What life is like next to America’s largest port amid a global supply chain crisis


LOS ANGELES – The stucco cottage looks like a California dream: a grassy yard and large patio, surrounded by a white picket fence. Next to the front door, a Santa Claus figurine greets visitors and a dog’s muzzle peeks through a window, as if it were an advertisement for domestic happiness .


This home is in Wilmington, a predominantly Latino working-class enclave north of the Port of Los Angeles, where the effects of the supply chain crisis have spread widely. In recent months, the street the house is on has served as a 24-hour traffic lane for semi-trucks to and from the port.

“It’s like a highway,” said Imelda Ulloa, who has lived in this house for over 20 years.

Ulloa, 57, can no longer open his windows because of the noise and the dust that rushes in. She does not invite guests for a barbecue because the noise of the engines stifles their conversations. His grandson is not allowed to play in front because it is too dangerous.

One recent afternoon, I stood on the steps of Ulloa and counted: in 10 minutes, 44 trucks passed within inches of its front door.

Police and city officials have stepped up truck ticketing in Wilmington after an increase in complaints from residents, but the sheer volume of vehicles makes it difficult to eliminate the problem.

“Obviously clearing the backlog of ships will be number 1,” said Jacob Haik, deputy chief of staff to council member Joe Buscaino, who represents the port district.

As with many consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, said sociologist Manuel Pastor, the disruption in the supply chain has revealed something that has always been true: A small group of people are paying a high price for what we see. like quick and easy access to goods.

Much of the discussion around the port order book “has centered on ‘How can we maximize throughput? “Said Pastor, a professor at the University of Southern California.” But the flow goes through someone’s neighborhood. “

Residents of Wilmington are used to living within a few miles of North America’s largest port, which handles a large percentage of shipping containers entering the United States by sea.

But the few trucks that drove past Ulloa’s house on Drumm Avenue when her kids were growing up didn’t stop them from playing chat with the neighbors or skateboarding down the street.

Such activities would be impossible now. Trucks regularly stall in front of his house, forming a colorful chain that stretches dozens of depth.

As we sat last week in her living room, decorated with family photos and bouquets of flowers, Ulloa and I were interrupted by an almost constant roar of engines and horns.

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It’s not just Drumm. Elsewhere in Wilmington, residents have erected homemade barricades to protect their children from trucks. The roads were damaged because they were not built to withstand crowds of heavy vehicles. In October, a container fell from a truck and crashed into a parked car.

Wilmington, home to about 50,000 people, already has high levels of pollution from nearby oil fields and suffers from some of the highest cancer and asthma rates in the state. This latest development is unlikely to help.

“You wash your car in the morning and it’s dirty in the afternoon,” she said.

Other residents say their trips have increased because it takes so long to merge in and out of traffic outside their homes. Drivers delivering take out or packages must park on the street as there is no way to park in the aisles.

“We live in a port, that’s what it feels like,” said Cesar Vigil, who lives near Ulloa. He recognizes that the port plays a vital function, “but at what cost?

In general, semi-trailers aren’t supposed to travel on residential roads unless that’s the only way to reach their destination, officials say. But with a record amount of cargo entering the port, drivers may take shortcuts to try to pick up an extra load, or could look for places to drop off empty containers due to a shortage of storage facilities.

Haik said trucks in Wilmington sometimes have to drive near homes because they are close to businesses. But police can check whether drivers’ manifests match the routes they are taking, he said.

Since September, port police officers have issued 700 traffic violations to truck drivers, including for using roads they weren’t supposed to use, the sergeant said. Los Angeles Port Police Glenn Twardy. They also issued 1,000 tickets to illegally parked trucks and impounded 400 chassis that had been left in the streets.

Twardy, who has worked in the area for over 15 years, said that while some port activity encroaching on Wilmington has always been inevitable, “I’ve never seen it so bad.”


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