ORGANIZATION – HISTORY
The Coalition For A Safe Environment (CFASE) was established in April 2001 in Wilmington, California, USA by Jesse N. Marquez a lifetime Wilmington resident and community activist who opposed unrestricted and unconditional Port of Los Angeles expansion. In 2001 the Port of Los Angeles hired a public relations company to host public meeting in Wilmington to discuss the Ports intention to build a 20’ tall wall 1.4 miles long along “C” Street to separate the Wilmington community from the Port.
At one of the public meetings the public relations company discussed that the wall was for the benefit of the Wilmington community to help prevent Port trucks from taking short cuts through residential areas and parks. The PR company also stated that the wall was to also mitigate future Port expansion, the increase in Port truck traffic and other environmental impacts.
While the proposal sounded like a good idea, some residents were concerned that the wall would become a graffiti magnet which was undesirable. The PR company stated that maybe they could make the wall a berm, which would be dirt placed slanting up against the wall and they could plant ivy to make it more appealing.
Other residents like Jesse N. Marquez who had been a community activists all his life had a more suspicious thought about this project. At the March 2001 meeting he asked why was the port building a wall now after all these years. The PR company answered that the port was expanding and the wall was mitigation to help stop port trucks from taking a short cut and driving through the Wilmington residential areas. When asked how much the port was expanding the PR company said that they were told that the port would be tripling in size in the future. This led to many residents now asking more questions about this expansion.
The PR company then stated that they did not know all the details and that we should discuss our concerns with the Port of Los Angeles. By now residents were really upset and demanded that the PR company ask the port to send representatives to the next April meeting.
At the April meeting more than 100 Wilmington residents attended a meeting held at Wil-Hall Park, which borders the Port of Los Angeles. After brief introductions Jesse N. Marquez immediately raised his hand to ask the first question. He asked, “did the Port of Los Angeles have any intentions of building anything on the other side of the new proposed wall in the next 5 years?”
A Port of Los Angeles represented stated ,”yes, the Port plans to build a new six-lane diesel truck highway on the port side of the wall, move the Port railroad track further north next to the new highway and expand the TraPac Container Terminal further north which bordered Wilmington.” Mr. Marquez stated, “why did the Port withhold this information from the public and try to hide the real reason for the wall?” Wilmington residents became infuriated in hearing this information.
Mr. Marquez then announced that he was forming a committee to fight the Port the wall and the port expansion. He invited residents to come to his home on Saturday to discuss forming a committee and how to fight the Port of Los Angeles expansion plans.
At this meeting the group named themselves the Wilmington Coalition. Jesse N. Marquez volunteered to be chairman and the organization was created. During these humble organizing times no one had any environmental justice organizing background and struggled on how to take-on the # 1 largest container Port in the United States and the second largest City in the United States.
The Wilmington Coalition quickly discovered that almost no organization in Wilmington would support them because all had traditionally received free office rent, financial donations or services from the Port and City of Los Angeles. Only one organization the Wilmington Citizens Committee (WCC) supported the Wilmington Coalition. WCC had been in existence for over 10 years and had a long history of confronting the city and port on various community issues.
Over the next few years the Wilmington Coalition began to grow and had become a new political voice for the Wilmington community. With the support and guidance of other Los Angeles Environmental Justice Organizations the Wilmington Coalition realized that it would have to become more formalized with officers, create a board of directors and seek foundation grant support. It was shortly thereafter in 2003 the committee voted to rename the organization the Coalition For A Safe Environment (CFASE).