Aviation noise pollution is one of the most immediate environmental health issues for airport-impacted communities. And divides around race and class make things even worse.

Los Angeles Times data reporter Doug Smith dug into a complex story about residents of the most airport-impacted neighborhood of Inglewood, where residents are exposed to up to 90 decibels of aviation. But because of zoning irregularities, the neighborhood received no support around soundproofing, which went to wealthier communities instead. Writes Smith:

Over the last several decades, the Federal Aviation Administration and Los Angeles World Airports have given the city nearly $400 million to purchase and demolish hundreds of homes around the flight path and soundproof thousands of others.

A Times review of local and federal records shows Inglewood spent the money for soundproofing disproportionately in middle-class — and primarily single-family — neighborhoods on the east side of the city, farthest from the airport. Most of the eligible homes there received soundproofing.

Meanwhile, the city’s zoning rules prohibited improvements in a struggling neighborhood of about 1,200 homes and apartments along the Century Boulevard corridor.

Even worse, the LA Times also found hundreds of apartment units that were not soundproofed—despite being fully eligible for funding.

As neighbors spoke out on platforms like Facebook, and brought attention to the issue in the middle of public debates on a new Clipper stadium, Smith did data journalism, filing a public records request for the homes that were soundproofed, visualizing it in GIS software, and realizing that the most-impacted communities were totally skipped over.

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