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L.A. Times Analysis Shows Racist Harms of Freeway Projects

12:49 PM PST on November 12, 2021

This vacant land, viewed from Norwalk’s Silverbow Avenue pedestrian overpass, was more than a dozen homes. Metro and Caltrans have demolished hundreds of homes for their South 5 Freeway widening project. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

This week the Los Angeles Times published a three-article series on freeway expansion's present and past harms to communities of color. The Times examined three decades of freeway expansion projects in five states - California, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas - and found that large highway building projects demolished homes predominantly (nearly two-thirds) in Black and Latino neighborhoods.

The L.A. Times analysis of freeway expansion over 30 years in five states found a predominance of home demolitions in communities of color. Graph via LAT article

For Caltrans projects, the L.A. Times found that 100 percent of the 1,254 homes demolished were in non-white areas. Note that the Times focused on projects that displaced 100 or more households. Many of California's highway widening projects fall below that threshold - for example: Metro and Caltrans under-construction widening of the 71 Freeway through Pomona has demolished 21 homes in the Latino/Asian Westmont neighborhood.

The three Times pieces are:

The Times series features fantastic aerial photography graphics showing home demolitions in Tampa and in the L.A. County city of Norwalk.

Norwalk neighborhoods
Norwalk neighborhoods in 2005, prior to Metro and Caltrans 5 Freeway widening - detail of L.A. Times graphic
The same Norwalk neighborhoods in 2021, as Metro and Caltrans $2 billion 5 Freeway widening nears completion - detail of L.A. Times graphic

Streetsblog L.A. readers will recall earlier SBLA reporting on these neighborhoods erased by Metro and Caltrans 5 Freeway widening demolitions. The $2 billion I-5 South freeway widening, expected to be completed in 2022, took 423 full parcels - mostly homes - in majority Latino neighborhoods in the southeast L.A. County cities of Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs, Downey and La Mirada. Metro and Caltrans are already planning hundreds more home demolitions along the 5 Freeway through Santa Fe Springs and Downey.

SBLA's January 2021 coverage included several before/after images, including the pair below.

Maidstone xxx
A stretch of Maidstone Avenue in the city of Norwalk in 2007 – via Google Street View
The same stretch of Maidstone in 2021. Note the outsized height of the 5 Freeway walls here - taller than the ~40-foot utility poles. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
The same stretch of Maidstone in 2021: home demolition sites along the outsized freeway wall.  Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Read the Times coverage - linked above.

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