Fall 2005 Newsletter

Posted: December 15th, 2005

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Save San Onofre State Beach: Proposed Toll Road Extension Threatens Beach and Access
A proposed toll road extension threatens the San Onofre State Beach and public access, eliminating precious open space on the California coast, impacting world-famous Trestles Beach, forcing the closure of San Mateo Campground, and destroying habitat for endangered or threatened species. The proposed project would obliterate a public trail from the campground to the beach, or dramatically reduce the recreational experience for trail users who would have to go under a concrete structure to reach the beach. San Onofre is an affordable coastal haven for middle– and low-income families throughout the region, and one of the five most visited parks in the state park system. The people’s right to reach the public beach must be protected.

The Center submitted opposition to the toll road extension to the California State Parks and Recreation Commission, which has urged Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to block the controversial 16-mile project. The toll road extension would raise serious legal and policy issues parallel to the efforts to limit public access to public beaches, and to the proposal to run high speed trains through state parks across the state. We discuss each of these concerns in our Policy Report: Free the Beach! Public Access, Equal Justice, and the California Coast, and our public comments concerning high speed trains . Before construction can begin, the toll road must be approved by the California Coastal Commission.

What you can do:
Take action and show your support for public access to San Onofre State Beach and opposition to the proposed toll road extension by writing to the California Coastal Commission, the Transportation Corridor Agencies, and Governor Schwarzenegger.

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The Quest for Environmental Justice, and the New Struggle for Equal Justice
The new book The Quest for Environmental Justice captures the voices of frontline warriors who are battling environmental injustice and human rights abuses around the world, and challenging policies and globalization trends that place people of color and the poor at special risk. The Center contributed the chapter Anatomy of the Urban Park Movement: Equal Justice, Democracy and Livability in Los Angeles in the book edited by Dr. Robert Bullard. The chapter analyzes our efforts to diversify democracy from the ground up through parks, schools, healthy communities, transit, and sustainable regional planning. The book is available at Amazon.com.

The new book Awakening from the Dream: Civil Rights under Siege and the New Struggle for Equal Justice exposes the Supreme Court’s dismantling of federal laws that advance inclusion, equal membership, political participation, and economic mobility in our diverse national community. The Federalism Revolution has crippled Congress’s legislative powers and made it difficult for individuals to bring suit to enforce their civil rights. Activists, law professors, public interest lawyers, and students discuss some of the people who have been deprived of justice by this rollback, making vivid the impact of the increasingly right-wing federal judiciary. The book includes coverage of the Center’s efforts to keep public beaches free for all as part of the Urban Park Movement. The book is edited by Prof. Denise C. Morgan, Prof. Rachel D. Godsil, and Attorney Joy Moses. You can order the book on Amazon.com.

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Groundbreaking for Ascot Hills, The Next Great Urban Park
The community celebrated the groundbreaking for the new 140 acre park in Ascot Hills in East Los Angeles on November 1, 2005. The park will provide passive recreation and green space in one of the most park poor areas in the city. This dream has come true after 75 years of public calls for a park there, through a creative partnership between the City of Los Angeles and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority that the Center helped bring together. “[I]n East L.A. itself, the largest open space is Evergreen Cemetery, which basically sends a message to kids: ‘If you want open space, you have to die first,’” Robert Garcia told the Los Angeles Times on January 15, 2004, when this park was proposed.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa praised the Center’s efforts to organize the community for the park in his press release.

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Water Quality and Public Stewardship Awards
The Center received the 2005 Public Stewardship Award from the Southern California Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects. The award “recognizes and honors those people and/or organizations who have significantly contributed to enhancing environmental quality in Southern California and beyond through their ideas and actions.”

The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board awarded the 2005 Water Quality Award to the Center, our client Anahuak Youth Soccer Association, and others “for making an important contribution to restoring habitat along and water quality in the Los Angeles River.” The award recognizes our work on greening the Los Angeles River by creating new state parks at the Cornfield and Taylor Yard.

Conferences and Symposiums
The Center, along with the William C. Velasquez Institute, Anahuak Youth Soccer Association, Mujeres de la Tierra, and REMAP-LA (UCLA), hosted the Latino summit on the environment at the Los Angeles State Historic Park on November 13, 2005. The Center’s Executive Director Robert Garcia presented unifying principles to close the summit on the topic “A Latino Reframing of Environmentalism.” Latino leaders from government, community, business, labor, academia, religious, and youth sectors discussed the connections between their central concerns —jobs, education, public safety, housing, healthcare, immigration reform— and environmental priorities.

The Center presented a paper in Ireland on public interest law and litigation in the United States at the October 2005 “Conference on Public Interest Law in Ireland-The Reality and the Potential” hosted by FLAC (Free Legal Advice Center) an independent human rights organization based in Ireland.

Policy Director Chris Hicks presented at the Environmental Justice Symposium sponsored by the Social Justice Committee of the San Fernando Regional Pastoral Council, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Office of Justice and Peace, and the Justice and Peace Commission. The panel focused on how communities of color and low-income communities are impacted by and can impact the environment that surrounds them.

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Katrina, Justice, and Regional Planning
The Transportation Research Board will address Katrina: The Demographics and Infrastructure of Disaster and Reconstruction, at its annual meeting in January 2006, in Washington D.C. The Center’s Executive Director Robert Garcia and Marc Brenman, Executive Director of the Washington State Human Rights Commission, will present their recommendations for the fair distribution of the benefits and burdens of reconstruction, while promoting democratic values of full information and full and fair public participation in rebuilding New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, on Monday, January 23, 2006, 10:15 am – 12:00 pm at the Hilton, International West, in Washington D.C.

Our recommendations can be found at www.cityprojectca.org.

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Free Historic Millard Canyon
The public won a victory for public space in historic Millard Canyon against the wealthy gated enclave of La Vina with the trial court’s ruling that the plaintiffs’ cases may proceed to trial, throwing out the property owners’ objections. La Viña property owners have sought to cut off public access to Millard Canyon trail, which links Altadena to the Angeles National Forest, by posting “No Trespassing” signs and harassing hikers and equestrians. The trails in Historic Millard Canyon are needed for hiking and horse back riding, to improve human health through recreation, to promote spiritual and environmental values of stewardship of the earth, and for equal access to public resources, whether or not one can afford to live in a secluded gated enclave. A Pasadena Star News editorial urged the homeowners to “live up to the original agreement” and allow public access to Millard Canyon and the hiking trails.

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Evolving Strategies For Securing Open Space
The Los Angeles Daily Journal published a front page article on November, 14, 2005, highlighting the Center’s successful strategies to create green space in Los Angeles. The urban park movement has created parks at the Cornfield, Taylor Yard, Baldwin Hills, Ascot Hills, and along the Los Angeles River using many strategies including litigation, conservation financing, and creative partnerships.

The creation of the new park at Ascot Hills is one example of how creative partnerships can lead to green space. According to the article, “In 2004 [Center Executive Director Robert] Garcia met with Joe Edmiston of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. They hatched a plan to propose the land, which had been owned by the Department of Water and Power for the last 80 years, be turned into a passive park (an open area without playgrounds or sports equipment). They organized community support and took their plan to Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, who had a good record on the environment and minority issues. ‘It was amazing. Within 15 minutes he said we could make it happen. It didn’t require a lawsuit or a legal complaint. Villaraigosa exhibited leadership,’ Garcia said.”

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City Controller Audit Reveals L.A. Department of Recreation and Parks Fees Disparities
Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick recently released the first of three audits of the Department of Recreation and Parks. Program fees for the same recreational services vary among facilities throughout Los Angeles. A Los Angeles Daily News editorial called the system of park fees “discriminatory, capricious and just plain sleazy.” The audit exposed a lack of oversight of the Municipal Recreation Fund, which is supposed to cover direct costs of providing programs but which has accumulated $21 million. According to the audit, “those monies are not always used for their intended purposes.” The Department has also failed to transfer over $2 million from the revenues of its Pershing Square parking operations to programs for youth who live in the downtown area. The Mayor has asked the General Manager of Recreation and Parks to develop a plan to address the issues Controller Chick raised. Two additional audits of Recreation and Parks focusing on facility maintenance and recreational services and programs will be released in January 2006.

The Center is organizing a diverse and growing coalition of organizations to support our efforts to reform Recreation and Parks on a system-wide basis. We are willing to work with the Mayor if possible and have asked for a meeting to begin the process.

Invest in justice with a donation to the Center for Law in the Public Interest!

With your financial support, the Center can take risks, advocate for change, and stand up for a better future for all of us. Please visit our website to learn how your tax-deductible investment today can help secure a future that includes healthy children, new green space, good schools, economic vitality, equal justice, democracy, and a vibrant community.

The Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act of 2005 (KETRA) has made changes to encourage charitable contributions from August 28, 2005, to December 31, 2005. Below are some of the key changes to deduction limits under KETRA. These changes cover donations to the Center for Law in the Public Interest, and are not limited to donations for hurricane relief. For individual donors:

* The contribution limit for cash contributions to qualified charitable organizations has increased from 50 percent of adjusted gross income to 100 percent of adjusted gross income.
* Qualified contributions in excess of this amount are carried forward for 5 years.
A contribution to a public charity, whether or not that charity is engaged in Katrina relief, and whether or not the contribution is unrestricted or for a designated purpose, would qualify.
* Qualified cash gifts will not be subject to the three percent reduction rule applicable to itemized deductions.
* Individuals who withdraw assets from an IRA or qualified retirement plan to contribute them to charity will have those assets added to their adjusted gross income, but the full amount added to income will then be deductible from income.

Click KETRA for more detailed information. Please talk with your tax advisor before deciding whether you will benefit from this opportunity.