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How L.A. County’s Highways Serve As Historical Examples Of Inequitable Infrastructure

Traffic fills the 110 freeway during rush hour, May 7, 2001, in downtown Los Angeles, CA.
Traffic fills the 110 freeway during rush hour, May 7, 2001, in downtown Los Angeles, CA.
David McNew/Getty Images

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In an interview, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg had noted that “there is racism physically built into some of our highways,” a sentiment that may seem odd at first glance but is rooted in facts that can be found in highways and other infrastructure across the country.

In Los Angeles County, there have been differences as to where projects inevitably are built and where they aren't. In places like Beverly Hills, protests have led to scrapped highway plans while areas such as Boyle Heights have not faired as well.

Despite both neighborhoods arguing against their respective projects, it was Boyle Heights that lacked the political resources to prevent the eventual construction of highways near its homes, according to UCLA historian Eric Avila.

Moments in history like this are what have now created major issues for minority communities across Los Angeles county that live nearby these highways and must deal with the heavy pollution that comes from them.

Today on AirTalk, we look back on these inequities to understand why communities like Beverly Hills and Boyle Heights met different fates during the 1960’s and 1970’s, as well as the greater picture of inequality that has been caused by urban planning in the county. 


Eric Avila, professor of history and Chicano studies at UCLA; Los Angeles historian and author of the book “The Folklore of the Freeway: Race and Revolt in the Modernist City” (University of Minnesota Press, May 2014)

Gilbert Estrada,  associate professor at Long Beach City College who writes about Southern California history

Joe Linton, editor for Streetsblog LA