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Partnerships for Change
NRDC has worked with many community-based organizations to defend people's right to a safe and healthy environment.

from Katrina
Fighting for Green Space Cleaning Up Anacostia
Shielding Children from Pesticide Exposure Improving
Air Quality
in an Urban Neighborhood
Protecting Children From Rat Poisons Forcing Nuclear Waste Clean-up

Fighting for Green Space
Los Angeles, 1999 - present day

Photo of James Rojas
James Rojas, a key organizer of the effort to transform the Chinatown Cornfield into much-needed open space.
© Chinatown Yard Alliance

The Challenge: For many people, Los Angeles conjures images of large, upscale homes, manicured lawns, and tree-lined drives. But that's not the reality in L.A.'s historic core -- a dense, racially and economically diverse downtown neighborhood of crowded streets and bare concrete with very little open space. In 1999, Chinatown and neighboring residents saw the potential for transforming an abandoned rail yard -- the so-called Chinatown Cornfield -- into desperately needed parkland, a place where community residents could find history, recreation and shade. But the city of Los Angeles had already made other plans for the 32-acre site. Over community objections, the city gave Majestic Realty Co. the green light to construct and operate an industrial warehouse development on the Cornfield. Residents of the surrounding communities decided to fight.

Working Together: A broad multicultural coalition of community, civil rights and environmental activists joined together to form the "Chinatown Yard Alliance" in a coordinated effort to halt the proposed industrial development. Rather than create the proposed 32-acres of warehouse and industrial development, the Alliance endorsed a plan to convert the Cornfield into an urban park of open space, bikeway and other mixed uses, and, at the same time, revitalize a critical section of the Los Angeles River. As part of these efforts, the alliance contacted NRDC for legal assistance. A team of attorneys, including NRDC's Joel Reynolds, looked for ways to challenge the legality of the warehouse project. First, they filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, challenging federal funding in the absence of an environmental impact statement. Then, in September 2000, they filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles under the California Environmental Quality Act, challenging the city's failure to require an environmental impact report for the industrial project. Finally, they entered into negotiations with Majestic Realty in an attempt to persuade the developer to sell its rights in the Cornfield to the state for development as a state park.

Today: With the help of NRDC, the alliance and its partners won a settlement allowing them to seek state funds to acquire the land. Following a budget request from then-Governor Gray Davis, the California state legislature approved $36 million in the summer of 2001 for the acquisition of the Chinatown Cornfield and the creation of a park at the site. NRDC remains deeply involved in planning for the Cornfield's future, with Mr. Reynolds serving as a member of the state advisory committee guiding planning for the park.

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