State action needed to uproot structural racism from land use policies

April 14, 2023
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Ashley Werner, Daniel Carpenter-Gold, Gabriel Greif

This report by Leadership Counsel and UCLA’s Environmental Law Clinic reveals the major role that land use policy continues to play in perpetuating the poor environmental conditions and health disparities that face low-income communities and communities of color. Released during Earth Month, the "Concentrated Overburden" report offers 13 key recommendations for state lawmakers to end “the structural racism embedded in California’s patterns of inequitable land use policies.” Despite growing recognition that the burden of pollution in California falls heaviest on Black, Brown, and low-income communities, jurisdictions continue to disproportionately place polluting land uses in and around disadvantaged communities. That’s because in California, state law delegates to cities and counties the primary responsibility for setting land use policy through general plans and local zoning.

The report outlines California land use policy’s roots in explicitly racially discriminatory policies, such as redlining and racially restrictive covenants, which drove racial segregation and concentrated environmental burdens in communities of color, and demonstrates how local governments’ exercise of their land use authorities often perpetuate and entrench these historic patterns today. This report surveyed thirty local jurisdictions throughout California–with Stockton, Huntington Park, and Fresno as case studies.

Download the Report.

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