Litter: The Ecological Degradation of North Long Beach

Oct. 25, 2012 / By

By CSULB Senior Seminar Reporter Candace Marquez

Once a white working-class neighborhood, North Long Beach is now home to many ethnicities including African-Americans, Latinos, Samoans, and Tongans. The neighborhood is a mixture of historic homes from the 1920s and shuttered, abandoned businesses. On the south end, North Long Beach borders the wealthy neighborhoods of Bixby Knolls and California Heights. To the north sits the city of Compton.

Littering is a problem perpetuated by those in all socioeconomic classes, according to the California Department of Transportation. But socioeconomics do play a role says Kristine Clinton, a resident of North Long Beach and a founder of a recently created group she calls the North Long Beach Alliance Against Litter (NOLOBAAL).

“In rich areas, their tax dollars are treated as if they are special. Here in North Long Beach we pay taxes but don’t get the red carpet treatment,” Clinton says.

The red carpet treatment she speaks of includes what she calls “aggressive maintenance” in the wealthy neighborhoods.

“Aside from the good-for-little city street cleaners, I have never seen anyone picking up trash in my neighborhood.”

So Clinton and a handful of her neighbors decided to take a vigilante approach to neighborhood cleanup.

Clinton said she got tired of being afraid in her own neighborhood, so she began to tell kids who dropped trash in yard to pick it up. She once got in a car chase with a couple who parked outside of her home and then threw a plastic bag full of trash onto her lawn.

“Of course, I was afraid my house would be tagged later, but I was fed up.”

She was emboldened by her newfound assertiveness and she gave her neighbors the courage to stand up for the neighborhood as well.   Paul Josephs thought that scolding passersby would either invoke retaliation or fall on deaf ears, but when he spoke to Clinton about forming a neighborhood organization, he realized that he had to protect North Long Beach.

“Our particular neighborhood gets so much foot traffic from kids going to or leaving Jordan High School.  Kids these days don’t understand the pride of ownership because their parents don’t teach them,” Josephs says.

Those who don’t own their homes can’t appreciate the time and money homeowners put into their homes, Clinton says.

“So for you to come along and trash it….” she says, shaking her head.

This past August, after focusing on the streets running north and south between South Street and Cherry Avenue, and east and west between Atlantic Avenue and Orange Avenue, NOLOBAAL decided to extend its cleanup efforts to the rest of North Long Beach. Every Saturday, the group of six, their spouses and some of their children walk or drive in designated neighborhoods and pick up the trash. The most difficult areas call for hours of dedication.

For example, the 710 and 91 freeways, says Clarke Hall, a member of the group and Clinton’s husband.

“It’s like people wait for the opportunity to slow down, and just throw stuff out of their car windows. The freeways are all day cleanup jobs,” he says.

The group is looking to gain more members and amplify its efforts. Clinton has been knocking on doors and making phone calls.

“I thought about making flyers but I realized that they would end up in the street and just add to the problem,” she says.

It’s hard to say what will need to be done to see a major shift in littering behavior, but the group is committed to getting and keeping North Long Beach clean.

“It can be really discouraging when it seems like no one cares, but we know people don’t want to live in a dump,” Hall says.

“If cleanliness is next to godliness, we’re in hell,” he adds with a smile.

As of Oct. 1, NOLOBAAL has 16 members who have taken a formal pledge to make North Long a cleaner place to live.

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CSULB Enterprise Reporters

VoiceWaves partners with the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) each semester to mentor students' community reporting. The Journalism 495 Enterprise Reporting in Diverse Communities course challenges students to build on their journalism skills covering various neighborhoods throughout Long Beach, including North Long Beach, Central Long Beach, Downtown, and the Westside.