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What You Need To Know Today: Take A ‘Toxic Tour’ Of LA, Street Vendors Bill Becomes Law, NASA Spacecraft Meets Asteroid

A teenager with her hair pulled back in a ponytail stands in front of a small building. She smiles at the camera. A sign on the wall behind her lists the agencies and politicians involved in transforming the space into a park.
Montserrat Hidalgo is a junior at South Gate High School. She said she can sometimes smell the stench from Vernon at her campus, about five miles away.
(Julia Barajas
/
LAist)
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Good morning, L.A. It’s Monday, September 26. 

Today in How to LA: A non-profit leads high school students on ‘toxic tours’ of neighborhoods adversely impacted by pollution; plus, NASA defends against asteroid threats

Back when I was a teen, I used to love going on school field trips. Going on museum tours to see artifacts of the past and how people lived back when there wasn’t advanced technology (or life-threatening heatwaves) were definitely some of my favorite memories.

But there’s a special field trip tour for high school students (and interested adults!) that isn’t focused on the past…and, to be frank, it stinks. Literally.

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Oh and, sometimes, you can’t touch a single thing inside a building. It could make you sick.

It’s called “Toxic Tours” and it’s all about showing people the past, present and future effects of industrial polluters on residents’ health and quality of life, especially in low-income communities of color, which is where some of the city’s biggest polluters have set up shop over the years. The goal is to educate but also to influence the next generation of environmental justice advocates.

One recent Saturday morning, my colleague Julia Barajas went on a Toxic Tour in Southeast Los Angeles with Communities for A Better Environment, or CBE, the non-profit organization that hosts the experience. The high school students on the tour are a part of CBE’s Youth for Environmental Justice program. According to CBE's website, directors of this program — both in Southern and Northern California — lead people through “oil refineries, ports, metal recycling facilities and other places that lead to severe and deadly health conditions and diseases like cancer.”

There’s something uniquely special about these students, too. Many of them live in the communities most affected by environmental pollution, like Vernon, one of the stops on the L.A. Tour. Exide Technologies used to be one of the largest battery recyclers in the world, and until the company filed for bankruptcy, it operated a plant here for years. Lead leaked into the soil of the surrounding neighborhood but, after the facility closed, Julia reports taxpayers were left to pay for the clean up of the contaminated earth.

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One of big takeaways from Julia’s story is that polluters like Exide were ultimately shut down because of the work of community activists, like the folks at CBE. “If you look this up in the news, you’re not going to see what I just said—it’s a lot of government officials and agencies saying: ‘We did this and it’s closed now, and now we’re cleaning up,’” said tour guide Rossmery Zayas. “But we really want to recognize [that] it was us who put the pressure on them.” 

Read more in Julia’s article about the history of toxic pollution in L.A. County and how environmental justice groups like CBE have fought to make change in their communities.

As always, stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below — just keep reading.

The News You Need After You Stop Hitting Snooze

*At LAist we will always bring you the news freely, but occasionally we do include links to other publications that may be behind a paywall. Thank you for understanding! 

  • There’s some great news for street vendors. On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill that will make it easier for street vendors to sell food on the streets of L.A. (L.A. Taco) 
  • In the latest controversy with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, the attorney leading the investigation into deputy gangs said two deputy gang witnesses claimed they were followed home in undercover department cars. The attorney Bert Deixler said the incidents are “the latest examples of the fear and intimidation surrounding the panel’s hearings on gangs.” 
  • Speaking of the Sheriff's Department, Sheriff Alex Villanueva is the subject of the new season ofLAist Studios’Imperfect Paradise. In the podcast, my colleague Frank Stoltze takes a deep dive into Villanueva’s career as sheriff. Listen to the trailer here
  • This weekend the Los Angeles Times raised questions about the results of the most recent count of L.A.’s unhoused population and asks if there is a new way to do it. (Los Angeles Times)   
  • Some students who were ineligible for admission to the University of California will now get their chance to attend. Starting in the fall 2023 school semester, UC will have a new dual admissions program for students who fit a certain criteria. 
  • Lakers champion, sports analyst, cop, actor, Icy Hot commercial guy, seriously, what has Shaquille O’Neal NOT done in his decades-long career(s)? Well, now he has a festival. Starting this Thursday, get ready for Shaqtoberfest. Check out this event, and more in the LAist’s lineup of Best Things To Do This Week.
  • Lastly, I just want to congratulate my newsroom. LAist got some love this weekend from the Online News Association, including an award for General Excellence in Online Journalism.
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Wait! One More Thing...Top Three Tea-Sipping Trends

A computer generated image of a spacecraft with two large wing-like extensions headed toward a pair of asteroids floating in space.
llustration of NASA’s DART spacecraft and the Italian Space Agency’s (ASI) LICIACube prior to impact at the Didymos binary system.
(Courtesy NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben)

THREE - Bad Bunny leads the most nods for the 2022 Billboard Latin Music Awards

I told you last week how Bad Bunny was bringing attention to the plight of Puerto Rico , especially as another hurricane hit the island territory. Now, the Puerto Rican rap icon has a bunch of nominations for this week’s Billboard Latin Music Awards. He has 23 nods across 13 categories. If you can’t make it to the Watsco Center in Miami on Thursday, tune in on Telemundo at 5 p.m. PT.

TWO - It’s official. Our favorite Barbadian bad girl is performing for the Super Bowl Halftime Show!

The multi-talented singer and entrepreneur just posted a picture on Instagram of her famously tatted hand holding a NFL-branded football. Twitter is going wild over this news. Not only is her name a trending topic, the phrase “SHE’S BACK” is too. Can you imagine? What if she finally releases new music? I mean, Rih Rih, you’ve got your beauty and fashion empires set in history. You’ve already had your baby. We’ve been waiting six years for an album since Anti. Bring us the goods, girl.

ONE - Don’t Look Up! A NASA spacecraft is going to slam into an asteroid on Monday! 

Nope…this is not the sequel to Don’t Look Up. And we’re not in danger…yet. NASA is just hoping to deliberately crash a spacecraft into an asteroid to see what kind of impact it could have in case of a real threat to our lovely, hurting planet.

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