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Redeveloping Brownfield Sites in Gardena

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Community: Gardena, CA (Los Angeles County)

Population: 61,000

Summary

In 2004, the City of Gardena, in partnership with residential and business community members, formed the Brownfield Community Relations Committee (BCRC). The BCRC works on the redevelopment and/or reuse of brownfield sites (property that is blighted and has the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant). While the city has found success in assessing and developing brownfield sites, very few property owners take steps to develop the sites. As a result, the city held three Environmental Justice meetings in 2010 as a “call to action” to engage and leverage residents to approach owners to develop the brownfield sites.

Program Highlights

  • The Environmental Justice workshops gave residents the opportunity to learn about different “call to action” tools, such as letter writing to property owners and oversight agencies or talking to the press.
  • Continual community outreach has ensured that community, economic, and environmental interests are recognized and that redeveloped brownfield sites will benefit the community.

Lessons Learned

  • Have a clear goal of what you want to accomplish before you start the project.
  • Follow-up with participants between each meeting, so that they are accountable to any action items.
  • Find people that can participate in the committee and/or meetings that are dedicated and have the time to participate. Many times, work commitments prevent residents from attending meetings.
  • Presentations should not be too technical, especially when you are discussing environmental terms that the public is unfamiliar with.

Resources to Learn More

  • Contact Yvonne Mallory, Brownfield Program Manager at ymallory@ci.gardena.ca.us or 310-217-9533.

The Rest of the Story…

Community outreach is a major component of brownfield redevelopment in Gardena. The city held community information meetings to present the initial brownfields assessment results. The city also formed the Brownfield Community Relations Committee (BCRC) in 2004 to address the environmental impact of brownfield sites in the city and to keep everyone informed of brownfield project decisions and status. Participation in the BCRC is open to the public. Currently, the BCRC is composed of business owners, private citizens, and city staff that work to ensure the development of 72 brownfield sites located in Gardena.

The city also publishes a brownfields newsletter, previously established a toll-free number for brownfields project information (available in both English and Spanish), and set up an environmental education display at Gardena’s public library. In addition, three Environmental Justice Workshops were held to further engage residents in developing the brownfield sites in the community. Presentations were made by the oversight agencies at the first workshop to give background information. Community members were able to ask follow-up questions.

At the second workshop, participants learned different “call to action” tools, such as writing letters to property owners and oversight agencies or talking to the press. One BCRC member wrote a letter (and had residents sign the letter) to property owners and oversight agencies about developing brownfields sites. Because of the letter, one property owner submitted site plans to the Community Development Planning Department.

At the most recent workshop, participants voted on the brownfield site they would focus on and worked on developing a strategic plan to target their activities. Participants decided to contact stakeholders and service organizations to put pressure on the property owners to develop the site.

In 2000, the city received its first environmental site assessment grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and hired an environmental consulting firm to conduct site assessments. Subsequently, it received three more grants. To date, the EPA has awarded the city a total of $1.2 million in funds to be used for environmental site assessments.

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