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UN Access to Medicines Panel: Reform US Common Rule on human medical experiments in developing countries, STD human rights violations in Guatemala




We request that the UN High Level Panel support our proposed reform of the US “Common Rule” on human medical experiments, and hear our presentation, to remedy policy incoherence, promote public health, safeguard human rights, and implement evidence based reforms. The US government is studying revisions now.
1. The Common Rule must make explicit nonconsensual human medical experiments violate domestic and international laws. Ethical prohibitions are not enough to deter violations.
Nonconsensual human medical experiments violate customary international law because the prohibition is specific, universal and obligatory among nations, according to the court in Abdullahi v Pfizer (2d Cir. 2009).
2. The Common Rule must recognize voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.
The Nuremberg Code formulation must not be watered down. Under the Common Rule, “informed consent” is virtually meaningless.
3. The Common Rule must address special problems of human medical research in developing countries.
While US researchers engage in unethical behavior in developing nations, the Common Rule is virtually silent on this. The Rule provides special protections for pregnant women, children, and prisoners, and must do so for human subjects in developing nations.
4. The Common Rule must provide for treatment and compensation for research-related injury.
Subjects should not bear costs for research-related injuries, as happened in STD experiments in Guatemala and Tuskegee, and meningitis experiments in Nigeria.
5. The US must waive sovereign immunity and other procedural obstacles in human medical experiments.
The US court dismissed the lawsuit by Guatemalan victims because the US has not agreed to be sued: “the Guatemala Study is a deeply troubling chapter in our Nation’s history. Yet . . . this Court is powerless to provide any redress to the plaintiffs.” Garcia Gudiel v Sebelius (D.D.C. 2012). The US must waive procedural obstacles in human medical experiments.


In a word, the US Department of Health and Human Services can and should implement these recommendations through its pending study and forthcoming revisions to the Common Rule.

1. The Common Rule must explicitly recognize that nonconsensual human medical experiments violate domestic and international laws.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that nonconsensual medical experimentation on human beings violates customary international law and is actionable under the Alien Tort Statute because the prohibition is specific, universal, and obligatory among nations around the world. See Abdullahi v Pfizer, 562 F.3d 163 (2d Cir. 2009), cert. denied, 130 S.Ct. 3541 (2010). In Abdullahi, researchers experimented without consent on children with a new antibiotic during an epidemic of bacterial meningitis in Nigeria even though an effective vaccine was available – and left the children without care, causing the deaths of 11 children and leaving many others blind, deaf, paralyzed, or brain damaged. The court relied in part on the Nuremberg Code, which was adopted in 1947 upon the conviction by the US of German doctors for nonconsensual medical experiments. The Common Rule must ensure that the legal as well as the ethical and moral underpinnings of the Rule are made explicit. The responsibilities of individual investigators must be made clear in the Rule. At the present time, institutions at best are generally held responsible.

Three reports by the Guatemalan government cited in the resources section below agree that STD experiments by the US beginning in the 1940s violated international human rights and domestic laws. The Guatemalan presidential commission report concludes that the STD experiments were crimes against humanity and domestic crimes, and that racism and discrimination permeated the experiments. The technical report recognizes at page 96: “Given the applicable laws during that period, all directly responsible committed crimes punishable by law, and its cover up suggests knowledge of criminal responsibility.” The archival report concludes at page 165: “It is evident that people responsible for these experiments took advantage of the conditions and vulnerability of these groups to carry out these practices, which were a crime against humanity and a clear violation of the Nuremberg Code.” The US nevertheless has provided no treatment or compensation to the victims until the present day.
Ethical prohibitions are inadequate to deter crimes against humanity and human rights violations in medical research. The US presidential report acknowledges that the experiments in Guatemala were “ethically impossible” by ethhical standards of the time and today. Yet Dr. John Cutler led the STD experiments in Guatemala, and was later responsible for the Tuskegee experiments that left African American men untreated for syphilis for decades. Cutler nevertheless died a hero at the University of Pittsburgh even after the Tuskegee experiments were exposed. Cutler died without ever disclosing the Guatemala experiments. Sonia Shah has described unethical research in Tuskegee and in developing nations. Prof. Henry Beecher published twenty-two examples of unethical human research.

2. The content of the Common Rule must be strengthened to recognize that voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.

The voluntary consent of the human subject is essential under the Nuremberg Code. This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved, as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision. This is the formulation of the Nuremberg Code and it should not be watered down. Research that poses greater risk to subjects should also receive more oversight and deliberation than less risky research. The Common Rule must reflect these requirements.

As it now stands, the term “informed consent” is virtually meaningless under the Common Rule. As explained by Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine:

“[T]he Common Rule itself needs to be revised, because it is almost devoid of ethical content. Instead, it should deal with difficult substantive issues. These include the “therapeutic misconception” (patients’ belief . . . that the researchers are there to provide them with individual care); the higher likelihood of harms than benefits because experimental treatments are usually no better, and often worse, than current treatments; the trade-off between individual benefits and benefits to science and society; whether the scientific merit of the research should be given weight (as called for in the Nuremberg Code); and whether to limit the move to conduct clinical trials in developing countries where there is almost certainly less oversight. . . . As it now stands, the term ‘informed consent’ is virtually meaningless.”

All federal agencies funding or conducting human subjects research must adopt human subjects regulations that are consistent with the legal and ethical requirements and underpinnings of the Common Rule.

Recommendations of the US Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, Moral Science: Protecting Participants in Human Subjects Research (2011, updated 2012) generally should be implemented. The present contribution reflects recommendations 3, 6, 9, 11, and 13.

3. The Common Rule must be revised to address the special problems of human medical research in developing countries.

The Common Rule says almost nothing about the special problems of human medical research in developing countries. The imbalance between US researches and subjects arises from economic domination by the US of developing nations, discrimination by US researchers against host subjects based on race, color, national origin, gender, religion, income, and other factors; extreme poverty in many regions; cultural differences between researchers and subjects; and the greater likelihood of corruption involving US researchers and agents in the host nation. Poor study design, lack of informed consent, improper handling of adverse outcomes, distortion of findings, outright lying and forgery, blackmail: the meningitis experiments in the notorious case of Abdullahi v Pfizer, discussed above, illustrates a wide variety of ways that US researchers may engage in unethical behavior to pursue profit for big pharma.

The Guatemalan STD experiments are instructive. The Guatemalan presidential report concludes that racism and discrimination permeated the experiments. There was discrimination by US officials against Guatemalan people, and within Guatemala by elites against lower-class indigenous and non-indigenous people. Discrimination is an aggravating, unacceptable factor for the experiments. The archival report concludes the experiments took advantage of the conditions and vulnerability of these people to carry out these practices.
The Common Rule must be revised to provide special protections in developing nations, as the Rule does now for pregnant women, children and prisoners. For example:

• Institutional review boards must include subjects from the host nation who have no interest in the research, or other disinterested international monitors with relevant multicultural fluency.
• The Rule must provide justifications and operational criteria for legal and ethical site selection, whether international or domestic, taking into consideration whether site selection can respond to the needs of the broader community.
• The consent form, nature of the experiment, risks, and right not to take part must be clear to subjects in light of their own language, dialect, and cultural norms. The consent process should be videotaped, as a signature or mark on a written form may mean nothing to a person who does not read or write.
• Community engagement and respect for cultural differences are applicable to medical research both domestically and abroad. The Common Rule must provide a standardized framework for community engagement. The guidelines of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS and the AVAC Good Participatory Practice Guidelines, for example, provide such a framework.
• Reports on medical experiments in developing nations must be published in the language of the host nation, not only in English, for the people of the host nation to understand the matter. Such reports must consider the perspective of the host nation. Reports by the host nation must be published in English. For example, the US report “Ethically Impossible” has been published in English and Spanish. In contrast, the US has published its recommendations report Moral Science only in English; the US should publish it in Spanish, too. Both US reports ignore the reports by the Guatemalan government, only one of which is available in English.

4. The Common Rule must provide for treatment and compensation for research-related injury.

Subjects harmed in the course of human research should not individually bear the costs for harms resulting from that research. The Common Rule must provide for compensation and treatment for research-related injuries like those in Tuskegee, Guatemala, and Nigeria in Abdullahi v Pfizer. Surviving family members should also be made whole for harm incurred, whether direct (e.g., disease transmission) or indirect (e.g., emotional distress, loss of a family member at a younger age) in nature.

5. The US should waive sovereign immunity and other procedural obstacles involving US funded human medical experiments abroad.

The US court threw out the lawsuit by Guatemala STD victims against the US on the grounds that the US has not consented to be sued. The court concluded that “the Guatemala Study is a deeply troubling chapter in our Nation’s history. Yet . . . this Court is powerless to provide any redress to the plaintiffs.” Gudiel Garcia v. Sebelius, 867 F.Supp. 2d 125, 144 (D.D.C. 2012), appeal dismissed, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 13873 (D.C. Cir. 2013). The US should waive procedural obstacles including but not limited to sovereign immunity and statutes of limitations involving US funded medical experiments abroad. US courts and international tribunals should provide relief to the victims to prevent the US and US funded researchers from acting with impunity. See Michael A. Rodriguez and Robert García, First, Do No Harm: The US Sexually Transmitted Disease Experiments in Guatemala, American Journal of Public Health (Dec. 2013, Vol. 103, No. 12, pp. 2122-2126), available at

6. Background on the human horrors of the Guatemala STD experiments

The discussion of legal and ethical reforms of the Common Rule can obscure the horror of what really happens in human terms. The acts described below in the Guatemala STD experiments are violations of customary international law, human rights violations, and crimes against humanity. They also constitute rape, sodomy, battery, assault, conspiracy to do the same, and conspiracy to cover up these wrongs.

The STD infections were not administered with clinical sterility, a pin prick, or a pill. Here is how one woman, identified only as Berta, died at the hands of the lead investigator, John Cutler, MD:

“Berta was a female patient in the psychiatric hospital. Her age and the illness that brought her to the hospital are unknown. In February 1948, Berta was injected in her left arm with syphilis. A month later, she developed scabies (an itchy skin infection caused by a mite). Several weeks later, [lead investigator Dr. John] Cutler noted that she had also developed red bumps where he had injected her arm, lesions on her arms and legs, and her skin was beginning to waste away from her body. Berta was not treated for syphilis until three months after her injection. Soon after, on August 23, Dr. Cutler wrote that Berta appeared as if she was going to die, but he did not specify why. That same day he put gonorrheal pus from another male subject into both of Berta’s eyes, as well as in her urethra and rectum. He also re-infected her with syphilis. Several days later, Berta’s eyes were filled with pus from the gonorrhea, and she was bleeding from her urethra. On August 27, Berta died.”

Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, “Ethically Impossible:” STD research in Guatemala from 1946-1948 at page 52 (2011).

US funded researchers intentionally infected innocent people with STDs without their knowledge or consent beginning in the 1940s and has left them untreated and uncompensated to the present day. The STD experiments involved at least 5,128 vulnerable people, including children, orphans, child and adult prostitutes, Guatemalan Indians, leprosy patients, mental patients, prisoners, and soldiers. Health officials intentionally infected at least 1,308 of these people with syphilis, gonorrhea, and chancroid, and conducted serology tests on others. The experiments and cover up continued before, during, and after the convictions and executions of German doctors at Nuremberg. Ethical prohibitions have proven inadequate to deter such violations by US researchers and to hold institutions and individuals responsible and accountable.

The City Project and other civil rights and human rights attorneys represent the Catholic Archdiocese of Guatemala in a petition before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against the US and the Republic of Guatemala in the STD experiments. The experiments were covered up until Prof. Susan Reverby exposed them while doing research on the Tuskegee syphilis experiments. President Barack Obama apologized to the people of Guatemala in 2011. An apology is not enough for truth and reconciliation without restorative justice. The government of Guatemala has published three reports documenting that the experiments were crimes against humanity that violated international human rights law and domestic laws, and were motivated by discrimination against vulnerable people in Guatemala. The US published two reports documenting that the experiments were unethical by the standards of the day and by contemporary standards. While the US reports are silent on the legality of the experiments, silence on that point is a tacit admission that the experiments did indeed violate international and domestic laws.

Guatemalan victims have filed lawsuit for damages against Johns Hopkins University, the Rockefeller Foundation, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, and others in US district court in Maryland, case number 1:15 CV 950 MJG (2015). A criminal complaint reportedly has been filed in Guatemala against the former president, vice-president, and attorney general of Guatemala. These matters are not connected to the human rights petition filed by the Archdiocese of Guatemala.


The Common Rule must be revised so that nonconsensual human medical experiments never happen again. With all due respect, the UN High Level Panel on Access to Medicines should support reforms proposed above, and hear the presentation in support in March 2016. The US government can and must implement these recommendations through its pending study and forthcoming revisions to the Common Rule.

This contribution recommends that the UN High Level Panel on Access to Medicines support the proposed reform of US regulations on medical human experiments (“the Common Rule”), and hear this presentation in March 2016. This contribution reflects the proposals of legal, human rights, and civil rights experts, academics, and attorneys.

This contribution remedies policy incoherence, safeguards human rights, promotes public health, and implements evidence based reforms regarding the corrupting influence of financial incentives for medicines, vaccines, diagnostics, and medical devices (‘health technologies’) without proper safeguards.

This contribution:
• reflects, aligns, and demonstrates how it will support attainment of Sustainable Development Goal 3, improving health and wellbeing for all, and Target 7, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development;
• is evidence-informed and includes references to the principles, literature and models upon which it is based;
• incorporates and demonstrates the link to fundamental human rights and the right to health; and
• indicates the requirements to implement the proposed ideas.

This contribution supports Sustainable Goal 3, improving health and wellbeing for all, and most directly Target 7: “Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.” This Target cannot be achieved on the backs of the victims of human medical experiments without proper safeguards, especially in developing nations. This contribution promotes he 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, ensuring that all human beings can fulfill their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment.

Bibliography and References

The Common Rule

Abdullahi v Pfizer, 562 F.3d 163 (2009), cert. denied, 130 S.Ct. 3541 (2010). Available at

US Department of Health and Human Services, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Revisions to the Common Rule to Improve Rules Protecting Human Research Subjects. Changes proposed to ensure the highest standards of protections for human subjects involved in research, while enhancing effectiveness of oversight.

Marcia Angell, Medical Research on Humans: Making It Ethical, N.Y. Review of Books (Dec. 3, 2015). Available at

The Common Rule, Title 45, Part 46, Subpart A, Code of Federal Regulations, issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services in 1991. The rule is available at

Nuremberg Code, paragraph 1, available at; “Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals under Control Council Law No. 10”, Vol. 2, pp. 181-182, U.S. Government Printing Office (1949).

George J. Annas and Michael A. Grodin, The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code: Human Rights in Human Experimentation (1992).

Sonia Shah, The Body Hunters: Testing New Drugs on the World’s Poorest Patients (2006).

Henry K. Beecher, Ethics and Clinical Research, New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 274, No. 24 (June 16, 1966).

Guatemala STD experiments

Petition by the Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese of Guatemala (ODHAG) against the U.S. and Guatemala for Human Rights Violations and Crimes Against Humanity before the International Commission on Human Rights (2015). Click here for the complete Appendix (17 MB on Dropbox).

Guatemala Presidential Commission Report, Consenting to the Damage: Presidential Commission Report for Elucidation of the Experiments Carried Out on Humans in Guatemala, 1946-48 (2011). The US Department of State provided the English translation to The City Project under the Freedom of Information Act. Síga este enlace para leer el reporte en español, Consentir el Daño: Experimentos Médicos de Estados Unidos en Guatemala, 1946-48 (2011).

US Presidential Commission report, “Ethically Impossible”: STD Research in Guatemala from 1946 to 1948 in English. Síga este enlace para leer “Éticamente Imposible”: Investigación sobre las STD en Guatemala desde 1946 hasta 1948 en español.

US Presidential Commission report, Moral Science: Protecting Participants in Human Subjects Research in English.

Article by UCLA Medical School Prof. Michael Rodriguez, and civil rights and human rights attorney Robert García, in the American Journal of Public Health – First, Do No Harm: US Sexually Transmitted Disease Experiments in Guatemala. Síga este enlace para leer el articulo en español.

Two additional reports explicitly describe the violations of domestic and international law and provide background for the report by the Guatemalan Presidential Commission “Consenting to the Damage” These two reports are published in Spanish and are not available in English, except for the translated excerpts below.

Technical report Experimentos en Seres Humanos: el Caso Guatemala 1946-48 (Abril 2011), by Comisión Técnica, Comisión Presidencial para el Esclarecimiento de los Experimentos en Humanos en Guatemala 1946-48. Click here for the excerpts that discuss domestic and international laws in the technical report in English.

Archival report Investigación archivística sobre experimentos practicados en seres humanos en Guatemala, 1947-1948 (Mayo 2011) by Archivo General de Centro América (AGCA), el Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional (AHPN), y la Dirección de los Archivos de la Paz (DAP) de la Secretaría de la Paz. Click here for the excerpts that discuss domestic and international laws in the archival report in English.

Gudiel Garcia v. Sebelius, 867 F.Supp. 2d 125, 144 (D.D.C. 2012), appeal dismissed, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 13873. Available at

Estate of Arturo Giron Alvarez, et al., v. Johns Hopkins University, Case: 1:15-cv-00950-MJG, 1:15-cv-1100 MJG (D.C. MD 2015) (second amended complaint). Available at

Tuskegee, Alabama, syphilis experiments

Susan M. Reverby, Examining Tuskegee: The Infamous Syphilis Study and Its Legacy (2013 ed.).

Fred D. Gray, The Tuskegee Syphilis Study (1998).

James H. Jones, Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment (1993 ed.).

Nigeria meningitis experiments

Abdullahi v Pfizer, 562 F.3d 163 (2d Cir. 2009), cert. denied, 130 S.Ct. 3541 (2010).


USC Report A Closer Look at L.A. River Revitalization and Displacement of Residents and Businesses

A graduate student capstone report analyzes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) plan to revitalize 11 miles of the Los Angeles River.

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The report from the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy recognizes that greening the river will provide a multitude of benefits to the surrounding communities. The USACE plan did not adequately explore the long-term effects of river revitalization on displacement and gentrification. The community surrounding the 11-mile stretch of the river is disproportionately comprised of low-income residents of color. “The USACE plan poses potential impacts on the current corridor resident[s] and businesses through strains on social networks, cultural identity, economic opportunities, housing, and community health,” according to the report.

The USC report recommends all levels of government should:

  1. Prioritize funds for affordable housing and rent control unites (residential and commercial), workforce development, and protection against displacement;
  2. Consider the true cost/benefit ratio of the plan by assessing costs and benefits beyond recreation access including displacement; and
  3. Evaluate other revitalization efforts across the country for lessons learned.

The report concludes residents and businesses should empower themselves to challenge displacement and gentrification.

Click here to view the full report.

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The City Project’s Nancy Negrete, Cesar De La Vega, Ariel Collins, and Robert García, with USC graduate students Madison Thesing, Jackie Alvarado, Xuelai (Sherry) Cao, and Xie (Harmony) He. 


GreenLatinos National Summit Grand Teton National Park



A Year in Review – Looking Back on our Shared Coalition Work
Wednesday, May 25 9-10:30 am

Moderator: Mark Magaña, GreenLatinos
Andrea Delgado, GreenLatinos & Earthjustice (Agricultural Worker Protection Standard)
Jennifer Allen, League of Conservation Voters (Clean Power Plan)
Robert Garcia, The City Project (Environmental Justice and Civil Rights)
Maite Arce, Hispanic Access Foundation (Antiquities Act)

Creating Jemez Principled Coalitions – Working Together In Solidarity and Mutuality
Thursday, May 26, 9:00–10:30am

Moderator: Mark Magaña, GreenLatinos
Robert Garcia, Founding Director and Counsel, The City Project
Juan Parras, Director, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Series
Paula Placencia, Labor Conditions Coordinator, Lideres Campesinas (with interpreter: Andrea Delgado)
Lisa Garcia, Vice President of Litigation, Earthjustice
Mustafa Ali, Senior Advisor to the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Mississippi Freedom Delegation 1964 Celebrate the Civil Rights Revolution

The Mississippi Freedom delegation diversified democracy and changed national governance forever through grassroots organizing. The delegation challenged the Democratic Party to seat them at the national convention, despite calls that they should unite behind the presumptive candidate. From the Encyclopedia Britannica:

Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), political party formed in 1964 as an alternative to the dominantly white and conservative Democratic Party of Mississippi. . . .

President [Lyndon B.] Johnson and other Democratic Party leaders were dismayed by the negative publicity the group was causing at a time when Johnson wanted media attention focused on his presidential election campaign. While members of the MFDP demanded to be recognized as delegates to the national convention and gave speeches detailing the horrific conditions they dealt with in Mississippi, national party leaders . . . sought to deal with MFDP representatives behind closed doors. They offered to allow the MFDP members to attend the convention as guests, with two MFDP members seated as at-large delegates, and promised that the Mississippi Democratic Party would be fully integrated in 1968. . . .

Despite their failure at the 1964 convention, the MFDP had a profound influence on Democratic politics, both nationally and in Mississippi. While their efforts caused a number of white Democrats to switch to the Republican Party, their most notable achievement was the encouragement of African American voter registration. In 1964 only 6.7 percent of Mississippi’s voting-age African Americans were registered to vote, but by 1969, that number had jumped to 66.5 percent. In demonstrating that the traditional Democratic hierarchy was vulnerable to grassroots efforts and that [grassroots] organizations could have an impact on national politics, the MFDP inspired many [others] struggling for political recognition.

In 1968 the MFDP joined with a number of other Mississippi groups to form the Mississippi Loyal Democrats, which successfully deposed the Mississippi Democratic delegation to the national convention.

Read the rest of this entry in the Encycopedia Britannica . . .


Take Action Comics: The City Project by Sam Garcia Stanford ’18

San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy – Apply Today!

The San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy is now accepting applications for its 10th cohort!

The Leadership Academy is an organizer training program of San Gabriel Mountains Forever (SGMF), a coalition of over 150 individuals and organizations working to protect and enhance our mountains, rivers and parks with access for all. The goal of the Leadership Academy is to train the next generation of public lands advocates, particularly among youth and in communities of color.

This is an ideal opportunity for people who want to learn skills to protect and improve urban access to the San Gabriel Mountains, Rivers, and Watershed areas. Participants will also have an opportunity to connect with organizations working to protect the environment across Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley.

Classes are led by SGMF staff, organizers, and professionals on various topics including power analysis, community organizing, public speaking, social media and advocacy. The Leadership Academy is a free program and participants are eligible to receive:

•             Financial aid for transportation
•             Up to $1,000 to organize a community project about the environment
•             $500 upon completion of the project

Online applications are available at Applications are due 5pm on Friday June 3, 2016. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Duyen with The Wilderness Society at

San Gabriel Mountains Forever May 21 Celebration and Hike, City of Duarte Shuttle to Fish Canyon Falls

Come celebrate a victory for Transit to Trails this Saturday!

San Gabriel Mountains Forever (SGMF) will honor the City of Duarte for pioneering a shuttle program along the Gold Line extension to the San Gabriel Mountains. SGMF is hosting a hike on the Fish Canyon Falls trail in celebration of the free shuttle van provided by the City of Duarte to transport passengers from the Duarte/City of Hope station to the trailhead.

WHEN: Saturday, May 21, 8:30 am.

WHERE: The meeting place is on Highland Avenue, adjacent to the Metro Gold Line station parking lot.

WHAT: A short ceremony to honor the City of Duarte, followed by a hike at 9am.

WHO: Duarte Councilmember John Fasana and others from the City of Duarte will join members of San Gabriel Mountains Forever at the event.

Please bring your own water, hat, sunscreen and wear appropriate footwear. It is a moderate hike to the waterfalls and back; 4.8 miles roundtrip; estimated time for the hike is 2.5 hours. The Duarte shuttle bus has picks-ups on the hour and on the half-hour on Saturday.


sgmf duarte event invite

San Gabriel Mountains Forever, including The Wilderness Society and The City Project, and the city of Duarte are all working to implement President Barack Obama’s order to make the new San Gabriel Mountains National Monument accessible for all residents, especially communities of color who live in lower-income, park-poor neighborhoods. We are advocating that direct public transit (Transit to Trails) from low-income areas become a major component of the US Forest Service’s management plan for the monument to improve access and reduce traffic and parking problems. 

UCLA Creating A Complete LA River Greenway for All, May 20 2016

The City Project is proud to partner with the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs for the 2016 “Creating A Complete LA River Greenway For All”

Friday, May 20, 2016 at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

8:30am – 5:00pm

Third Floor Terrace (tented outdoor venue)

Click here for more information.

The City Project with diverse allies is working to diversify access to and support for the revitalization of the Los Angeles River that promotes environmental quality, health and environmental justice for all. See our blog post US Army Corps of Engineers Best Practice for Revitalizing L.A. River for All (January 2016).

LA County Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment Report and Community Meetings

On May 3rd the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to accept the LA County Department of Parks and Recreation’s Parks Needs Assessment report and a motion was made to bring back final ballot initiative language to the Board on June 21st. See the executive summary and the full needs assessment report here.

The LA County Parks and Recreation Department is holding a series of community meetings to share the results from the parks needs assessment. Please share the following meeting dates with your networks and encourage your stakeholders to attend to learn about the parks needs assessment results and what it means for their communities. Refreshments, translation, and child care will be provided at all meetings.

Supervisor Hilda Solis, District 1

East Los Angeles – Thursday, May 12 7:00PM – 8:30PM Griffith Middle School, 4765 E. 4th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90022
Baldwin Park – Thursday, May 26 7:00PM – 8:30PM St. John the Baptist Church, 3883 Baldwin Park Blvd, Baldwin Park, CA 91706

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, District 2

South LA – Wednesday, May 18 7:00PM – 8:30PM Exposition Center, 3980 Bill Robertson Lane, Los Angeles, CA 90037
South Bay – Wednesday, May 11 7:00PM – 8:30PM Hawthorne Memorial Park, 3901 W. El Segundo Blvd. Hawthorne, CA 90250

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, District 3

Santa Monica – Monday, May 9 7:00PM – 8:30PM Civic Auditorium East Wing, 1855 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Pacoima – Thursday, May 19 7:00PM – 8:30PM Pacoima City Hall, 13520 Van Nuys Blvd, Pacoima, CA 91331

Supervisor Don Knabe, District 4

North Long Beach – Thursday, May 26 7:00PM – 8:30PM Houghton Park Center, 6301 N. Myrtle Ave, Long Beach, CA 90805
Hacienda Heights – Monday, May 16 7:00PM – 8:30PM Hacienda Heights Community Center, 1234 Valencia Avenue, Hacienda Heights, CA 91745

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, District 5

Palmdale – Wednesday, May 25 7:00PM – 8:30PM George Lane Park, 5520 W Ave L-8, Quartz Hill, CA 93536
Santa Clarita – Tuesday, May 17 7:00PM – 8:30PM William S. Hart Park, 24151 Newhall Avenue, Newhall (Santa Clarita) 91321
Arcadia – Wednesday, May 11 7:00PM – 8:30PM Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden, 301 N Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007

For more information or questions on these meetings, please contact the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust at 213.797.6554 or

#OurParks Coalition is convened by Bruce Saito, Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, San Gabriel Mountains Forever, The City Project, The Trust for Public Land, Phil Hester, Day One, Audubon, Heal the Bay, The Nature Conservancy, and Kim Lamorie of Las Virgenes Homeowners Federations Inc. of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Why Race and Ethnicity Matter in Park Planning The Atlantic City Lab

A major overhaul of a huge Houston park reveals disparities in what white, black, and Latino residents want—and need.
Brentin Mock The Atlantic City Lab Mar 23, 2016

Houston is embarking upon a $220 million parks project called Bayou Greenways 2020, a 150-mile network of continuous hiking trails, biking paths, and green space that will run throughout the city. . . . Residents approved by ballot referendum a $166 million bond in 2012 to pay for the Bayou Greenways 2020 project, and for improvements to the near-50,000 acres of park space in the city. The goal is to connect the area’s bayous and parks to neighborhoods spanning the region. . . .

While this connectivity is the stated priority for this massive parks overhaul, not everyone in Houston is feeling it. In fact, connectivity seems to matter most only to Houston’s whiter and wealthier residents. When the city’s parks and recreation department conducted its Master Plan Parks Survey in 2014, the majority of respondents replied that they wanted their neighborhoods and parks linked to biking and walking paths. The problem with that survey is that about two-thirds of the respondents were white with household incomes over $75,000. This is clearly not a good starting point for Houston, one of the most racially diverse, (and heavily segregated) cities in the country.

To correct this misrepresentation, a group of researchers from Rice University, conducted another survey, with the parks and rec department’s blessing (and funding!). This one was targeted at African-American and Latino neighborhoods to find out what they wanted from the new park upgrades. Lo and behold, the priorities differed from those of the initial survey. As the researchers write in the report about the surveys: “Neighborhood connectivity to parks was not a salient issue among park users in these neighborhoods, although this had been a primary finding from the 2014 Master Plan Survey and a favored option of 31 percent of respondents in our closed-ended question. Instead, they envisioned a diverse set of new or improved amenities—most prominently, restrooms and water fountains, and an array of recreational infrastructure—in better maintained and safer parks.”

In fact, connectivity was ranked last among priorities for black and Latino Houstonians. What do they want for their parks? Not only clean, functioning public bathrooms, but also better lighting to make parks safer at night and better playground equipment that’s not prone to breaking down. . . .

The Rice researchers see the priority gap between the two surveys as an environmental justice issue that calls for more diverse perspectives when it comes to designing public parks. As they write in the report: “The implications for diverse audiences such as parks department employees, citizen advocates for parks, and academics studying environmental justice issues are connected by the need to be inclusive of voices typically under-represented in planning processes, namely those of racial minorities and low-income populations. [P]articular effort must be made to better existing parks infrastructure in these communities.”

Antoine Bryant, an urban planner and architect who sits on Houston’s City Planning Commission, says he’s not surprised by the wide variation of viewpoints between the two surveys. . . . “There’s a perception, and not just in Houston, that if you have too many black people or Mexicans in the park, they don’t know how to act,” says Bryant, “and that’s why [the Bayou Greenways project] has never been actively marketed to our communities. Half of the black and Latino people in this city probably don’t even know how to get to it, even though it’s in close proximity to many of their neighborhoods. That I can tell you unequivocally.”. . .

emancipation park houston

In 1872, former slaves bought the 10-acre Emancipation Park, where Juneteenth celebrations began.

Read the rest of this story in The Atlantic City Lab

More Inclusive Parks Planning: Park Quality and Preferences for Park Access and Amenities, Kevin T. Smiley, Tanvi Sharma, Alan Steinberg, Sally Hodges-Copple, Emily Jacobson, and Lucy Matveeva.

San Joaquin Valley Parks Summit, Panelist Cesar De La Vega The City Project

Fresno State co-hosted a day long conference on Thursday, May 12th to understand the complexity of park development and its links to other issues such as planning, economic development, health and sustainability.

The City Project’s Cesar De La Vega participated in a panel titled “Healthy Parks, Healthy People, Healthy Communities,” and discussed the connections between park access, civil rights, and public health. The panel was moderated by Sabina Gonzalez-Eraña, Program Manager for The California Endowment’s Fresno Building Healthy Communities site. Other panelists included Sabrina Kelley from the Fresno Housing Authority and Philip Vitale from the Trust for Public Land.

The City Project provided best practice examples, including Los Angeles State Historic Park, for how to use a civil rights framework and compliance to improve park access and address disparities. The City Project also highlighted the National Park Service’s Healthy Parks Healthy People Community Engagement e-Guide and values at stake to engage communities and build healthy parks and healthy people. The e-Guide was born out of NPS’s Healthy Parks Healthy People program launched in 2011, which recognized that park and health disparities go hand in hand.

The Parks Summit brought together park and recreational professionals, economic and community developers, city and regional planners, health professionals, community-based organizations, and college students.

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