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Feature Archives

Dozens of reporters, videographers and photographers thronged around the yellow tape surrounding the block containing the Ghost Ship warehouse the morning after the tragic fire that killed 36 people in the center of Fruitvale. Voices in Fruitvale, a neighborhood where almost half the children live in poverty, weren’t heard for days at all. In this sensational story that garnered nation-wide attention, it was weeks before journalists evinced the slightest interest in the neighborhood where the fire occurred.
Toxic lead levels are dangerously high in Oakland’s Fruitvale district, which has the highest level of contamination in California and are worse than in Flint, Michigan, according to a national report. Unlike Flint’s contaminated water crisis, which caught national attention in 2015, Oakland’s lead is not in the water system but is coming from old buildings and chipping paint that is getting into the dirt and being tossed up in the wind. The result is that 7.57 percent of children under the age of seven who were tested have high levels of lead in their blood.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) released a report last week detailing the 2014 results of their Pesticide Illness Surveillance Program. The report, documenting all reported pesticide-related illnesses from all California counties, shows 20.1% of agricultural pesticide-related illnesses occurred in Tulare County, making it the county with the most agricultural pesticide illnesses in the state. Santa Cruz County came in second with 17.2%. Of the 53 counties with documented pesticide-related illnesses in 2014, Tulare County accounted for over 1 in every 5 cases of poisonings from agricultural pesticides.
A lawsuit filed on December 13 by civil rights groups charges the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) with violating the constitutional rights of homeless people by confiscating and destroying their property in ongoing sweeps. Plaintiffs have lost cherished and necessary items, including family heirlooms, photographs of loved ones, tents, sleeping bags, warm weather clothing, tools, food, camp stoves, bicycles, and personal documents. “Caltrans has been a major obstacle to getting my life together," said plaintiff James Leone. "Twice in six years, I’ve been left with only the clothes on my back. Twice I’ve lost everything I own in the world.”
An oil company with a long history of hazardous spills in California wants state and federal permission to dispose of contaminated waste fluid into an underground water supply in Livermore. The proposal, announced by California's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, seeks to exempt an aquifer in eastern Alameda County from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act on behalf of E&B Natural Resources, the oil company seeking the exemption. State officials are now taking public comments and will hold a January 11 hearing on the proposal.
Chanti Ollin, a well-known autonomous cultural center in the gentrified financial district of Mexico City, was violently evicted on November 22. Eight hundred riot police, two helicopters, and an armored car executed the operation, illegally breaking into the building and detaining 26 individuals without so much as a judicial order. This eviction takes place against the backdrop of Mexico City's new constitution, which seeks to privatize land and resources, and suppress any political or cultural activity that disrupts this profit-making program.
Santa Cruz police initiated a raid at City Hall on November 23 at 3:30 am, shortly after it stopped raining that evening, to clear from the area approximately two dozen individuals who had been sleeping and sheltering themselves from the weather under the eaves of the buildings in the complex. Officers issued citations to individuals, and made one arrest. Many of those sleeping at City Hall were participating in the weekly Freedom Sleepers sleep protest, while others were simply sheltering themselves from the wet weather temporarily with the group.