Public Risks from the Woolsey Fire and the Santa Susana Field Laboratory: A Letter to DTSC

Prior to the first round of data analysis, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control reported that its scientists “do not believe the fire caused any releases of hazardous materials that would pose a risk to people exposed to the smoke.”

“A common denominator in every single nuclear accident – a nuclear plant or on a nuclear submarine – is that before the specialists even know what has happened, they rush to the media saying, ‘There’s no danger to the public.’ They do this before they themselves know what has happened because they are terrified that the public might react violently, either by panic or by revolt.”

—Jacques-Yves Cousteau

On November 19, representatives Henry Stern and Jesse Gabriel authored a joint letter to Barbara Lee, Director of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). In their letter, posted to social media, Senator Stern and Assemblymember Gabriel call for “full transparency” to “ensure the public is fully aware of any public health risks posed by the Woolsey Fire on Santa Susana Field Laboratory.”

Henry Stern represents nearly 1 million residents of the 27th Senate District, which includes Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Malibu, Moorpark, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village, part of Santa Clarita and the following Los Angeles communities: Canoga Park, Chatsworth, Encino, Porter Ranch, Reseda, Lake Balboa, Tarzana, West Hills, Winnetka, and Woodland Hills.

Jesse Gabriel represents Assembly District 45 comprised of the cities of Calabasas and Hidden Hills, a small portion of unincorporated Ventura County and several neighborhoods in the City of Los Angeles: Canoga Park, Chatsworth, Encino, Northridge, Reseda, Tarzana, Warner Center, West Hills, Winnetka, and Woodland Hills.

Senator Stern and Assemblymember Gabriel outline five specific requests regarding transparency from the DTSC, and conclude, “Given the serious and unsettling nature of this situation, we respectfully request that all information and data be disclosed as quickly as possible. Our community—and the broader public—deserve answers.”

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Boycott Driscoll’s Protest at Watsonville Strawberry Festival

A banner declaring “No More Blood Berries” hung from the most iconic buildings in downtown Watsonville, which hover over the Strawberry Festival and stand as subtle reminders of the apple industry in the Pájaro Valley.

[ Michael Garcia of the Watsonville Brown Berets speaks with five people about the Driscoll’s Boycott in Strawberry Lane at the Watsonville Strawberry Festival on August 6, 2016. ]

On August 6 and 7, 2016, local activists engaged thousands of people at the 22nd Annual Watsonville Strawberry Festival to raise awareness about the Driscoll’s Boycott and the harsh realities of farmworkers who pick the precious berries. The Boycott Driscoll’s movement is led by, and in solidarity with, farmworkers in San Quintín, México and Washington state fighting for union contracts.

Demonstrators, including the Watsonville Brown Berets, handed out thousands of flyers for Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ), an independent union formed by farmworkers in Washington state in July 2013. FUJ has over 450 members and holds elections as well as democratically run business meetings. FUJ maintains a website, Boycott Sakuma Berries, which is the best resource online for information in English about the ongoing labor struggle.

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New Leaf Community Markets in Felton Honors Driscoll’s Boycott

New Leaf Community Markets in Felton, California takes a righteous step in support of the farmworkers who grow our food. In addition to pulling Driscoll’s berries from their shelves, the market is displaying a letter with an overview of the boycott.

[ New Leaf Community Markets in Felton, CA honors the boycott of Driscoll’s berries. Photos by Michael Gasser (@mapinduzi21k). May 3, 2016. Collage by Bradley Allen. ]

New Leaf Community Markets, purchased by New Seasons Market in 2013, is a grocery chain founded in Santa Cruz, California in 1985. The market currently has seven locations, and an Aptos store is expected to open in August 2017.

On May 2, 2016, New Leaf Community Markets in Felton, which operates with a franchise agreement under separate ownership, confirmed that they are not selling Driscoll’s berries. New Leaf Community Markets in Boulder Creek operates under separate ownership as well.

This comes as exciting news for the boycott Driscoll’s movement. New Leaf Community Markets in Felton is believed to be the first grocery store in Santa Cruz County to remove Driscoll’s berries from their shelves in honor of the boycott.

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May Day March for Beach Flats Garden and Boycott Driscoll’s

The march drew connections between saving the local Beach Flats Community Garden and the global boycott of Driscoll’s, the world’s largest berry distributor, founded and based in Santa Cruz County.

[ Boycott Driscoll’s activists and supporters of the Beach Flats Community Garden demonstrate at New Leaf Community Market in downtown Santa Cruz to call upon the grocery chain to stop selling Driscoll’s berries. May 1, 2016. ]

In the spirit of International Workers Day, and in solidarity with the Beach Flats Community Garden and the boycott Driscoll’s movement led by indigenous farmworkers, demonstrators in Santa Cruz, California marched on May 1, 2016 from City Hall to New Leaf Community Market and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The spirited march drew connections between saving the treasured local garden and boycotting Driscoll’s, the world’s largest berry distributor, founded and based in Santa Cruz County since 1904.

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Beach Flats Gardeners Demand City Council Keep Their Promise

The City of Santa Cruz promised to seek acquisition of the land for a permanent garden, instead they bulldozed 40% of the garden to facilitate Seaside Company’s agenda.

[ Beach Flats Gardeners, including Don Emilio Martinez Castañeda (left) who has been cultivating in the garden since it began over twenty five years ago, lead the march up Pacific Avenue and they cross Laurel Street in downtown Santa Cruz. April 26, 2016. ]

Is the City of Santa Cruz Really Committed to the Beach Flats Neighborhood?

Gardeners and Supporters March on City Hall Demanding that Council Follow Through With Previous Commitment to Purchase Land

On April 26 the Santa Cruz City Council gave their six-month report on the progress of the City’s efforts to acquire the property containing the Beach Flats Community Garden. At the meeting, the City Council agreed to a three year lease for the garden. However Josh Brahinsky of the Beach Flats Garden Coalition points out, “The lease only covers 60% of the previous garden, and has a 60 day escape clause for Seaside Company, and thus does not provide long-term security for the garden.”

Students at UC Santa Cruz advocating for the gardeners and the garden declare, “It is time to turn up the heat! The city broke their agreements about protecting the garden, both in terms of space promised, and a bunch of trees and cactus that were demolished during Spring Break.”

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