Transit to Trails to San Gabriel Mountains National Monument L.A. Daily News

July 3rd, 2015

Transit to Trails San Gabriel Mountains  

Transit to Trails The City Project

Last fall, when President Barack Obama created the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, many thought the new status would mean preservation of the rugged peaks, tall pines and natural streams first recognized by President Benjamin Harrison and later brought to life by naturalist John Muir.

Not many pictured adding transit service bringing low- and moderate-income families from Los Angeles’ most impoverished communities up and down the monument. But during five open houses last week and on social media sites, transportation was one of the most mentioned planks offered for inclusion in a first-ever monument-management plan being crafted by the U.S. Forest Service.

The USFS “Need to Change” document released in early June lists four areas for improvement to the 346,177-acre monument that stretches from near Santa Clarita, through San Gabriel Canyon and the Sheep Mountain Wilderness to a portion of Mount Baldy: transportation, land use, minerals/mining and recreation.

New Forest Service Supervisor Jeffrey Vail in a letter asking for citizen input put transportation first on his list.

Environmental and Latino groups have proposed regular bus service, especially on weekends, that would connect people without cars from El Monte, East Los Angeles and other areas of the county to the national monument. One idea calls for visitors to take the Gold Line light-rail from East L.A. and Union Station to Azusa, where a dedicated bus service would carry visitors into the monument. . . .

“We are working to make the monument accessible,” explained Daniel Rossman, senior regional associate with The Wilderness Society and a member of the group, San Gabriel Mountains Forever, which lobbied for a larger National Recreation Area and then for the smaller national monument.

“We want the Forest Service to rethink how transportation is done. Instead of just road openings and closures, let’s work with Metro and get public bus routes from the new Gold Line stations,” Rossman said. . . .

“The plan should cover transportation: that is, connecting the cities to the national monument,” said John Monsen, a Pasadena-area Sierra Club volunteer and consultant for San Gabriel Mountains Forever.

Indeed, Obama’s proclamation specifically requires the Forest Service to make improvements in transportation.

In his speech Oct. 10 at Frank G. Bonelli County Regional Park in San Dimas, the president said: “It is not enough to have this awesome natural wonder within your sight. You have to be able to access it. …”

Obama zeroed in on communities of color, saying in essence, the monument should not just exist for wealthy residents living along the San Gabriel foothills but for all Southern Californians. “Too many children in L.A. County, especially children of color, don’t have access to parks where they can run free, breathe fresh air, experience nature and learn about their environment,” he said. “This is an issue of social justice.”

About 3.5 million people visit the Angeles National Forest every year, according to a survey-estimate from the Forest Service from 2000. Some are worried that Transit to Trails could increase crowds. . . .

The Forest Service’s survey found that 79 percent of the visitors to the Angeles were white, 11 percent Latino, 1.1 percent African-American and 4.5 percent Asian. Giving better access to federal lands helps communities of color with fewer park options, according to The City Project, an advocacy group that supported the monument.

“Although the Angeles and the national monument are within an hour’s drive of most people in L.A. with a car, if you don’t have access to a car, there is no way to get there,” said Robert Garcia, the group’s founding director.

* * *

In the U.S. Forest Service’s “Need to Change” analysis, these issues will be considered:

• Transportation: A transit plan must be developed to improve access

• Land use: Some land uses need to be updated to reflect new wilderness designations

• Mining and minerals: New mining or oil and gas (mineral) extractions are prohibited, except those governed by the Materials Act of 1947 (sand, gravel, stone). Only valid existing claims will be honored.

• Recreation: Ensure recreational settings, opportunities and access will meet public expectations.

• Historical places: Assuring the “proper care and management” of historic places and places of scientific interest such as Mount Wilson Observatory.

• 99 percent is in the Angeles National Forest; 1 percent in the San Bernardino National Forest.

For a map of the monument, go to http://tinyurl.com/ng3dra5.• Comments are accepted through July 27 by visiting http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project=46964 or they can be mailed to Justin Seastrand, on behalf of Angeles National Forest Supervisor, 701 N. Santa Anita Ave., Arcadia, CA 91006.

Read the complete story in the L.A. Daily News by Steve Scauzillo, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, L.A. Daily News

Every agency that has considered it supports Transit to Trails programs. 

“Too many children in L.A.County, especially children of color, don’t have access to parks where they can run free, breathe fresh air, experience nature, and learn about their environment.” President Barack Obama San Gabriel National Monument Dedication

L.A. River Ride 2015 I’m with my boys, we’re riding our bikes, it doesn’t get better than this.

July 2nd, 2015

L.A. River Ride 2015 The City Project Stealth Mobile Units

L.A. River Ride 2015 The City Project Stealth Mobile Units

L.A. River Ride 2015 The City Project Stealth Mobile Units

lariverideheron2015

Bike L.A. River flickr gallery

Photos courtesy Photocrazy

The Most Important Current Research Questions in Urban Ecosystem Services, Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum

July 1st, 2015

duke

James Salzman, Craig Anthony (Tony) Arnold, Robert García, Keith Hirokawa, Kay Jowers, Jeffrey LeJava, Margaret Pelosa, and Lydia Olander, The Most Important Current Research Questions in Urban Ecosystem Services, 25 Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum 1-47 (2014)

Abstract

We tend to take nature’s ecological systems – or ecosystems – for granted, but they provide critically valuable services to society and to urban areas. They create a sense of place and recreational opportunities, contributing to quality of life by enhancing human physical and psychological health. This is particularly true for cities, where economic productivity, fiscal soundness, community life, and governance are tied to natural surroundings in distinct, unique and generally under-appreciated ways. Because the urbanized world depends on ecosystem services – both inside and outside of city boundaries – investing in the provision of ecosystem services will often be more cost-effective than response actions, such as treatment, restoration, and disaster response. Given the importance of urban ecosystem benefits to surrounding populations, we might expect that ecosystem services would play a prominent role in the formulation of urban policies, plans, and laws. However, with rare exception, they do not. Many cities are experiencing declines of the ecosystems that sustain them. Metropolitan areas are losing open space, farmland, and environmentally sensitive lands.

As America, and indeed the rest of the world, becomes increasingly urbanized, these issues are of the first importance in seeking to improve quality of life. The scholarship in the area, though, has been fragmented by discipline. Much remains to be done. First and foremost, we must identify the pressing research needs. This article brings together the collective insights of scholars and practitioners from a wide range of disciplines – lawyers and urban planners to ecologists and economists. Taking a comprehensive and wide-ranging view of the field, we identify the most important research questions that should shape the future of scholarship on urban ecosystem services. In doing so, we seek to help shape the trajectory of research across multiple disciplines in this growing and critical area.

Recommended Citation

James Salzman et al., The Most Important Current Research Questions in Urban Ecosystem Services, 25 Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum 1-47 (2014)

Link to Full Text

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Ecosystem services, Environmental law

Available at: http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/faculty_scholarship/3350

Hector Tejeda Forbes We are all immigrants #ImmigrantHeritageMonth

June 30th, 2015

When [Hector] Tejeda, almost 60, moved with his wife to Sarasota about a year and a half ago, the former Merck exec and Senior Associate Director for MBA Career Management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School expected to focus his retirement on part-time volunteer activities.

Among the nonprofits he volunteered at was UnidosNow [a Sarasota, Fla. nonprofit which integrates Latino families into the community and helps the community learn from its newcomers.] The organization’s mission resonated with Tejeda’s personal history. “I could be a poster child,” he says.

Tejeda came to the U.S. as a child with his mother and extended family from Guatemala and grew up in Newburgh, N.Y. where his mom cleaned homes. He thought he’d go into the military after high school, but a chance meeting with a recruiter from nearby Marist College led him to enroll there. After graduation, while working for the accounting firm Deloitte in Puerto Rico, a friend told Tejeda that Harvard Business School was recruiting Latinos and convinced him to apply. He then got a Harvard MBA, which helped lead to his high-powered career.

From Volunteer to Nonprofit Executive Director in Retirement

“People always gave me a hand,” he says. “There are lots of gritty kids that have overcome obstacles in their lives and no one sees them.”

Today, Tejeda is UnidosNow’s executive director, earning $25,000 a year and using his executive skills to focus its efforts on mentoring students from low-income Latino families to get them to finish high school and go on to college.

Read the rest of this article in Forbes.

Hector is my cousin. We flew with our mothers from Guatemala to New York on the same plane when Hector was two, my sister was seven, and I was four. We are all immigrants. Robert García.

Lucrecia, Leo, Robert Newburgh April 1957

California Endowment Supreme Court’s fair housing ruling upholds tenets of social equity and fairness, fundamental determinants of health

June 30th, 2015

The California Endowment applauds the Supreme Court of United States for its ruling that you should have the right to live where you want without the threat of discrimination.  Commenting on the ruling in the case of Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Dr. Anthony Iton, MD, JD, Senior Vice President of The California Endowment, released the following statement:

“The Supreme Court’s ruling upholds the tenets of social equity and fairness, which we recognize as fundamental determinants of health.  Hopefully, this puts an end to authorized residential segregation, which has left so many poor and people of color exposed to environmental hazards, confined to resource-strapped schools, and far from well-paying jobs.”

“As a health foundation, we work in places that have long suffered from discriminatory housing practices, and whose residents now experience higher rates of disease and earlier death.  The work to improve health in these places involves not only ending discriminatory practices, but also providing the residents with skills and opportunities to overcome accumulated physical, economic, and emotional damage.”

“Even with this ruling, we must continue to fight obstacles to fair housing such as gentrification.  Fortunately, our partners in California have succeeded in gaining some promising tools, like the local control funding formula for schools, and cap and trade for environmental impacts and planning, that are helping communities to deal with inequities.”

“Where you live matters to your health – a lot.  And it matters to your children and your children’s children. Today’s ruling bolsters our resolve to improve health through a place-based approach.  People throughout California and the nation, and the generations that follow them, will be better off for it.”

Click here to read a City Project blog about the Supreme Court ruling and its impact on underserved communities.

Anthony Iton, MD, MPH

Senior Vice President, The California Endowment

Pope Francis Parks make us feel at home, bring us together, and are needed where the disposable of society live

June 29th, 2015

Pope Francis, in his encyclical on caring for our common home, writes that human beings enjoy a right to life, happiness, and dignity. For example, everyone should have access to parks and green space, which make us feel at home and bring people together. But parks and green space too often are located only in “safer” areas, not in the segregated neighborhoods of the poor and underprivileged. The people most impacted must be included in shaping the solutions. Residential segregation in California and the U.S. is associated with lack of parks and green space, environmental degradation, and adverse health effects. President Barack Obama and the US National Park Service agree that park access is a social justice issue.

Pope Francis writes:

Many cities are huge, inefficient structures, excessively wasteful of energy and water. Neighborhoods, even those recently built, are congested, chaotic and lacking in sufficient green space. We were not meant to be inundated by cement, asphalt, glass and metal, and deprived of physical contact with nature.

In some places, rural and urban alike, the privatization of certain spaces has restricted people’s access to places of particular beauty. In others, “ecological” neighborhoods have been created which are closed to outsiders in order to ensure an artificial tranquility. Frequently, we find beautiful and carefully manicured green spaces in so-called “safer” areas of cities, but not in the more hidden areas where the disposable of society live.

The extreme poverty experienced in areas lacking harmony, open spaces or potential for integration, can lead to incidents of brutality and to exploitation . . . . Here too, we see how important it is that urban planning always take into consideration the views of those who will live in these areas.

There is . . . a need to protect those common areas, visual landmarks and urban landscapes which increase our sense of belonging, of rootedness, of “feeling at home” within a city which includes us and brings us together. It is important that the different parts of a city be well integrated and that those who live there have a sense of the whole, rather than being confined to one neighborhood and failing to see the larger city as space which they share with others. For this same reason, in both urban and rural settings, it is helpful to set aside some places which can be preserved and protected from constant changes brought by human intervention.

Anyone who grew up in the hills, or sat by the spring to drink as a child, or played outdoors in the neighborhood park, feels one is being called to recover one’s true self when one goes back to those places.

Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis on Care for our Common Home, ¶¶ 44-45, 84, 149-51.

pope obama v2

President Barack Obama recognized that park access is a social justice issue when he created the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument:

Too many children in L.A. County, especially children of color, don’t have access to parks where they can run free, breathe fresh air, experience nature and learn about their environment. This is an issue of social justice. Because it’s not enough to have this awesome natural wonder within your sight — you have to be able to access it.

My commitment to conservation isn’t about locking away our natural treasures; it’s about working with communities to open up our glorious heritage to everybody — young and old, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American — to make sure everybody can experience these incredible gifts.

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 to its effects. The same communities also have the least access to green space.

  • In the communities that are the most burdened for pollution and vulnerability (the 10 percent worst score under CalEnviroScreen 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.

The measures of pollution and vulnerability are from the state’s CalEnviroScreen tool. The City Project and GreenInfo Network provide the analysis on race, ethnicity, and green access, because CES inappropriately excludes these factors.

CES_Score_POC_Graph_Final 20140909

Click on the map to see a larger image

The National Park Service in a best practice summarizes the values at stake for healthy parks, healthy people, and healthy communities:

  • Fun, health, and human development.
  • Conservation values, including climate justice.
  • Economic vitality, including creating jobs and avoiding displacement.
  • Art, culture, and spiritual values.
  • Equal justice, democracy, and livability for all. “Ultimately, we can appeal to the values that we strive to achieve as a community and democracy and emphasize the inherent democratic nature of public spaces.”

U.S. National Park Service, Healthy Parks, Healthy People Community Engagement eGuide.

The Pope entreats us to care about climate, care for creation, and care for the poor and underprivileged.

Democratically elected Guatemalan president Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán deposed by CIA June 27, 1954

June 27th, 2015

On June 27, 1954, democratically elected Guatemalan president Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán was deposed in a CIA sponsored coup to protect the profits of the United Fruit Company. Read a description on this page from the book Harvest of Empire by Juan Gonzalez: http://bit.ly/1QBMEEq This painting by Diego Rivera, “Gloriosa Victoria,” also tells much of the story. Coup Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas greets secretary of state John Foster Dulles, who holds a bomb with the face of Eisenhower, surrounded by people who were murdered in the coup. To his left is U.S. ambassador John Peurifoy with military officers and CIA director Allen W. Dulles whispering in his brother’s ear. On the right, the archbishop of Guatemala, Mariano Rossell Arellano blesses the act, while Guatemalans protest.

Zinn Education Project's photo.

Pope Francis on housing, equal dignity, and displacement. Fair housing is a right US Supreme Court. 

June 26th, 2015

Pope Francis’s encyclical on caring for our common home focuses on the need to care about climate, care about creation, and care about the poor. The poor and the earth are crying out and solutions must address both. The Pope writes on housing, displacement, and democratic planning:

Lack of housing is a grave problem in many parts of the world, both in rural areas and in large cities, since state budgets usually cover only a small portion of the demand. Not only the poor, but many other members of society as well, find it difficult to own a home. Having a home has much to do with a sense of personal dignity and the growth of families. This is a major issue for human ecology. In some places, where makeshift shanty towns have sprung up, this will mean developing those neighbourhoods rather than razing or displacing them. When the poor live in unsanitary slums or in dangerous tenements, “in cases where it is necessary to relocate them, in order not to heap suffering upon suffering, adequate information needs to be given beforehand, with choices of decent housing offered, and the people directly involved must be part of the process”. At the same time, creativity should be shown in integrating rundown neighbourhoods into a welcoming city: “How beautiful those cities which overcome paralyzing mistrust, integrate those who are different and make this very integration a new factor of development! How attractive are those cities which, even in their architectural design, are full of spaces which connect, relate and favour the recognition of others!” ¶ 152 (citations omitted).

Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio washes feet of shelter residents during 2008 Mass at church in Buenos Aires

In a tremendous victory for equal opportunity, and for the future of our nation, the United States Supreme Court endorsed the right to fair housing to continue to help move our country beyond a legacy of segregation and discrimination and toward opportunity for all.

Much progress remains to be made in our Nation’s continuing struggle against racial isolation. In striving to achieve our “historic commitment to creating an integrated society,” we must remain wary of policies that reduce homeowners to nothing more than their race. But since the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968 and against the backdrop of disparate-impact liability in nearly every jurisdiction, many cities have become more diverse. The [Fair Housing Act of 1968] must play an important part in avoiding the Kerner Commission’s grim prophecy that “[o]ur Nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.” The Court acknowledges the Fair Housing Act’s continuing role in moving the Nation toward a more integrated society. (Citations omitted.)

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the five person majority, joined by Justices Sotomayor, Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan, in the case of Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project (June 25, 2015).

The New York Times supports fair housing in an Editorial :

Housing discrimination doesn’t have to be intentional to be illegal. That is the point of the Supreme Court’s ruling . . . interpreting the Fair Housing Act of 1968 in accord with clear congressional intent, and preserving a well-established and critical tool in the long-running battle to ensure a more integrated society. . . . [T]he law allows plaintiffs to challenge government or private policies that have a discriminatory effect, without having to show evidence of intentional discrimination. Explicit, legally sanctioned racial segregation in housing may be over, Justice Kennedy wrote, but “its vestiges remain today, intertwined with the country’s economic and social life.” From discriminatory lending practices to zoning laws that favor higher-income home buyers, persistent patterns work to hurt minorities and other vulnerable groups the law was written to protect.And over the long term, the effects of housing segregation can alter future incomes and opportunities.

Photo: The Pope as a Cardinal in Buenos Aires courtesy Catholic Herald.

US Supreme Court Upholds Discriminatory Impact Standard and Fair Housing Victory

June 25th, 2015

Should you have the right to live where you want without the threat of discrimination?

The US Supreme Court today held that the Fair Housing Act prohibits unjustified discriminatory impact discrimination, as well as intentional discrimination, in the case of Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project.

This is a tremendous victory for equal opportunity, and for the future of our nation. A strong and effective Fair Housing Act will continue to help move our country beyond a legacy of segregation and discrimination and toward opportunity for all. The Court majority correctly recognized the commonsense idea that unjustified obstacles to diverse, prosperous communities should fall in favor of inclusive approaches that work for everyone. The Court also recognized that recognition of disparate impact liability under the Fair Housing Act plays an important role in uncovering discriminatory intent: it permits plaintiffs to counteract unconscious prejudices, disguised animus, and implicit bias that escape easy classification as intentional discrimination.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the five person majority, joined by Justices Sotomayor, Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan:

Much progress remains to be made in our Nation’s continuing struggle against racial isolation. In striving to achieve our “historic commitment to creating an integrated society,” we must remain wary of policies that reduce homeowners to nothing more than their race. But since the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968 and against the backdrop of disparate-impact liability in nearly every jurisdiction, many cities have become more diverse. The [Fair Housing Act] must play an important part in avoiding the Kerner Commission’s grim prophecy that “[o]ur Nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.” Kerner Commission Report 1. The Court acknowledges the Fair Housing Act’s continuing role in moving the Nation toward a more integrated society. (Citations omitted.)

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% and 16% of the population respectively, yet they make up much smaller percentages of the residents in low-poverty 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 racially isolated than any other racial group, with 75% of African Americans nationwide residing in only 16% 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 Is Associated with Adverse Health and Environmental Effects. Racially or ethnically isolated communities are much more likely to experience environmental hazards and adverse health impacts than are integrated communities, in a way that neither housing preferences nor income and wealth gaps adequately explain. Residents of 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. Communities of color are less likely to benefit from reliable municipal services or to enjoy access to grocery stores, private-practice healthcare facilities, and green spaces, such as parks and sports fields. Environmental justice is the environmental arm of the civil rights movement. 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.

Residential Segregation Impairs Educational Integration and its Benefits. 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 (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 Impedes Access to 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.

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.

It’s very disturbing that four members of the Court would have overturned four decades of settled law to undermine the Fair Housing Act. We’ve made great strides as a nation toward equal opportunity for all. But the dissenting opinions reveal a stunning failure to see the work that remains to be done, and the modern obstacles to fair housing. Thankfully, a majority of the Court understood that these protections are crucial to our nation’s future. Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas, Scalia, and Alito dissented.

The struggle continues.

Civil_Rights_Memorial SPLA Lin

We will not be satisfied “until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream” Martin Luther King, Jr. (Amos 5:24)
Civil Rights Memorial, Southern Poverty Law Center, by Maya Lin

Pope Francis “The poor and the earth are crying out.” Who are the poor in the US and CA?

June 24th, 2015

Pope Francis calls for action to care about climate, care about creation, and care about the poor in his encyclical on caring for our common home. Climate change and environmental degradation disproportionately impact the poor and disadvantaged, and cannot be solved without addressing poverty and inequality. The Pope intricately weaves moral and spiritual teachings with science, economics, and politics, addressing environmental values as well as human dignity and human rights.

“A true ecological approach,” writes the Pope, “always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” ¶ 49 (original emphasis).

Who are the poor and disadvantaged in the U.S. and in California?

Poverty, Race, and Ethnicity

People of color disproportionately suffer from poverty and income inequality. The official poverty level in the US from 2007 to 2011 is about 25% for African Americans, 26% for Native Americans, and 22% for Hispanics, compared to 11% for non-Hispanic whites, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

poverty 2007-2011 census

According to the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, 22.0% of Californians lived in poverty in 2011, using the California Poverty Measure. There is wide variation in poverty rates across California, with especially high rates in counties with high housing costs, such as Los Angeles County (26.9%).

Wealth Inequality, Race, and Ethnicity

Pope Francis writes about economic inequality:

[W]e should be particularly indignant at the enormous inequalities in our midst, whereby we continue to tolerate some considering themselves more worthy than others. We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet. In practice, we continue to tolerate that some consider themselves more human than others, as if they had been born with greater rights. ¶ 90.

There are wealth inequalities based on race, color, and national origin.

According to Prof. Thomas Piketty, “The United States to this day is a country of extremely brutal inequality, especially in relation to race, whose effects are still quite visible. [B]lacks were deprived of civil rights until the 1960s and subjected to a regime of legal segregation . . . .  This no doubt accounts for many aspects of the development – or rather nondevelopment – of the U.S. welfare state.”

pew wealth race 2015

The wealth of non-Hispanic white households was 13 times the median wealth of black households in 2013, compared with eight times the wealth in 2010, according to the Pew Research Center. The wealth of non-Hispanic white households is now more than 10 times the wealth of Hispanic households, compared with nine times the wealth in 2010. The Great Recession, fueled by the crises in the housing and financial markets, was universally hard on the net worth of families in the U.S. Although asset prices have started to recover, not all households have benefited alike, and wealth inequality has widened along racial and ethnic lines.

Income Inequality

Income inequality has exploded in the U.S. and in California since 1980. There are extreme income inequalities for the top 1% and the 10% in the U.S. Income inequality is even worse in California, as shown in the following chart. A large portion of this increase in inequality is due to an upsurge in the labor incomes earned by senior company executives and successful entrepreneurs.

saez_CAdemocrats15 top 1

The share of the top 1% in the U.S. national income rose dramatically from less than 10% in the 1970s to about 17-23% in the 2000s-2010s. The pattern of inequality is generally similar in California, with the top 1% receiving over 25% of the income in 2012. The top percentile included families with income above $394,000 in 2012. The bottom half includes families whose income falls below about $50,000. Blacks and Latinos are disproportionately excluded from the top incomes.

Pope Francis writes: “Hence every ecological approach needs to incorporate a social perspective which takes into account the fundamental rights of the poor and the underprivileged.” ¶ 93. We agree.