separate Is Inherently Unequal and Violates Equal Protection of the Laws US Supreme Court

May 17th, 2015

A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court held in Brown v Board of Educatioon May 17, 1954, as follows:

Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.

We come then to the question presented: Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other “tangible” factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does.

. . .

To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.

. . .

We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Brown v Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).

Brown v Board was the result of decades of legal strategizing by black and Latino organizations. The Civil Rights Revolution includes attorneys taking cases to court, ground breaking judicial decisions, grass roots organizing, legislation by Congress, action by the President, implementation by administrative agencies, and people voting to support civil rights. The Civil Rights Movement is a paradigm for social change. Celebrate the Civil Rights Revolution: The Struggle Continues…


The legal team in Brown v Board of Education from NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, Inc.

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Peace Movement Jackson State Black Students Killed 11 Days afer Kent State

May 15th, 2015

On May 15, 1970, local and state police opened fire on a group of students at the predominantly black Jackson State College in Mississippi. In a twenty-eight-second barrage of gunfire, police fired hundreds of rounds into the crowd. Two were killed and a dozen injured. Phillip Lafayette Gibbs, 21, a junior pre-law major and father of an 18 month-old son, and James Earl Green, 17, lay dead.

On May 4, 1970, four students were killed at Kent State University in Ohio when National Guardsmen opened fire on hundreds of unarmed students at an on-campus peace rally against the Vietnam War. The killings received national media attention and are still remembered forty years later across the country. Society has largely forgotten what happened at Jackson State. The students at Jackson were black. The students at Kent State were non-Hispanic white.

The first general student strike in the United States took place in the spring of 1970. Students from over four hundred colleges and universities called off classes to protest the invasion of the Cambodia, the killings at Kent State and Jackson State, and the US war in Vietnam.

See Lessons of the Peace Movement against the US War in Vietnam D.C.

The Peace Movement against the US War in Vietnam drew on the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement. Celebrate the Civil Rights Revolution: The Struggle Continues…

Peace Movement Vietnam The Power of Protest 40th Anniversary

The poster is available from and 800.949.5139. It’s $18 + $6 shipping.



Expansion of Santa Monica Mountains Connect Underserved Communities to Parks, Trails, and Open Space

May 15th, 2015

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Congressman Adam Schiff and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) led a tour of portions of the Rim of the Valley draft study area to expand the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

The City Project’s Robert García spoke on the importance of connecting underserved communities to parks, trails, and open space in the Los Angeles region.

Expanding the SMMNRA will provide more open space and recreational opportunities for low income communities and communities of color, support the protection of important wildlife habitat corridors, and improve connectivity. A diverse alliance including The City Project is building support for Alternative D in the draft study. Alternative D would expand the boundary area by approximately 313,000 acres.

NPS is holding several public hearings on Rim of the Valley. All meetings start with a short presentation followed by time for comments and questions. The deadline to submit public comments is Tuesday, June 30, 2015.

Read the full article in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune on expanding the SMMNRA.

View the full NPS Rim of the Valley study here.

Photo: Pasadena Star-News

San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy Recruiting for Summer 2015 – Winter 2015 Class

May 12th, 2015

The San Gabriel Mountains Forever is recruiting for its Leadership Academy.

The Leadership Academy is an education project of San Gabriel Mountains Forever, a coalition of over 150 individuals and organizations working to protect and enhance our mountains, rivers and parks with access for all and support a legacy of public lands stewards, particularly among youth and in communities of color.

A six-month volunteer organizer training program, the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy emphasizes civic engagement, community advocacy and project management. Classes are led by coalition staff, experienced organizers and professionals on various topics, including the legislative process, strategic planning, public speaking, social media and project management.

The Academy is free to apply and attend. Participants are eligible for financial aid for transportation as well as child and adult care. Participants have the opportunity to receive up to $1,000 to organize a project in her or his community. Participants also earn $500 upon completion of the project. To date, the Leadership Academy has graduated 49 people and executed 25 projects across the Los Angeles region.

Along with a tremendous opportunity for young people and volunteers, consider this a chance to offer staff training at no cost as well as connect with a coalition and our network of organizations across Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley.

We need people like you to help permanently protect and enhance urban access to our San Gabriel Mountains and River. We need people like you for the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy.

Apply today at

Applications are due May 29, 2015. Next SGMF Leadership Academy class announced June 16, 2015.

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San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy 2014 Class at the Hilda Solis Overlook 

American Film Institute Fighting for Our Lives: The United Farm Workers’ 1973 Grape Strike

May 8th, 2015

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Director Glen Pearcy writes:

“Fighting For Our Lives”, the story of the United Farm Workers 1973 Grape Strike, will be screened at The American Film Institute on Monday, May 11 at 7:20pm. The AFI Silver Theater is at 8633 Colesville Rd, downtown Silver Spring, MD. I will be present to take questions from the audience. You can view a short trailer of the film here.

I made this film forty years ago. It was nominated for an Academy Award in the Documentary Feature category in 1975. In 2007 I began a quest to find the original elements in order to restore the film a modern digital format. After locating them at Wayne State University in Detroit, I spent the past two years transferring the original 16mm film to digital files and restoring the color and sound track. For those of you interested in the details of making and restoring the film, here are my Director’s Notes.

The screening at AFI will be the world premiere of the restored film. This showing will also be part of the annual DC Labor FilmFest.

For more information:
Tickets/American Film Institute
DC Labor FilmFest
Facebook DCLaborFilmFest

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Cesar Chavez National Monument dedication President Barack Obama / Photo by Sam García

Equal Housing, Equal Access, and Discriminatory Impacts before the Supreme Court NRPA

May 7th, 2015

Equal Housing, Equal Access

National Recreation and Park Association, Parks & Recreation Magazine 2015-05-01 Social Equity
by Robert García

At first glance, it may not seem like fair housing laws have anything to do with parks and recreation. However, we know that where people live has a direct impact on access to public green spaces, parks and other social needs like grocery stores, private-practice healthcare facilities and reliable municipal services including police and fire/rescue.

Issues of green access, disparate impacts and residential segregation are highlighted before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Fair Housing Act (FHA), first passed by the U.S. Congress in April, 1968, just days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was drafted to help eliminate discriminatory housing policies and practices based on race, color, national origin and other factors. The FHA intended to promote our nation’s core values of equal opportunity, human dignity and just democracy for all and, indeed, the Act has helped to alleviate discrimination and integrate racially segregated neighborhoods. As a result, a larger share of residents enjoy greater access to safe parks, a clean, healthy environment, high-performing public schools, good jobs and reliable public services.

In January, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project. The lawsuit pits the Inclusive Communities Project, a Texas-based nonprofit whose mission includes promoting racial and socioeconomic integration in and around Dallas, against the state Department of Housing and Community Affairs, alleging the latter party acted in a discriminatory manner in allocating housing tax credits. The court’s decision in this case, expected in July 2015, could have significant implications for NRPA’s Three Pillars: Conservation, Health and Wellness, and Social Equity. Here’s how.

Disparate Impact Versus Intentional Discrimination

The FHA prohibits practices that “otherwise make unavailable or deny” housing to any person because of race, color, national origin and other factors. In 11 federal circuit court rulings to date — all the circuit courts that have decided the issue — the FHA has been interpreted to uphold the disparate impact standard. In other words, these courts have held housing policies or actions that have an unjustified and unnecessary discriminatory effect, regardless of whether a biased outcome was intentionally sought, are prohibited under the FHA.

In its arguments before the Supreme Court, the Texas Department of Housing is urging that the FHA be interpreted to mean only purposeful discrimination would violate the act. For example, a housing authority, agency or seller would have to be intentionally discriminating against a potential client based on his or her race, color or national origin in order to be held liable under the FHA.

If the court were to find in Texas’ favor, the effect could be wide-ranging in terms of deterring equitable housing policies and, as a result, could cause severely strangled access to quality communities for low-income residents and people of color. Effect, and not intent, is the touchstone for finding a violation under the FHA, in part because clever people may easily conceal their intent and motivations, but more importantly, because thoughtlessness can be as disastrous and unfair as the perversity of a willful scheme. Throwing out the discriminatory impact standard under the FHA could also affect an array of bedrock civil rights statutes that protect against unjustified and unnecessary discriminatory impacts.

Congress recognized that a comprehensive FHA would need to target both intentional discrimination and seemingly neutral policies that have discriminatory impacts based on race, color or national origin. Each of these forms of discrimination is instrumental in perpetuating the entrenched residential segregation Congress sought to eliminate. The lower courts unanimously agree that the Act’s stated purpose to end discrimination requires a discriminatory effect standard, because an explicit intent requirement would strip the statute of its effectiveness in alleviating segregation in practice.

While public attitudes toward residential segregation have improved in important respects, racial isolation continues to persist in ways that make the disparate impact inquiry necessary. Residential isolation based on race has effects across generations that continue to limit the opportunities available to our children and grandchildren. Social science evidence confirms the determination of Congress that segregation is harmful and integration is beneficial for park access, personal and environmental health, educational achievement, access to employment, and other keys to a fulfilling life.

Improved Attitudes; Persistent Segregation

Patterns of segregation and exclusion prevent people from living in communities that they can afford, that would connect them to greater opportunity — including access to quality parks and recreation — and that are consistent with their preference for integration and diversity.

Approximately half of all high-poverty census tracts in the nation are dominated by a single racial or ethnic group. African-Americans and Latinos represent 12 percent and 16 percent of the population respectively, yet they make up much smaller percentages of the residents in higher-income census tracts. This segregation affects everyone, as it isolates people from opportunity that would enable their economic mobility and limits greater economic participation. African-Americans are more isolated than any other racial group, with 75 percent of that population nationwide residing in only 16 percent of census block groups. With only one exception — the most affluent Asians — people of color at every income level live in poorer neighborhoods than do non-Hispanic white people with comparable incomes.

Residential Segregation and Adverse Health and Environmental Effects

We know affluent communities tend to have more robust parks and recreation systems, greater access to nutritious food sources, higher-quality healthcare systems and carefully monitored environmental standards.

Grave public health impacts — including asthma, cancer, diabetes and infant mortality, as well as psychosocial phenomena like violent crime and post-traumatic stress disorder — are now widely viewed as environmentally mediated consequences of residential segregation. Racially or ethnically isolated communities are much more likely to experience environmental hazards and adverse health impacts than are diverse communities, in a way that neither housing preferences nor income and wealth gaps adequately explain. Segregated communities are significantly more likely to experience high-volume releases of toxic chemicals, to breathe high concentrations of harmful air pollutants and to live in chronically substandard, lead-painted housing. Environmental justice is the environmental arm of the civil rights movement.

The following map of California illustrates that the same communities that are disproportionately of color and low-income are also the most burdened for pollution and vulnerability. They also have the least access to green space. The figures included are determined through the CalEnviroScreen (CES) tool, which measures pollution and the resident population’s potential vulnerability to the effects of pollution.

In the communities that are the most burdened for pollution and vulnerability (the 10 percent worst score under CES), fully 89 percent of the people are of color and only 11 percent are non-Hispanic white people. Statewide, the population average is 58 percent people of color.

In the communities that are the least burdened for pollution and vulnerability (the 10 percent best CES scores), only 31 percent of the people are of color and fully 69 percent are non-Hispanic white people.

Sixty-four percent of people of color live in the most-burdened communities for pollution and vulnerability (the 50 percent worst CES scores) — only 31 percent of non-Hispanic white people live in those areas.

Only 36 percent of people of color live in the least-burdened communities for pollution and vulnerability (the 50 percent best CES scores) and fully 69 percent of non-Hispanic white people live in those areas.

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Click on the map to see a larger image

Residential Segregation and Educational Impacts

Equal housing opportunity is closely linked with educational diversity and achievement. Compelling evidence demonstrates that attending integrated schools is associated with a host of positive educational and life outcomes. Low-income students of color perform better academically in diverse school settings, with improvements resulting from significant peer effects and the reduction of resource disparities. In addition, research has found that students of all racial backgrounds tend to perform better academically — as measured by grades, test scores and high school and college graduation rates — in racially integrated schools, compared to those who attend schools that are racially and socioeconomically isolated.

Residential Segregation Limits Economic Mobility

Today, segregation continues to impede access to employment and other resources, such that poverty remains entrenched and mobility out of reach to many people of color. Low-income areas are more likely to lack employment opportunities that pay above the minimum wage and offer fewer reliable public transit options. Without means to commute to higher-paying jobs, residents of segregated communities are locked into an employment landscape where opportunities for work are meager, health insurance is expensive or unavailable and options for affordable child care are severely limited.

The Discriminatory Impact Standard and Unconscious Bias

Without the disparate impact analysis under the FHA, government and other actors would not be able to pursue cleverly concealed, intentionally discriminatory acts and policies, as well as seemingly neutral policies, no matter how harsh the impact, how unjustified the action or how readily available the non-discriminatory alternatives. Even actions that are not intentional can cause harm. There’s so much social science work about unconscious bias and how so much of what we do is not driven by conscious decision. The issue of “intent” is largely irrelevant to the need to address inequality and to challenge actions that operate in a discriminatory way, whatever the motive.

Under the discriminatory impact standard, courts assess discriminatory effects, whether the discrimination is justified, and whether there are less discriminatory alternatives for the challenged practice. Conduct that has the necessary and foreseeable consequence of perpetuating discrimination can be as harmful as purposefully discriminatory conduct. Even if the problem is race based, most fair and effective solutions for residential isolation can be race neutral. On the margins, any remedies that do employ race-conscious measures can be strictly scrutinized by the courts on a case-by-case basis.

The adverse consequences of throwing out the disparate impact standard would cause harm for generations to come. The FHA demands that we remain conscious of the long-term legacy and effects of historical patterns of housing segregation. The civil rights struggle — which surely involves equal access to our parks, recreation opportunities and safe public spaces — continues to support human dignity and just democracy for all, in and out of court.

Robert García is the Founding Director and Counsel of The City Project and an Assistant Professor, Community Faculty, at the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science. Thank you to Marianne Engelman Lado for her inspiration and wisdom.

Why Cuba Matters Tom Hayden Listen Yankee Book Tour

May 5th, 2015

Tom Hayden Cuba Listen Yankee: Why Cuba Matters D.C.

City Project Board Member Tom Hayden discusses his book Listen Yankee: Why Cuba Matters at Bus Boys and Poets in Washington, D.C.

The City Project’s Robert García has advocated to restore relations with Cuba for over 40 years. He prepared legislation and remarks to restore relations between Cuba and the US because  the Cuban people are not our enemies. The remarks and legislation introduced by Congressman Michael Harrington (D-MA) appear in the Congressional Record, 120 Cong. Rec. H25577-78 (1974). He has traveled to Cuba with WCVI in January 2000, with People to People in November 2000, and with the American Public Health Association in November 2010. Todos somos Americanos.

Tom Hayden, Cuba, Listen Yankee: Why Cuba Matters D.C.