Photo by John Orvis, a Bay Area based photojournalist and event photographer / photo by John Orvis |

August 6 marks the one year anniversary of the Chevron refinery fire in Richmond. The fire, caused by a leak in a 40-year old pipe, sent a plume of smoke across nearby neighborhoods, leading thousands of residents to eventually seek medical care.

Under CC license from Flickr user CoCo ACCE

The City of Richmond was hit hard when the housing bubble burst – about 12,000 homeowners there are underwater. That’s roughly half of all mortgage holders in the city.  Richmond’s City Council recently approved a radical new plan to use eminent domain to buy underwater mortgages and resell them to beleaguered homeowners at lower prices. Richmond mayor Gayle McLaughlin spoke with KALW's Holly Kernan about her city’s radical plan to help homeowners drowning in debt.

Mariel Waloff

Residents in the city of Richmond are reeling from a recent shooting spree, including the murder of a 19-year-old. The city has had four homicides so far this year – all committed in public, all during the day. And there have been other daytime shootings. They’ve shocked city residents – because crimes like that are no longer the norm.

KALW’s criminal justice reporter Kyung-Jin Lee joined Holly Kernan in studio to talk about the crime drop in Richmond – and what other cities can learn from Richmond’s approach.

As controversy rages regarding the government's right to regulate health, some have been quick to compare the ideas of government regulation to preventing obesity, to legislation against lung cancer and smoking. While  obesity and lung cancer are both health issues, research shows that they aren't as analogous as one might expect. Men who smoke a pack  of cigarettes per day have a relative risk of mortality nearly four times higher than the national average. The relative risk of mortality from obesity isn't even close to that; it's 1.5 times the average.

Sixteen percent of people in Richmond live below the poverty line. The city has the highest rate of diabetes deaths in Contra Costa County. But it also has one of the nation’s most progressive mayors, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.

The Nanny State: a penny for your soda

Sep 13, 2012

If you ride BART to its northwestern terminus, you’ll find yourself at Macdonald Avenue and 19th Street, just a few blocks east of downtown Richmond. Macdonald is a four-lane street lined with restaurants, gas stations, and other retailers. I came here to find out how local business owners feel about the soda tax ballot initiative.

It’s a Saturday morning at a formerly vacant lot in Richmond. The sun warms the ground. Rows of fruit trees bend in the breeze. A raised bed made of cinder blocks harbors vegetable plants. Andromeda Brooks carefully plucks weeds from her raspberry patch, offering the young plants encouragement. This is Happy Lot Farm and Garden. 

Less than a year ago, this 14,000-square-foot lot, zoned for low-income housing, lay empty, except for the litter.

“Nothing has really been done on the lot for well over ten years,” says Brooks.

On today’s Your Call, we’ll have a conversation about the massive Chevron oil refinery fire in Richmond , which sent smoke clouds over large portions of the Bay Area. Over 900 residents went to the hospital complaining of respiratory problems and eye irritation. How are communities reacting? Join us at 10 or email Do live close an oil refinery? What do we need to know about the history of Chevron and how it operates today? It’s Your Call, with Rose Aguilar and you.


European Commission

Pollution and the environment have always been big issues for Californians. A statewide survey conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California last month showed that approximately half the state’s residents see air pollution as a serious threat to their health.

Among African Americans and Latinos, concern is even greater.  The majority of those polled in these groups believe that people in lower-income areas are disproportionately affected by air pollution.

Julie Caine

If you saw the lead story of today's San Francisco Chronicle, you would have seen a photo of a long line of people outside a lawyer's office in Richmond, near a sign that says: "Chevron Claims Filed Here." 

D.H. Parks, under CC License /

The smoke from the Chevron refinery fire that started late Monday has cleared, but the controversy was still hot at a community meeting last night in Richmond. Around 700 people attended the meeting, where Chevron General Manager Nigel Hearne and local government and health officials faced frustration and anger.

Joan Davis from the Richmond Community Foundation began the meeting with some powerful questions: “Those of you who are feeling afraid, very quietly, stand. Those of you who are feeling angry, please stand, quietly.”

Flickr user D.H. Parks, Under CC License /

Last night’s fire at the Chevron refinery in Richmond put city residents in a state of panic. The fire sent up a huge plume of black smoke, stopping traffic, closing bridges, and shutting down BART stations.

The large-scale chemical fire still has local residents concerned for their health and safety. Many say they heard about the fire late, and that the multi-lingual phone system that is supposed to alert the diverse communities of Richmond in case of a disaster didn’t work. 

(San Jose Mercury News) // On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court agreed to hear a case determining whether the State Bar has the authority to allow an undocumented immigrant to practice law. Sergio Garcia, an undocumented immigrant who graduated from Chico State University and a Florida law school, passed the Bar exam in 2009...

The city of Richmond is notorious for its high crime rate and industrial pollution. And the Iron Triangle neighborhood – which is bordered on three sides by train tracks – just might be the city’s most dangerous neighborhood. But inside the Triangle, activist Tania Pulido is cultivating community and social consciousness through the Berryland Community Garden. Pulido is one of the winners of the 2011 David Brower Youth Awards, and she joined KALW’s Holly Kernan in studio to talk about how she got started with the garden, and her social activism.

Some of the first people in the Bay Area were Native Americans – members of the Ohlone tribe, who settled around what is now the city of Richmond. Beginning in the 1920s, another group of Native people found their way to the Bay Area. They were migrants from the Acoma and Laguna tribes of the Southwest. When they arrived, they took up an unusual living arrangement: in boxcars, parked on the dead ends of the city’s railroad tracks.