anthony asadullah samad

Anthony Asadullah Samad

*In the next six weeks, the City of Los Angeles will be hosting a space exhibit around the retired Space Shuttle program.

Included in the exhibit will be one of the three remaining space shuttle rocket planes (of the original five built) that sustained the program for the past three decades. While the California Science Center and the officials of the city, I’m sure, are excited about having the exhibit in the city, many residents are not happy about how it’s coming to the city.

SOMEBODY…and we’re going to find out WHO…decided that the most efficient route to bring the space shuttle in from LAX was to come down Manchester to LaTijera, down Crenshaw to King, Jr. Blvd., and into Exposition Park. Along the way, 124 trees will be removed in Westchester, and some 140 trees will be removed down Crenshaw and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvds.  In all, over 400 trees are being cut down along this space shuttle route.

Is it worth all that?

Again, no community hearings were held, an expedited process was engaged and the community was caught by surprise (again). Community hearings were supposed to be held BEFORE the decision to remove the trees were made—and at least 90 days for posting notification for the community to respond. Yet, with this space shuttle deal, posting went up on the L.A. Public Works website on August 13th, 2012. See the Tree Removal Notification System (http://bsspermits.lacity.org/treeposting/public/index1.cfm?CFID=428286&CFTOKEN=32621268) to witness the postings for yourself, I.D. posting 373 through 446, less than 60 days before the space shuttle, Endeavour, is due to arrive. And…a parade is being planned to celebrate its arrival.

Now the community is standing around, “Oh Me, Oh My-ing,” as to what to do. Some are saying that it’s too late to stop the process. It’s NEVER too late. There are options here. One thing we do know is that this tourist exhibit is NOT worth losing 260 trees, in a concrete metropolis like Los Angeles, where there is already a shortage of parks and greenspace.

How did we get here?  When the space shuttle program retired the three shuttles, and the Endeavour, which flew 25 missions, spent 299 days in space and orbited the earth some 4,600 times, became available—Los Angeles immediately jumped into the discussion, claiming, “We want it.” We’re sure the logistics weren’t worked out, but it’s awfully coincidental that the path of the space shuttle parade comes awfully close to the planned at grade rail line coming down Crenshaw to LAX. What might be a foregone conclusion on the part of MTA on the final route of the Crenshaw/LAX line, is not a foregone conclusion by the community. The community is bent on having a tunnel under Crenshaw—and I wouldn’t bet against them on this, which would’ve saved those trees. The California Science Center is the driver on this piece and the planner of the route—planning to replant the trees cut down, at least three to one. Not quite.

How are you going to replace a 125 year old tree, with a baby tree that will take a decade to grow? And what is the environmental impact to the community, with no trees and getting ready to endure a very polluting rail construction project? Devastating when you consider that trees provide oxygen, help regulate climate, preserve soil and help conserve water. Again, our community’s absence of sophistication was exploited, as governmental processes designed to prevent such an occurrence was circumvented. The California Science Center just cares about “getting it done.” They, or somebody on their behalf, just filed what is called a “Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND),” which is a shortcut, or loophole, to circumvent studying the proposed routes, offering alternative routes and addressing the esthetics of each community impacted, while avoiding public debate. “Just give them some more trees” is a simplistic, regressive approach to a community already short on esthetics. Where is the outcry here?

Now just as devastating has been the silence on the part of black leadership. If the community hadn’t said anything, nobody would have said anything. Even the signholders and bullhorners missed this. Oh, I forgot…there was something more important to celebrate…Michael Jackson’s birthday. SMH

Meanwhile, the community that many think is “the path of least resistance” is about to be bent over again. The Westchester community is organizing. The Crenshaw/King community needs to organize too. How do we stop it? First and foremost, we need a court injunction immediately. Isn’t that what the NAACP is supposed to do? Is there anything such as a civil rights attorney anymore? Secondly, we need to nudge our elected leadership. We know why this path was chosen, look at who’s council district it runs through—and he don’t give a sh*t right now. But we have a council president that does—we need to bring this to him, ASAP. Third, we need to show up at the next Board of Public Works meeting and find out who slept this. Lastly, black people might have to just start hugging some trees, to stop the “urban loggers” from putting tourism before our community’s health and welfare. Who said tourism is a better investment than our health? The shuttle is probably not going through his community.

It may not go through ours either if they don’t find another way to do it.

Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum (www.urbanissuesforum.com) and author of the upcoming book, REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics in 21st  Century Popular Culture. He can be reached at www.AnthonySamad.com or on Twitter at @dranthonysamad.