Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against the maker of a weedkiller alleging that it causes cancer. Research is mixed on that, as the results of various studies are split on whether glyphosate, the active ingredient in the weedkiller Roundup, is linked to cancer or other health concerns. In the Bay Area, where many of those lawsuits originated, cities have handled the question of whether to keep using glyphosate in public spaces somewhat differently.
Tens of thousands of people are facing evacuation orders and threats to their safety as fires continue to blaze across the Western United States. These disastrous fires are one of the effects of climate change that scientists predicted, said climate activist Laura Neish, executive director of 350 Bay Area and 350 Bay Area Action.
The Bayview has the city’s attention – for better or for worse, depending on whom you ask. If voters approve a $487 million open-space bond measure in November, it will help fund a park at 900 Innes Ave., the first waterfront land the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks has ever owned. Yet, despite efforts to include the local community in the planning and the benefits, many are skeptical.
Community-centered approaches are key to Oakland’s Equitable Climate Action Plan, approved unanimously by the City Council in July. It is designed to “bring about a just transition to a low carbon future” with green jobs and measures to mitigate the disparities felt by communities affected by climate change, according to a statement by Mayor Libby Schaaf.
But the plan doesn’t have guaranteed funding from the city government. For organizers, that’s a problem. “We need money to pay people to do work,” said Phoenix Armenta, who works with an environmental justice group.
Limits on construction activity were lifted May 17 as California reopened. Reopening presaged a summer-long spike in COVID-19 cases. As the pandemic continues through wildfire season, and San Franciscans breathe in pollution from the fires’ miles-wide blankets of smoke, public health experts and researchers contacted for this article agree that human-created sources of pollution should be limited or eliminated.
City officials advised San Francisco residents to stay indoors wherever possible with the windows shut to protect against smoke from wildfires that has blanketed the region. On Wednesday afternoon, air quality was designated as unhealthy, though it has fluctuated. If smoke pollution deteriorates air quality to “very unhealthy,” the city will open respite centers, officials said in a press conference.
San Francisco may be edging closer to its climate goals with an ordinance requiring all new construction to use electric power rather than gas. But the next step down that road involves retrofitting old buildings — and it could add costs low-income residents can’t afford.
The last few years’ fires are all blurring into one for Jessica Tovar, an Oakland resident and advocate at the nonprofit Local Clean Energy Alliance, a renewable energy advocacy group. “I had an office that you could see the port of Oakland from, and in those times, you could not see the port because the smoke was so thick,” she said. Oakland was among the worst-hit cities when smoke from the 2017 Tubbs wildfires spread to the areas around San Francisco Bay, lowering air quality to levels comparable to Beijing, some of the worst in the world. As California’s fall wildfire season approaches, mask shortages mean Oakland residents are at risk of exposure to both coronavirus and to toxic smoke. Tovar, who frequently interacts with underserved Oakland residents, echoed the concerns of advocacy organizations that distribute masks.
San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood has been hit especially hard by COVID-19, and residents sheltering in place in the area have for years faced elevated levels of air pollution from a variety of nearby sources. Recently, advocates have raised concerns about potentially toxic dust they fear is being generated by a nearby construction project.
A community health survey has identified elevated levels of harmful substances in workers and residents around Hunters Point. The Navy says its toxic and radioactive Superfund site isn’t the source, but experts agree more study is needed.
Assembly member Phil Ting represents District 19, having been elected to that seat in 2012.