What It’s Like to Live Next to America’s Largest Port Amid a Global Supply Chain Crisis

In one Los Angeles neighborhood, traffic spilling over from the backlogged port has brought noise, pollution and safety hazards.

In one Los Angeles neighborhood, traffic spilling over from the backlogged port has brought noise, pollution and safety hazards.


Imelda Ulloa with her grandson Anthony Magan? outside her home in the Wilmington neighborhood of Los Angeles.Credit…Allison Zaucha for The New York Times

LOS ANGELES — The stucco cottage looks every bit the California dream: a grassy yard and big patio, encircled by a white picket fence. Next to the front door, a Santa figurine greets visitors and a dog’s snout peeks through a window, as if an advertisement for domestic bliss.


This home is in Wilmington, a mostly Latino working-class enclave north of the Port of Los Angeles, where the effects of the supply chain crisis have spilled over in a big way. For the past several months, the street that the house is on has served as a 24-hour thoroughfare for semi trucks headed to and from the port.

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

Ulloa, 57, can’t open her windows anymore because of how much noise and dust flood in. She doesn’t invite guests over to barbecue because the din of engines drowns out their conversations. Her grandson isn’t allowed to play out front because it’s too dangerous.

One afternoon last week, I stood on Ulloa’s stoop and counted: In 10 minutes, 44 trucks drove by, inches from her front gate.

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

“Obviously clearing out the ship backlog is going to be No. 1,” said Jacob Haik, deputy chief of staff for Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents the Harbor neighborhood.

As with many consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, the disruption in the supply chain has revealed something that has always been true, said Manuel Pastor, a sociology professor at the University of Southern California: A small group of people pay a high price for what we view as quick and easy access to goods.

So much of the discussion around the port backlog “has focused on ‘How do we maximize the throughput?'” Pastor told me. “But the throughput is through someone’s neighborhood.”

Wilmington residents are accustomed to dealing with the effects of living just a few miles from North America’s largest port, which handles a big percentage of the shipping containers entering the United States by sea.

But the few trucks that drove in front of Ulloa’s home on Drumm Avenue when her children were growing up didn’t stop them from playing tag with neighbors or skateboarding in the street.

Such activities would be impossible now. Trucks are regularly stalled outside her house, forming a colorful chain that extends tens deep.

As we sat last week in her living room, decorated with family pictures and bouquets of flowers, Ulloa and I were interrupted by a near-constant roaring of engines and honking even though the windows and doors had been shut.

It isn’t just Drumm. Elsewhere in Wilmington, residents have put up homemade barricades to protect their children from trucks. Roads have been damaged because they weren’t built to withstand throngs of heavy vehicles. In October, a container fell off a truck and crushed a parked car.

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

Ulloa used to clean her patio and car once every two weeks, but so much grime accumulates now that she rinses them twice a week.

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

Other residents say their commutes have grown because it takes so long to merge in and out of the traffic outside their homes. Drivers delivering takeout meals or packages have to park down the street because there’s no way to pull into the driveways.


Cesar Vigil and his dog Kronos watching trucks pass their home.Credit…Allison Zaucha for The New York Times

“We’re living in a port — that’s what it feels like,” said Cesar Vigil, who lives next door to Ulloa. He acknowledged that the port plays a vital function: “But at what cost?”

In general, semi trucks aren’t supposed to drive on residential roads unless it’s the only way to reach their destinations, officials say. But with a record-breaking amount of goods coming into the port, drivers may be taking shortcuts to try to pick up an extra load or could be searching for places to drop off empty containers amid a shortage of storage facilities.

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

“The enforcement is over there,” he told me. “Eventually we’re going to catch them.”

Since September, port police officers have issued 700 moving violations to truck drivers, including for going down roads they weren’t supposed to, said Sgt. Glenn Twardy of the Los Angeles Port Police. They have also handed out 1,000 citations to trucks parked illegally and impounded 400 chassis that had been left in the streets.

Twardy, who has worked in the area for more than 15 years, said that while some port activity encroaching into Wilmington has always been unavoidable, “I’ve never seen it this bad.”

According to Ulloa, the traffic in front of her home slows on Sundays but doesn’t completely stop. Holidays are the only time when the number of trucks passing by drops to maybe one or two, she said.

Thinking about the upcoming reprieve made her almost giddy.

“I love those days,” she told me, grinning. “You can sit on your patio. You can hear your conversations.”

For more:

Why Christmas gifts are arriving on time this year.

How the supply chain crisis unfolded.

Supply chain snarls for cars on display at a Kansas terminal.


An empty commercial area in Rotterdam on Sunday, the first day of an Omicron-related lockdown in the Netherlands.Credit…Marco De Swart/Agence France-Presse, via Getty Images

The latest on Omicron and the pandemic

Omicron is just beginning and Americans are already tired.

The variant will surge despite Biden’s new plan, scientists say.

What are the symptoms of Omicron?

All anyone wants for Christmas is a Covid test.

Are schools ready for the next big surge?


Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard, the first Mexican American woman elected to Congress, announced that she will not seek re-election in her Los Angeles-area district.Credit…Alex Brandon/Associated Press

The rest of the news

Redistricting: New state maps appear to have given Democrats an advantage over Republicans, The Associated Press reports. But the Los Angeles area lost one U.S. House seat.

The longtime congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard has announced she will not seek re-election for her Los Angeles district, The Associated Press reports.

Intimidation sentence: A California man who made personal threats to politicians and journalists in the wake of Trump’s defeat has been sentenced to three years in prison.


Covid-19 vaccine mandate: A judge struck down San Diego’s student vaccination mandate, preventing thousands of unvaccinated students from being kicked out of in-person school, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

Chief of staff arrested: Joseph Iniguez, the chief of staff for the Los Angeles County district attorney, was arrested on suspicion of public intoxication, The Associated Press reports.


Inmate rights: The A.C.L.U. of Northern California has accused Tulare County of denying female prisoners sufficient prenatal care, The Fresno Bee reports.


Mandatory boosters: San Jose proposed requiring booster shots for all city employees, the first city in the state to do so, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Crypto start-ups: A wave of Silicon Valley executives and engineers are leaving jobs at large tech companies to chase cryptocurrency.

Humboldt quake: An early-alert system gave some residents up to 10 seconds to take cover during Monday’s 6.2-magnitude earthquake, The Guardian reports.


Credit…Julia Gartland for The New York Times

What we’re eating

Lemony orzo with asparagus and garlic bread crumbs.


Wildflowers blooming on a canyon trail in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.Credit…Etienne Laurent/EPA, via Shutterstock

Where we’re traveling

Today’s travel tip comes from Tom Stallard, who recommends Anza-Borrego Desert State Park east of San Diego:

“We call it ‘down-market desert’ as there are few restaurants and no stoplights in the town of Borrego Springs. But there are hundreds of interesting trails to hike in the park, which is the largest state park in the lower 48 states. It is often the warmest place in California in winter. Accommodations are reasonable.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

What we’re recommending

The year’s best podcasts.


Stairs in Grandview Park along the Crosstown Trail.Credit…Jason Henry for The New York Times

And before you go, some good news

If you’re still looking for some low-key holiday plans, consider walking across San Francisco in a day.

The Crosstown Trail starts at the city’s southeastern corner and ends at its northwestern tip. Over 16.5 miles, it traverses dirt paths and city streets and covers an elevation gain of over 2,000 feet and temperatures that can vary as much as 30 degrees. (That’s microclimates for you.)

The trail was introduced in summer 2019, but parts were closed last year because of the pandemic.

Now that the course is fully open again, a National Geographic writer and photographer made the trek and documented this spectacular urban hike.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Suffix that changes an adjective to a noun (4 letters).

Jack Kramer and Mariel Wamsley contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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