WOEIP has been recognized across the country for our pioneering approach to environmental justice through community-based participatory research and collaborative problem-solving models.

Members of the media can reach us at press@woeip.org.

The West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, a community-based environmental justice nonprofit, has been the task force’s main point of contact, facilitating quarterly meetings with community leaders and other government agencies to answer questions and workshop ideas for long-term solutions. In April, the EPA and CalEPA announced they will use the West Oakland task force as a model for future interventions.

“The day the fire happened, both CalEPA and EPA were like, ‘We need to do a rapid response task force here’ because this is the third fire in three years,” said Amy Miller, the director of the EPA Region 9’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division. “We also recognized we had great community partners in West Oakland who would work with us…”

Next door to the Port of Oakland, a study by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District found heavy-duty diesel trucks were the leading contributor of particulate matter and higher cancer risk in the neighborhood of West Oakland.

“We’re surrounded by three freeways. We have our neighbor the Port of Oakland. We have a lot of these trucks that idle,” says Nicole Merino Tsui of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, an environmental justice group. “We’re also a neighborhood that has historically and consistently been overlooked, under-resourced and disregarded…”

The Army Corps’ proposal calls for widening each of the two basins by about 20 acres to allow some of the port’s largest ships to turn more easily. The agency has already completed a draft environmental impact report that is currently under review and is now seeking feedback from community members.

But some environmental justice advocates said the project would detrimentally impact the area’s already compromised air and water quality and are disappointed by what they say have been a dearth of opportunities for community members to weigh in on the project…

In an effort to balance environmental justice with development needs, a dispute over the building of a sand and gravel facility at the Port of Oakland was settled between the concentrated efforts of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP) and port authorities. Under the deal, construction will continue with strategies in place to minimize adverse effects on the West Oakland community, a predominantly low-income, diverse area that has often shouldered the burden of environmental inequalities…

Two weeks ago, Margaret Gordon noticed a peculiar smell in West Oakland, like burning rubber and cigarettes. When she learned a fire had broken out at the Schnitzer Steel facility, she thought, “Here we go again…”

West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP) is as horrified and angry as our neighbors at the fire that erupted yesterday at the Schnitzer Steel scrap metal facility in West Oakland, California. However, we are not surprised. WOEIP has been fighting for tighter regulation, stronger enforcement, and cleaner practices at Schnitzer Steel for as long as we’ve been neighbors…

The long “coal war,” as it has become known in Oakland, will come to a head at a trial Monday that pits a prominent East Bay land developer against city officials and a chorus of environmental activists trying to prevent the transport of coal through the city’s harbor…

On Friday, Earthjustice, submitted comments on behalf of a broad coalition of groups, including West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, Pacific Environment, and West Oakland Neighbors, to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers criticizing its Revised Draft Integrated Feasibility Report and Environmental Assessment for the widening of the Oakland Harbor Turning Basins. Concerned Bay Area residents submitted an additional 1,400 comments objecting to the Corps’ analysis…

Opinion: Bay Area’s largest port must consider environmental justice

Ms. Margaret Gordon, East Bay Times | June 2023

…Air pollution is significantly worse year-round in port-adjacent communities like where I live, and decisions we make today can impact our air for generations. The Army Corps of Engineers recently announced a project that would widen the turning basins at the Port of Oakland to allow more visits from “ultra-large container vessels” — 1,300-foot megaships longer than the height of Salesforce Tower. Without more community input and a better environmental-review process, this project will move us in the wrong direction in our fight to correct decades of environmental injustice…

Toxic waste lurking in the soil under the San Francisco Bay community of West Oakland, and places like it, is the next environmental threat in a neighborhood already burdened by pollution. Residents in these communities of color are calling for climate justice as a form of reparations…

After years of advocacy by the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP) and Earthjustice, the Port of Oakland recently committed to cleaning up some of its most polluting equipment, a victory for clean air. But now the port wants to widen areas of the San Francisco Bay to enable cargo-carrying megaships to dock there more easily. The expansion project could bring even more pollution to the community via megaships and the additional land traffic needed to move the added cargo…

Toxic sea level rise threatens a West Oakland community

NPR/New Orleans Public Radio | May 2023

Thousands of people live in West Oakland, a bridge away from San Francisco, boxed in by freeways, a port and numerous industries. Margaret Gordon shows me around the northern edge of the neighborhood…

Proud but beleaguered, West Oakland is easy to spot on a map.

This Black enclave — not far from the stately Bay Bridge and just downslope from the mansions of the East Bay hills — is sandwiched by three major freeways. Each day, the trucks and cars that travel these concrete corridors spew toxic pollution into yards and homes, where roughly 45,000 people live.

West Oakland is an example of how government leaders purposely deployed infrastructure to disenfranchise people of color…

The city of Oakland is seeking public input on its first “Environmental Justice Element,” a new city blueprint which seeks to rectify past policies that have contributed higher levels of pollution in Oakland’s predominantly Black and low-income communities.

Residents have long known about these historical imbalances, but the new report, currently in a draft phase, finally codifies the systemic racism that placed predominantly Black communities near railroad tracks, the Port of Oakland and other polluting industrial centers…

Communities fighting for their families and neighbors led the charge for an ambitious ACF rule, but the benefits of their actions will ripple far beyond the ports, railyards, and warehouses where truck trips cluster. This fact is reflected by the unprecedented coalition of support calling for California to strengthen the proposal. Over 50 organizations, spanning a wide range of public interests, wrote in support of the communities’ position…

Throughout the Bay Area and nationally, environmental organizations are leading equity work that advances climate justice actions and nature-based solutions in frontline communities led by and benefiting people of color that expands their access to clean air, healthy food, health care, and the outdoors—in addition to advocating for homes and landscapes free of environmental toxins.

This work must be Black and brown-led to truly center equitable and community-driven solutions…

Many of the Bay Area’s industrial sites are situated on the waterfront, right next to communities of color. As climate change causes groundwater levels to rise, toxic chemicals buried there threaten to release into the neighborhoods, exacerbating a decades-long pattern of environmental and economic injustice.  Now some community advocates are calling for reparations in the form of climate justice, asking for money and services to repair the harms caused by the decision to allow toxic industries in their communities. Forum talks about the threat of toxic flooding and what can be done to prevent it.

Toxic waste lurking in the soil under West Oakland neighborhoods is the next environmental threat in this community already burdened by pollution…

…Sitting on a park bench in front of her second-story apartment, Margaret Gordon, a 75-year-old Black woman with a powerful legacy of environmental advocacy, said the threat from underground toxics only adds to the neighborhood’s severe environmental hardships. Across the Bay Area and, in fact, the world, climate change disproportionately affects communities of color like West Oakland…

Seniors who live near high-traffic roadways, including Oakland’s I-580 and I-880, experience more health problems and pay more in health-care costs due to diseases, according to a new study…

…The study used 25,000 records of Kaiser Permanente patients in Northern California and data from previous air pollution sensor readings that Kaiser and the University of Texas at Austin analyzed with The West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project. Researchers at WOEIP used this same data to find that air pollution levels near the Port of Oakland were abnormally high because, in part, hundreds of huge diesel trucks come in and out of the area and idle near residential neighborhoods. According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, one idling truck produces about 21 tons of carbon dioxide a year…

Attorney General Rob Bonta has joined a lawsuit filed by West Oakland activists to prevent construction of an open-air gravel and sand facility at the Port of Oakland.

The West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, which filed the lawsuit in March, is seeking an injunction to halt the Eagle Rock Aggregates project until the port completes a more thorough environmental study. A month earlier, the Port of Oakland approved the project, allowing Eagle Rock to lease land on the Outer Harbor…

Finding the most polluted places in the San Francisco Bay area is simple, a new air quality analysis shows: Locate places where mostly Black, Latino, Asian and low-income residents live, and pay them a visit.

…During the many years before the pivot to monitoring pollution block-by-block near the source, there were “people dying that didn’t have to die,” said Margaret Gordon, a community activist and co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project. Data provided by hyperlocal monitoring could have led to better planning and siting of pollution sources “where people work live and pray,” Gordon said…

Air quality has long been an issue in West Oakland, surrounded by the Port of Oakland and other industries that create a significant amount of air pollutants.

Now a local environmental justice group has filed a lawsuit to stop a new tenant at the port from moving forward out of concern over potential environmental impacts.

Brian Beveridge, co-founder and director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, has been teaching West Oakland residents how to keep tabs on local air quality for decades…

Local Pollution Monitoring

Voice of America | May 2022

Phoenix Armenta is worried about the future of neighborhoods along the edge of San Francisco Bay. Contaminated sites litter shoreline communities like West Oakland, where Armenta works as a community organizer. As climate change pushes bay water higher, floodwaters could mix with toxic pollution and threaten people’s health…

West Oakland residents may soon breathe a lot easier thanks to a rule adopted Thursday by the California Air Resources Board.

The board updated its regulation of commercial harbor craft like fishing boats, tugboats and ferries to reduce pollution. Harbor craft operate near land and the updated regulation is aimed partly at improving air quality in communities like West Oakland, which is near water and considered disadvantaged…

Urban neighborhoods that were redlined by federal officials in the 1930s tended to have higher levels of harmful air pollution eight decades later, a new study has found, adding to a body of evidence that reveals how racist policies in the past have contributed to inequalities across the United States today.

…California’s East Bay is a clear example…

A group of West Oakland environmental advocates plan to sue the Port of Oakland if commissioners approve a project to bring sand and gravel to the Port without taking steps to analyze and alleviate expected pollution impacts on the community.

Advocates organized as the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project say the Port is ignoring their concerns. The project by Eagle Rock Aggregates would bring 2.5 million tons of sand and gravel to the Port each year…

…An assessment from the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project in 2019 showed the cancer risk for West Oaklanders ranged from 110 cases per million people in Hoover-Foster to 346 per million at the Port, which aligns with the rising concentration of diesel pollution.

To curb the toxic emissions, the DOT wants to replace more fuel-based vehicles with EVs. But drivers won’t switch to electric cars if they don’t have access to chargers…

Shortly after Brian Beveridge moved to West Oakland in 1999, he noticed a greasy layer of black soot building up on his window shades and tabletops. It wasn’t hard to figure out where it came from, with diesel trucks from nearby industries driving through the neighborhood and expelling pollution into the air that residents were breathing…

…In that vein, the Oakland Museum of California’s “You Are Here: California Stories on the Map” exhibition runs the gamut from U.S. Geological Survey plans to activist cartographies of air pollution in Oakland to crowdsourced maps that pay tribute to San Francisco’s beloved Japantown. A visitor can gaze nostalgically at extinct flora and fauna or peer into the future with predictions of sea level rise across the Bay Area…

…There is indeed a distinctive political overtone to the work on display at OMCA. The West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project makes a strong appearance, galvanizing support for the organization’s green agenda, and so does the reality of queerness in the Bay Area…

In an effort to reduce the growing health risks from wildfire smoke to some of the Bay Area’s most vulnerable residents, air regulators announced Thursday they plan to provide free air purifiers to 3,000 low-income Bay Area residents who suffer from asthma and other breathing problems…

…“We get a double whammy in West Oakland,” said Margaret Gordon, co-founder of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, a non-profit group. “We already have particulate matter from diesel, and simultaneously we are getting smoke from wildfires.”…

The legislation authorizes $100 million annually to establish a five-year pilot program for hyperlocal air quality monitoring projects in environmental justice communities. Under the program, state, local, and Tribal air agencies would be able to partner with local nonprofit organizations or air quality data providers to identify block-level hotspots for multiple pollutants, publish data and build online mapping tools to inform local communities and air pollution managers about where poor air quality exists, and recommend action for reducing pollution burdens in identified hotspots.

“This is time for environmental and climate justice to matter to all everyday people,” said Margaret Gordon, Co-Director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project…

A federal report heralded the project as the type of socially minded renovation that can make appropriate, if partial, amends for the devastation wrought on low-income neighborhoods by the freeway-building boom of earlier decades.

“Community involvement was a very important part of the rebuilding process,” said the report, which concluded, “West Oakland residents got what they wanted.”

Unfortunately, that’s not entirely the case…

Too Big To Succeed

BBC Sideways Podcast | July 2021

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“…before the first ball is pitched, the game is interrupted – by a major earthquake. A section of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge – the major transport connection for the two northern Californian cities – crumbles, killing one person. And across the Bay in West Oakland, a double decker freeway collapses. 42 lives are lost.

…By examining the Iron Law of Megaprojects – which reveals how major infrastructure problems, far from being a silver bullet, become money-draining, ego-flattering albatrosses that overrun and under deliver – Matthew asks whether a simpler, more streamlined way to create the spectacular is possible. And in the end, is the pursuit of creating something sublimely beautiful even worth it?”

Your Community, Your Air

Brightline Defense Podcast | April 2021

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“I want people to understand this is not a sprint. This is a marathon. This is a long haul. There’s nothing short about this…”

In this episode, the Brightline Defense team talks to WOEIP’s Ms. Margaret Gordon and explores air quality as a crucial piece of the environmental justice (EJ) puzzle in the Bay Area. This 10-minute podcast digs into the importance of monitoring air quality at the neighborhood scale, covering the roles of community residents, government agencies, and a 3-year-old state program called AB-617.

“…residents are still more likely to suffer asthma, heart problems and other health effects from air pollution than those in other parts of the city. And Gordon said she is aghast that low income housing is still being built with windows opening right out onto the freeway in her part of the city.

‘These people have been dying of the same things for 50 years and in 50 years we have not come up with a solution,’ Gordon said, noting in comparison that it took industry less than a year to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus. ‘That’s a straight-up slap to all humanity…'”

“At her home about a block from the Port of Oakland, where ships and diesel trucks belch particle matter round-the-clock, California activist Margaret Gordon believes that government and corporations long placed pollution sources near non-White communities by design.

The finding that Black people suffer more from freeway pollution is something ‘we’ve been living and looking at … for years,’ she said. The evidence is found in the crevices of people’s ceilings, she added. ‘It’s not dirt; it’s particulates.'”

“‘I used to see all these inhalers in shoeboxes and a basket with the kids’ names on it,’ she said. Many of the neighborhood children had asthma, the nurse told her. Ms. Gordon had also noticed that same health condition, for both children and adults, coming up in meeting after meeting in the community. She wondered if these respiratory issues had to do with all the trucks rolling daily through the neighborhood, heading in and out of the Port of Oakland. They literally left their mark on the inside of her home, where she would see streaks of ‘black soot on my windowsill.’”

“It’s a sunny Friday afternoon in West Oakland but community organizer Margaret Gordon, 72, is inside at the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, poring over maps of the city. Interstate 880 and the train station are both visible through the office window, and diesel trucks going to and from the port are more common than commuter cars. She points to a map, overlaid with dotted red lines, each covering a street in West Oakland, that highlights the effects all of those vehicles have on the community’s air.”

How new data is helping West Oakland clear the air

Environmental Defense Fund | January 2020

“The fight for healthier air in West Oakland spans generations. Just Ask Ms. Margaret Gordon, who has been at it since 1992. “I’ve had 16 grandchildren and one great-grandchild since then,” says the co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP). Two years ago her community’s efforts got a much-needed boost: California passed AB 617, establishing a program requiring the state to reduce air pollution in those areas most impacted. Under the Community Air Protection Plan, community groups, environmental organizations, industry and local air districts work with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to develop improvement plans.”

Margaret Gordon Clears the Air

Oakland Magazine | December 2019

“Many people have been described as “a force of nature.” But few fit the bill as truly as Ms. Margaret Gordon, co-founder of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, former Port of Oakland commissioner, and committed fighter for environmental justice. It wasn’t always so.”

“The fight for healthier air in West Oakland spans generations. Just Ask Ms. Margaret Gordon, who has been at it since 1992. “I’ve had 16 grandchildren and one great-grandchild since then,” says the co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP). Two years ago her community’s efforts got a much-needed boost: California passed AB 617, establishing a program requiring the state to reduce air pollution in those areas most impacted. Under the Community Air Protection Plan, community groups, environmental organizations, industry and local air districts work with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to develop improvement plans.”

“The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) approved West Oakland’s first comprehensive air pollution plan to emerge from a community-led process, at a packed meeting held in Oakland earlier this month.”

As they continue to explore a proposed Howard Terminal ballpark, the Oakland A’s are partnering with the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP). 

The Port of Oakland’s Howard Terminal is the A’s preferred site for a proposed ballpark and surrounding development, with the facility possibility opening as early as 2023 and replacing the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum as the team’s home. In their ongoing effort to move that concept forward, the A’s are partnering with WOEIP to help address environmental and economic concerns stemming from the proposal.