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Clean Air Day puts focus on pollution in San Ysidro

A mural by Amanda Kachadoorian is intedned to evolve images of the south bay without pollution on a wall next to San Ysdiro Blvd.
Erik Anderson
A mural by Amanda Kachadoorian is intended to evoke images of the South Bay without pollution, on a wall next to San Ysidro Boulevard, Oct. 6, 2021.

San Ysidro community advocates are celebrating California Clean Air Day by pointing to a long running pollution problem in their neighborhood.

A newly painted mural on a Casa Familiar building on San Ysidro Boulevard imagines what could have been.

South Bay artist Amanda Kachadoorian used a colorful palette to paint plant species native to the Tijuana River Valley. She imagined a region without pollution.


But pollution does exist here.

In the river valley sewage, trash and silt clog the estuary.

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In the region, cars and trucks put unhealthy levels of particle pollution into the air.

“San Ysidro continuously reports high levels of PM 2.5 and black carbon,” said Alejandro Amador of Casa Familiar. “More than any other community in San Diego and it’s within the top five percentile within the whole state of California.”


The community is a neighbor of the world’s busiest land border crossing which has famously long traffic snarls.

It doesn’t help that the community is hemmed in by freeways.

“San Ysidro is actually surrounded by those freeways,” said Amador. “It’s the 805 on the right, the five on the left and on top is the 905 which is a highway that’s used as a truck route.”

Casa Familiar worked with San Diego State University to documented the air pollution. Monitors installed by researchers linked the worst pollution to those cross border traffic jams.

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“This is a public health issue,” said Lisa Cuestas, the president and CEO of Casa Familiar.

When the traffic is at its worst, so it’s the air quality.

“There’s significant wait times on both sides of the border up to four and five hours and on a Sunday it could be up to six hours sometimes,” Cuestas said.

San Ysidro using California Clean Air Day to point out pollution problem

Cutting back on border crossing wait times would help cut back on pollution.

“Today on California Clean Air Day, I congratulate Casa Familiar for their continued advocacy work and for laying the groundwork in order for our communities in District 1 to have clean air,” said Nora Vargas, vice chair, San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

Vargas also chairs the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District and she says air pollution disproportionately impacts people in her district.