In 1996, five mothers who wanted to improve Pacoima through beautification projects came together in a local school and formed the only environmental justice organization in the Northeast San Fernando Valley; Pacoima Beautiful (PB). Through grassroots community organizing PB initiated tree-plantings and community clean-ups. Soon after, the organization’s first program was created by community members. The Community Inspectors (CI) program was implemented to help residents identify toxic sources of pollution. Their goal in identifying these sources was to create solutions that would reduce health risks.
The CI program evolved into the Safer Homes for a Healthy Community (SHHC) program that trains community members to be lay health educators (Promotoras). The Promotoras educate fellow residents on environmental health risks in the home such as lead and asthma triggers.
In 2002, the organization created a youth component; Youth United Towards Environmental Protection (YUTEP). Students from local middle and high schools are recruited through student campus-based clubs to participate in the program. YUTEP meets once a week to discuss environmental issues in the community, engage in public service projects, develop leadership skills and prepare for college.
Currently our organization is working on keeping community members of all ages engaged in the environmental justice movement through three community organizing initiatives; Clean Up Green Up (CUGU), Complete Streets and the Pacoima Wash Vision Plan. Clean Up Green Up would help connect residents and industrial businesses in Pacoima, Boyle Heights, and Wilmington with the City of Los Angeles. The businesses in these areas would learn how to abide by existing environmental regulations and learn how to access resources and possible incentives. The end result would create cleaner industries and overall improved environmental conditions for business and residents alike.
The goal of our Complete Streets initiative is to educate the community about our streets and how we can create streets that are safe for everyone. We have participated in walkability assessments with Community Health Councils and UCLA CORICA Center for Health Equity to assess the quality of our streets. We have also created tools such as a walkability guide, partnered with pedestrian/bike/transit advocacy groups and continue to advocate for improvements to our street infrastructure.
Through the Pacoima Wash Vision Plan, park space would be created in the park-poor neighborhood of Pacoima. A greenway that includes a bike path will connect Pacoima to other parts of Los Angeles and provide increased opportunities for mobility and improved health.
These initiatives when realized will have increased the quality of life of the residents of the Northeast San Fernando Valley while addressing issues of equity in a community that has long suffered from negative environmental impacts.
Today, Pacoima Beautiful reaches over 10,000 community members in the Northeast San Fernando Valley.