Environmental justice is defined as “the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies” — Government Code Section 65040.12 of California.
The California Coastal Commission adopted a new Environmental Justice Policy for equity and inclusion in the coastal zone on Friday, March 8 at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles. The Governor signed Assembly Bill 2616 sponsored by Assemblywoman Autumn Burke in 2016 which amended the Coastal Act to give the Commission new authority to specially consider environmental justice, non-discrimination and civic rights law in government code and action, and appoint an environmental justice Commissioner to the board.
I was honored that California Coastal Commission Vice Chair and Environmental Justice Commissioner Effie Turnbull-Sanders invited me to make an educational presentation (see item 4.1, CCC Meeting, March 8, Cal-Span.org page) at this meeting. The presentation on African American beach culture during the first half of the twentieth century in the SoCal region included information on the historic African American beach site in Santa Monica. A National Register of Historic Places listing nomination for this site will be reviewed and voted on by California’s State Historical Resources Commission at their quarterly meeting on Wednesday, May 8 in Palm Springs.
It has been a pleasure to work with Michael Blum of Sea of Clouds on getting the Bay Street Beach Historic District (Santa Monica, Los Angeles County) nominated for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. This area is recognized as an important seaside recreation and leisure site for African American Angelenos during the Jim Crow era.
Now is the time for interested parties to register their support for the listing of this Santa Monica site as significant in local, state and national history. I urge you to please write a letter supporting this National Register nomination. Here is a link to a sample letter text and mailing instructions. The letter is due by Tuesday, April 23.
This National Register nomination project aliens with the goals of the California Coastal Commission’s landmark environmental justice policy adopted on Friday, March 8 in Los Angeles. This new policy integrates environmental justice and social and racial equity into the Commission’s work of protection and enjoyment of California’s coast and ocean for the benefit of all Californians regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, or place of residence.
You can find information of the Bay Street Beach Historic District and the California Coastal Commission’s Environmental Justice Policy at these web links:
- Bay Street Beach Historic District
- Sea of Clouds Leads Project to Nominate California Beach…to National Register of Historic Places
- Full National Register of Historic Places nomination
- CA Coastal Commission’s landmark environmental justice policy webpage
- “Coastal Commission Approves Sweeping New Environmental Justice Policy…” Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper
The listing of the Bay Street Beach Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places is one more contribute to making the history of the African American experience in the region more visible and to providing a little more symbolic equity and social justice for all.
Additionally, this designation will help to better represent the breadth and depth of the American story. This listing will increase the number of properties associated with communities of color and women, which at this time are less than 5 percent of the total 1.4 million historic places listed on the National Register.
In addition to the educational presentation at the Coastal Commission meeting on March 8, on another day of the meeting (March 6), I was able to get a public history education and public art program attached as part of the condition for a permit for the City of Santa Monica to build a new soccer field at 4th and Pico at the Civic Center. This public narrative programming will recognize that this site was a neighborhood of African Americans and other marginalized groups which was raised to build the civic center structures in the 1940 to 1950.
Further at this same March 6 meeting of the Coastal Commission I was also able to get new signage to point to the Bay Street Beach Inkwell monument as a condition of a permit for the improvements which will occur on the shoreline bike and pedestrian path from around the Santa Monica Pier to Bay Street. More information on these two actions to improve recognition of African American heritage in Santa Monica will be forthcoming over the next year.