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A West Side Story


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Title: A West Side Story

A West Side Story
Top-left Image from www.oaklandish.com
Koji M Tessien URBS/GEOG 515 Race, Poverty, and
the Environment Professor Raquel Pinderhughes,
Urban Studies Environmental Studies Programs,
San Francisco State University SPRING 2004 Public
has permission to use the material herein, but
only if author, course, university, and professor
are credited.
This presentation focuses on environmental
justice in West Oakland. It is designed to teach
those who know little or nothing about West
Oakland and give one specific example of an area
exposed to pollution. It analyzes and
describes the origins of this neighborhood,
paying particular attention to the social,
environmental and public health impacts of the
processes associated with living in West Oakland.
Picture from West Oakland Commerce Association
Looking South of I-580 _at_ I-880
West Oakland View from Bay Bridge Toll Plaza
Looking South of I-580 _at_ I-880
We can start by analyzing Oaklands history
to see that West Oakland was naturally a major
crossing point that evolved into a major shipping
and receiving industry. We then will look
into the environmental factors associated with
this area, noticing which air pollutants are most
prevalent. This is followed by analysis of
the specific air pollutants and the health
effects and risks of those who are constantly
exposed to them. We will conclude by looking
at what has been and is being done to combat the
forces of commerce and pollution here in West
Oakland, and lastly we will try to see what the
near future holds for its residents. I will
tell a West Oakland story
Highways I-980 I-880
Looking West of I-980 Freeway
Pictures from West Oakland Commerce Association
If California ever becomes a prosperous country,
this bay will be the centre of its prosperity.
The abundance of wood and water the extreme
fertility of its shores the excellence of its
climate, which is as near to being perfect as any
in the world and its facilities for navigation,
affording the best anchoring-grounds in the whole
western coast of Americaall fit it for a place
of great importance. Richard Henry Dana Two
Years Before the Mast, 1840
Image from http//users.snowcrest.net/marnells/oa
  • Oakland and the East Bay was originally inhabited
    by the Ohlone tribe before the era of Spanish,
    and then Mexican rule.
  • Luis Maria Peralta owned the land that
    encompasses Oakland and much of the East Bay, and
    his life demarcates the transition from colony to
    statehood (1759-1851).
  • During the height of the California Gold Rush,
    the town of Oakland was incorporated on May 4,
  • The transcontinental railroad was completed in
    1869. Oakland was the final stop before boarding
    a ferry to San Francisco. This was a driving
    force in Oaklands transformation as a major
    commercial and industrial hub.
  • With the end of slavery and Jim Crow laws
    enacted, some Black Americans move to Oakland in
    search for jobs and opportunities connected to
    the railroad and service industries such as
    Pullman porters, waiters, and hotel Services.
  • World Wars I II led to shortages in
    manufacturing jobs, which led to higher paying
    opportunities for Black Americans. From
    1940-1945, the Black population grew from less
    than three percent to 12.4 percent of Oaklands

Above Washington Street
Bottom Western Pacific Railroad Employee
Images from Oakland Public Library Oakland
History Room
  • This is not to go without saying that they still
    experienced many forms of prejudice and racism,
    but they did get the chance to establish a
    relatively stable community.
  • An example of this racism is found in this
    excerpt from an editorial in a weekly Oakland
    magazine dated March 11, 1944, The Observer
  • Thus we see, in Oakland, white women taxicab
    drivers serving negro passengers, and white women
    waitresses serving Negroes in white mens
    restaurants. If that is not a potential source
    of trouble, we do not know what is
  • But the trouble is that the Negro newcomer does
    not concede that the white man has the right to
    be alone with his kind. If the white man does
    not want the Negro sitting alongside him in the
    white mans restaurant, or does not want the
    association of the Negro anywhere else, this may
    attributed to race prejudice. Yet, in final
    analysis, the white man has the right of race
    prejudice if he so desires. If he does not care
    to associate with anyone, he is not compelled to
    do so.
  • Right there is where the Negro is making his
    big mistake. He is butting into the white
    civilization instead of keeping in the perfectly
    orderly and convenient Negro civilization of
    Oakland, and he is getting himself thoroughly
  • It might be well for the more orderly and
    respectable Negroes to tell the newcomers about
    the facts of life. Otherwise we are going to
    have some more riots.

Above Picture Oaklands first Pullman Porters
Union, From the African American Museum and
Library in Oakland Left Picture Possibly
1930s, From the AAMLO
  • Blacks were often given the least desirable jobs
    such as the graveyard shift, still there was
    resentment because they were the most visible
    compared the influx of Italian, Irish, and
    Germans who sought the same jobs.
  • Yet they had established a neighborhood in what
    is now known as West Oakland.
  • Before the 1950s, West Oakland became a solid
    middle-class African-American community,
    featuring well-preserved Victorian homes and
    attractive shopping, cultural, and entertainment
  • After the wartime economy ended, job demand in
    Oakland decreased as shipbuilding slows and
    industries move elsewhere in search of cheaper
  • Federal Renewal Projects of the 1950s led to the
    fracturing of the West Oakland community. The
    Cypress Freeway is completed in 1957, dividing
    the neighborhood of West Oakland in two.

Bottom Image Caltrans Top Image
A Few Quick Statistics
  • Today, there are nearly 400,000 people living in
  • 142,460 are black, making up 35 of the
    population and the largest plurality of races.
  • There is no majority in Oakland.
  • 19,684 people live in West Oakland
  • 64 of West Oaklands population is Black, 16
    Latinos, 9 Asian Pacific Islander, 7 Whites,
    4 Multi-racial, and less than 1 Native
  • West Oakland Latino population grew by 85 from
    1990 to 2000.
  • 71 of West Oakland Residents make less than
    30,000 per year, compared to 28 in Alameda
    County as a whole.

Picture from www.ccrma-stanford.edu/mortimer
  • Many industries exist in West Oakland. Most of
    them seem to be tied to transporting many of the
    goods that get exported and imported, and
    distributed around the country.
  • Oakland continues to be a major point for
  • The Port of Oakland has expanded to become a
    major point on the Pacific Rim.
  • These industries both rely heavily on trailer
    trucks, which rely on the power of diesel.
  • Oakland is an ideal site for any type of
    industrial facility due to its proximity to
    transportation lines.
  • The neighborhood of West Oakland is demarcated by
    three of the busiest freeways in the Bay Area,
    Highways I-980, I-880, and I-580/I-80, all which
    connect San Francisco with most of the East Bay.

  • The Port of Oakland is a 140-acre peninsula that
    extends into the San Francisco Bay
  • Between 1965-1971, dredged material was filled to
    an area bordered by a dike from the former
    terminus of the Southern Pacific Mole.
  • It became the largest facility for container
    shipping on the west coast, home to three major
  • It is no longer the largest container facility on
    the West coast, however it remains the Bay Areas
    most important facility for handling containers.

Images from Smithsonian National Museum of
American History
Map from Oakland Harbor Navigation Improvement
Table 2-2. A conservative total estimate for DPM
emissions in West Oakland.
DPM stands for Diesel Particulate Matter
Source Pacific Institute, West Oakland Diesel
Emission Inventory and Air Quality Monitoring
  • Note that ships in West Oakland are amongst the
    largest emitters of diesel particulate matter.
  • Each of these sources are somehow connected with
    at least one other source For example, the
    trains and cargo operations will often be linked
    to goods coming to and from overseas.
  • In other words, most of these emissions are

A little more on Diesel Particulate Matter
Table 2-2. A conservative total estimate for DPM
emissions in West Oakland.
DPM stands for Diesel Particulate Matter
Source Pacific Institute, West Oakland Diesel
Emission Inventory and Air Quality Monitoring
  • Diesel Trucks account for nearly 500 pounds
    (about 70 of total) of particulate matter per
  • These trucks drive on the three major highways
    surrounding West Oakland, and through
    neighborhood streets both undesignated and
    designated for diesel engines.
  • Often, much of the pollution is simply caused by
    trucks idling waiting in line for fueling,
    loading and reloading.

Above Images from Kite Aerial Photography
Bottom Right www.mistersf.com
Bottom Left www.leefoster.com
The Port of Oakland is posed to double in size by
  • There are approximately 10,000 truck trips per
    day through West Oakland
  • This number is expected to double by 2020.
  • So now we must ask, how has all of this affected
    the residents of West Oakland? What are the
    impacts of living near a major transportation hub
    in California?

Image taken by K M Tessien
Image from www.help-for-you.com
  • As this map goes to show, West Oakland is
    littered with areas of toxic and hazardous
    material facilities.
  • The pink area represents residential zones, grey
    represent industrial zones, yellow are schools,
    and green are the parks.
  • Blue stars represent Hazardous material storage,
    the ones outlined are classified as high risk.
  • Purple circles outlined in black are
    Superfund/Cal-EPA Cleanup sites, no outline
    represents leaking underground tanks.

Image from www.toxicspot.com
Health Effects of Diesel
  • Diesel engines emit high levels of Nitrogen
    oxides and particulate matter, many of which are
    known cancer causing agents
  • Diesel exhaust is a significant contributor to
    airborne levels of a number of hazardous air
    pollutants such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.
  • Diesel exhaust has been linked to premature
    deaths from cardiovascular diseases and
    respiratory illnesses,
  • Several national and international organizations
    had designated diesel exhaust as a probable
    human carcinogen.
  • (Source Connecticut Department of Environmental

Image from the Port of Oakland
A Closer Look at West Oakland Health Statistics
  • West Oakland is exposed to five times more
    toxics, mostly from air pollution, than any other
    Oakland resident.
  • Ten percent of sensitive sites, like schools,
    hospitals, and homeless shelters are within 1/8
    of a mile of industrial facilities at high risk
    for chemical accidents.
  • About 83 of West Oakland residents live within
    660 feet of at least one of the 403 contaminated
    sites identified in the different database in
    West Oakland.
  • West Oakland is 10 of the area of Oakland, yet
    is had 20 of the total number of identified
    contaminated sites
  • (Source Pacific Institute)

Image from www.business2oakland.com
Leading Causes of Hospitalization by
Race/Ethnicity (3-year average, 1996-1998), Zip
Code 94607 Source Alameda County Public Health
Age-Adjusted Rates of Asthma Hospitalization
Children Age 14 and Under 1996-1998 Three-Year
Source Office of Statewide Health Planning and
Overall Age-Adjusted Death Rate West Oakland and
Alameda County 1996-1998 (3-Year Average)
Leading Causes of Death in West Oakland,
1996-1998 (Total 3-Year Deaths564)
  • Here we can see that the three-leading causes of
    death accounted for 58 of all deaths in West
    Oakland during this time.
  • Did you hear this in the news? I wonder why?

Source Alameda County Public Health Department
Vital Statistics
Video from Media Speakeasy
Be aware of your surroundings
  • What does it take for a community to be aware of
    what is going on in its own town?
  • We will look at education and sources of
  • First lets look at an education statistic
  • 45 of West Oakland residents ages 25 and older
    did not possess a high school diploma in 1999
  • (Source Claritas, 1999)

West Oakland Educational Attainment, 1999
Source Claritas, 1999
How do you get YOUR news?
  • The maritime developments that the Port of
    Oakland will undergo has been in the news.
  • I, myself, failed to get this information until I
    chose to look for it.
  • According to a UC Berkeley student, Junn
    Masongsong, conducting a telephone survey
    involving a sample of West Oakland residents and
    their source of information regarding the ports
    expansion, a little more than half received their
    news from major mediums such as TV news and
    newspaper, and the rest basically heard the news
    from neighbors and word of mouth.
  • Her figures tell us that many rely on television
    news for information, and that almost half of the
    residents had to hear it secondhand in regard to
    their own neighborhood.
  • So we have to be sure not to rely on the media
    to inform us of what is important, we have to
    seek it.

  • For instance, growing up as a kid in Oakland, I
    never knew about the controversy that was behind
    the rebuilding of the Cypress Freeway, which was
    completely destroyed in the 1989 Loma Prieda
  • Originally, the freeway structure and the main
    post office had fragmented West Oakland in two.
  • With no choice but to remove the remnants of the
    freeway, West Oakland residents called for a plan
    to keep the Cypress from being rebuilt.

Image taken from Caltrans
Top Left Image taken from US Geological Survey
Top Right Image from www.bouwman.com
Bottom Image from Alameda Fire Department
  • On Christmas Eve, 1996, California Department of
    Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) found significant
    soil and water wastes in a site of the new
    Cypress Freeway.
  • Caltrans continued after DTSC approves a no
    cleanup plan.
  • Protest immediately follows.
  • Over four hundred comments were submitted against
    continuing the rebuilding plan during the
    evaluation period when submitting an
    Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
  • Source Clearwater Revival Company
  • Some sites never were cleaned up, as construction
  • Caltrans had initially decided to built a park
    where lead, chemical solvents, ammonia,
    chlordane, and PCBs were beneath the surface.
    (Source San Francisco Bay Guardian-July 7th,

Image from www.bouwman.com
Evidence of Environmental Racism?
  • The Residents probably should have done a little
    bit of background checking on the neighborhood
    they were moving into because this isnt
    something that just occurred. I mean when you
    live next door or across the street from a
    recycling center, a wrecking yard, a chemical
    plant the chances are there is probably something
    in the ground.
  • Caltrans Spokesperson Stephen Williams, December
    28, 1996
  • Source Clearwater Revival Company

So who stood up?
  • The Chester Street Block Club teamed up with
    Greenaction and demanded that certain points be
    attained during the rebuilding of the Cypress
  • Founded in the 1960¹s, the Chester Street Block
    Club Association educates and empowers residents
    on environmental, health, social and economic
    justice issues.
  • Greenaction is an influential non-profit
    organization that fights for environmental
  • They have fought for awareness of several major
    environmental justice issues
  • They were there to help expose known quantities
    of Vinyl Chlorides at the AMCO chemical site at
    Third and Mandela Streets, now a Superfund site.
  • They stood with other groups in support of the
    shutting down of the IES Medical Waste
    Incinerator in East Oakland in December of 2001.
  • They stood with the Chester Street Block
    Association in the closing of the Red Star Yeast
    Company in 2003.

In opposition to Caltrans initial plan,
Greenaction and the Chester Street Block
Association demanded that several items be met in
continuing the rebuilding of the Cypress Freeway.
  • Temporary relocation with adequate advance notice
    will be offered to residents in 16 homes on 3rd
    Street and adjacent streets during "Level C"
    work. Residents on 3rd Street and families with
    little children, pregnant women and people with
    health sensitivities on nearby streets involved
    in the temporary relocation will be placed in a
    nice hotel with per diems for food.
  • Three feet of clean topsoil averaging no more
    than 30 parts per million of lead will be placed
    on top of the excavated area.
  • Contaminated soils will be excavated to an
    average of no more than 400 ppm lead (residential
    levels, not the recreational levels initially
  • Dust suppression will be complete Caltrans
    promises to immediately shut down the work if
    dust leaves the site during excavation and
    construction work.
  • Keep the community informed. Caltrans agreed to
    keep the community informed on a daily basis
    about developments and test results during the
    project. Caltrans agreed to establish a bilingual
    hotline for daily updates, post notices on a
    community billboard, and hold monthly community
    meetings during this project.

Photo from Greenaction
  • According to Greenaction, there was a ninety
    percent victory against Caltrans in this
  • Here are a few pictures I took of the revamped
    Prescott park

  • I also wanted to go check out the AMCO site at
    third and Mandela. It was only accessible for me
    by driving through the South Prescott
    neighborhood along 3rd Street. It was a few
    hundred feet from South Prescott Park.
  • As I took a look, it really didnt seem to be
    what I had imagined as a Superfund site

  • I saw four superfund sites within four blocks of
    each other.
  • It was a bit difficult to comprehend how
    effective grass-roots networking could be,
    especially considering what this low-income
    neighborhood was up against

Video from Media Speakeasy
Excerpts from Black, Brown, Poor and Poisoned
Minority Grassroots Environmentalism and the
Quest for Eco-Justice, by Regina Austin and
Michael Schill
  • Pollution is no longer accepted as an
    unalterable consequence of living in the bottom
    by those on the bottom of the status hierarchy
  • Race was the most significant factor
    differentiating communities with hazardous waste
    facilities from those without, followed by the
    value of owner-occupied housing (p.66).
  • In the estimation of the grassroots folks,
    however, race and ethnicity surpass class as
    explanations for the undue toxic burden heaped on
    the minority poor (p.74)

The Importance of Networking
  • I mentioned earlier that there was no majority in
    Oakland, implying that there are pluralities of
    different races in both Oakland and West Oakland.
  • What this means is that there is much diversity,
    and you have to unite at least two of the
    pluralities to gain a majority.
  • There are people who choose to unite with the
    Black community in West Oakland, in order to gain
    influence in the decision making process.
  • A mutual alliance builds as some fight for clean
    air and water, and some simply fight for justice.

Picture from Greenaction
Excerpts from Environmental Justice and the New
Pluralism, by David Schlosberg
  • diverse representation contributed to a clearer
    perspective of the commonalities of the
    problems. (p.112)
  • local environmental justice and anti-toxics
    groups most often begin with people as members of
    community networks. Solidarity originates in
    community relationships-pre-existing social
    networks where people live, work, play and
  • environmental justice struggles are not
    strictly environmental. Instead, they challenge
    multiple lines of domination, and it is
    difficult to discern where the environmental part
    of the struggle begins and where it
  • Part of the crucial task of building networks is
    developing cooperation across numerous
    gaps-geographic, cultural, gender, social,
    ideological. The core of networking is the work
    of overcoming divisions by constructing links
  • Locality is similarity of experiences,
    traditions, and understandings it is not
    necessarily limited to physical locationPeople
    may share environmental experiences over
    distances, as particular practices or conditions
    arise in their communities. (p.121)
  • Networking is suggested as a method of thwarting
    industry tactics. The CCHW (Citizens
    Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste) notes that a
    company looking for a site will choose a
    half-dozen or so communities that would be
    potentially suitable then they sit back and
    watch how communities react, moving into the one
    that is least resistant. (p.122)

  • Thank you for your timeI hope this presentation
    has given you a good grasp of environmental
    justice within Oakland, mainly in West Oakland.
  • Id like to give a very special thanks to Paul GM
    and Jake NW, for their technical expertise and
    resources. Without them, I would not have had
    enough inspiration for this project.

  • 1. Austin, Regina Schill, Michael. Black,
    Brown, Poor Poisoned Minority Grassroots
    Environmentalism and the Quest for Eco-Justice.
    The Kansas Journal of Law and Public Policy.
    Summer 1991 69-82.
  • 2. Bagwell, Beth. Oakland The Story of a City.
    Novato, CA Oakland Heritage Alliance, 1982.
  • 3. Institute of Medicine. Toward Environmental
    Health Research, Education, and Health Policy
    Needs. Washington National Academy Press, 1999.
  • 4. Morgan, Monroe. Environmental Health. Canada
    Thomson-Wadsworth, 2003.
  • 5. Schlosberg, Davis. Environmental Justice and
    the New Pluralism. Great Britain Oxford
    University Press, 1999.
  • 6. Alameda County Public Health Department-
    Community Assessment, Planning, and Education
    Department. West Oakland Community Information
    Book 2001. August 2001.
  • Available in PDF format at http//www.co.alameda
  • 7. US Army Corps of Engineers, San Francisco
    District Port of Oakland, Oakland Harbor
    Navigation Improvement (50-foot) Project. January
  • Available in PDF format at http//www.50ftdredge
  • 8. J. Hayes, C. Landeiro, J. Rongerude.
    Pacific Institute for Studies in Development,
    Environment, and Security. Neighborhood Knowledge
    for a Change The West Oakland Environmental
    Indicators Project. January 2002.
  • Available in PDF format at http//www.pacinst.or

Sources (Continued)
  • 9. Masongsong, Junn. Understanding Environmental
    Risk Awareness Levels in West Oakland. UC
    Berkeley. 2003
  • Available in PDF format at http//ist-socrates.b
  • 10. Clearwater Revival Company Website.
  • Available at http//home.earthlink.net/clearh2o
  • 11. Campbell, Sarah. Caltrans to Cleanup Poison
    Park. The San Francisco Bay Guardian. 18
    August 1999.
  • Available online at http//www.sfbg.com/News/33/
  • 12. Thompson, AC. Gasping for air Bay Area kids
    in low-income neighborhoods are dying of asthma
    -- and San Francisco, Alameda County, and
    California are doing far too little about it.
    The San Francisco Bay Guardian. 21 April 1999.
  • Available online at http//www.sfbg.com/News/33/
  • 13. Thompson, AC. Poison park Caltrans wants to
    build a playground on a toxic site. Neighbors
    want to stop it. The San Francisco Bay Guardian.
    7 July 1999.
  • Available online at http//www.sfbg.com/News/33

Visual Imaging Sources
  • Oakland Public Library. Oakland History Room.
  • Available online at www.oaklandhistory.com
  • www.oaklandhistory.com/files/h19th.html
  • www.oaklandhistory.com/files/hafrican
  • Oakland Harbor Navigation Improvement Project.
    US Army Corps of Engineers The Port of Oakland.
  • Available online at www.50ftdredge.com
  • www.50ftdredge.com/EIS/bigfigs/EIS_4.12-2.gif
  • Foster, Lee. Foster Travel.
  • Available online at www.fostertravel.com
  • www.leefoster.com/CAOAKL-2.jpg
  • Center for Computer Research in Music
    Acoustics. Stanford University.
  • Available online at http//ccrma-www.stanford.ed

Visual Imaging Sources (Cont.)
  • 8. Wilshire, HG 7Cluff, L. US Geological Survey
  • Available online at http//geopubs.wr.usgs.gov/f
  • California Department of Transportation. Cypress
    Freeway Replacement Project.
  • Available Online at http//www.fhwa.dot.gov/envi
  • Clearwater Revival Company.
  • Available online at www.toxicspot.com
  • Kite Aerial Photography. The Port of Oakland-
    Oakland, Berkeley.
  • Available online at http//arch.ced.berkeley.edu
  • http//arch.ced.berkeley.edu/kap/1998_images/gall
  • http//arch.ced.berkeley.edu/kap/1997_images/oakp
  • National Museum of American History. America on
    the Move.
  • Available online at http//americanhistory.si.ed
  • Both Videos were taken from Oaklandish. The
    video is titled Media Speakeasy.

Visual Imaging Sources (Cont.)
  • www.mistersf.com
  • www.mistersf.com/archive/index.html/?archive35a.h
  • Society of Manufacturing Engineers, Silicon
    Valley Chapter
  • http//chapters.sme.org/098/gallery-PortofOakland
  • The Port of Oakland
  • Available online at www.portofoakland.com
  • www.portofoakland.com/environm/images/img_prog_04
  • The African American Museum and Library at
  • Available online at www.oaklandlibrary.org/aamlo
  • www.oaklandlibrary.org/AAMLO/exhibits.html
  • www.help-for-you.com
  • www.help-for-you.com/news/Aug2002/Aug01/daybydayw

Visual Imaging Sources (Cont.)
  • 23. http//users.snowcrest.net/marnells/oakpier.h
  • 24. Alameda Fire Department
  • www.ci.alameda.ca.us/fire/cert.html
  • www.bouwman.com
  • www.bouman.com/maps/southwest/bayarea/oakland/aer
  • www.bouwman.com/maps/southwest/bayarea/oakland/ha
  • Caltrans Images
  • www.highwayman-routes.com/Cypress_viaduct_freeway
  • www.ee.calpoly.edu/telab/links.html
  • www.coxandforkum.com
  • Greenaction
  • http//www.greenaction.org/gallery/index.shtmlaz
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