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Activists Push For Environmental Justice In San Diego Neighborhoods

Activists push city officials to show how much they are spending in San Diego's poor communities as city officials implement their climate action plan on Oct. 22, 2018.
Erik Anderson
Activists push city officials to show how much they are spending in San Diego's poor communities as city officials implement their climate action plan on Oct. 22, 2018.
Activists Push For Environmental Justice In San Diego Neighborhoods
Activists Push For Environmental Justice In San Diego GUEST: Carolina Martínez, policy director, Environmental Health Coalition

This is Kate PBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh with San Diego be in a better position to reach its climate action goals if it focused more resources on low income communities. The answer from the Environmental Health Coalition is yes the E H C Monday issued a report on the progress the city is making toward its renewable energy goals including the potential to make big changes in San Diego's communities of color. State Assemblyman Todd Gloria spoke about the release of the E H C report. I know that communities like City Heights like Barrio Logan like saying are the communities that are most directly at harmfully impacted by the problems of climate change and as a consequence they also provide the opportunity to have the most transformational change the investments that we had the SES says transportation justice is the most important message of this report. Joining me is Catalina Martinez a policy director at Environmental Health Coalition. Catalina welcome to the program. Thank you so much for having us tonight. Now why is transportation justice. Well so what the report is saying that 54 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions in the city of San Diego actually in the region and at the state level. Pretty similar. It's coming from transportation. So it means that we need to stop driving single occupancy vehicles if we really want to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and we need to transform our mass transit system in the next 10 years. And so the report is saying reduce our vehicle miles travel by taking streets out of the taking cars out of the street and increasing the number of buses. And also how frequent people are able to access the trolley and the bus. Our communities also say that mass transit in Sandy was really expensive. So we need to make it affordable. A lot of jobs are not being able to be accessible via mass transit. Seventy percent of jobs are not reachable within 90 minutes of public transit. And new. That's a lot. And so it's limiting the way the region grows and also people being able to access jobs. Now what is an environmental justice community. Those communities that have been identified as environmental justice communities where are they located in San Diego. Environmental justice communities are low income communities of color that are impacted more by climate change and toxic pollution. And so in San Diego they are located in modern Logan in City Heights Sherman Heights because they're mean a lot more exposed to pollution that's coming from the board from the freeways. If you if you look at a map of the freeways in San Diego you'll see that they're all located next to low income communities of color. And why is Ocean Beach and Mission Beach and parts of Pacific Beach also included in that category. Well because if you look at the definition of the cities in the Climate Action Plan of disadvantaged communities it includes all communities that are at the top 30 percent of most impacted communities at the state level as well as CBG areas. And so that includes 60 per cent of the city's population. So we should face the implementation and and look at the top 30 percent. What does the city's plan say about how to allocate funds to communities of color impacted by climate change. Well that's one of the outcomes of start here. Now in 2015 the city approved in the Climate Action Plan a priority for EJA communities because the sources of greenhouse gas emissions and toxic pollution are in EJA communities. So we are at the front lines of the issue but also the solution. If we if our communities are not seeing benefits that means there is a question of how effective the Climate Action Plan Implementation is overall. So if we see progress in environmental justice communities that means the whole city is going to benefit. And that's demonstrating that we're actually tackling climate change at the city level. Now what other initiatives would the Coalition like to see in these communities besides public transportation. Well I think we should also talk about what type of mass public transportation we have to emphasize that the buses need to be cleaned vehicles if we want to see improvements we need to ensure it's a fordable and that there is a full network. So that means that it links peoples to It links people to jobs and then we also have to include freight because San Diego is a port of entry. So we have to ensure that the city is tapping into resources to transition trucks into clean vehicles so that. So those are very important components. And it's also important to highlight that the city doesn't have to do this alone. Transportation it's a regional issue and sandbag and empty areas are the bigger decision makers. And so the city has to make sure that the regional agencies are doing their part. I've been speaking with Carolina Martino's policy director at the Environmental Health Coalition. Carolina thank you so much. Thank you.

Environmental justice advocates are calling on the city of San Diego to focus climate action plan policies on disadvantaged communities.

Activists in San Diego's inner city communities want to see more done in their neighborhoods as the city works to comply with the city's climate action plan goals.

A new report produced with the Environmental Health Coalition is calling for improvements in public transit, air quality monitoring, and access to solar energy.


It is a message that resonates with state lawmaker Todd Gloria representing the 78th Assembly District. He used to be the San Diego city council member representing the City Heights neighborhood.

VIDEO: Activists Push For Environmental Justice In San Diego Neighborhoods

Gloria said the city has an opportunity to make inner-city neighborhoods leaders in the push to shrink the city's carbon footprint and compete for state funds.

"By leveraging state resources and working collaboratively, the city, MTS (Metropolitan Transit System), the Port of San Diego, the County of San Diego, all of these public agencies can work together and make meaningful change and to actually compete for dollars that we are now, unfortunately, I think sometimes leaving it on the table," Gloria said.

The report calls on the city to plant more trees and upgrade the housing stock so structures are more energy efficient. The study also says the city should make improvements in San Diego's inner-city neighborhoods a priority.

Making mass transit more available and affordable with have immediate impacts, according to the report authors.


"For example, in Barrio Logan it means double tracking the blue line... the trolley line. And in City Heights it means getting more busses, more frequently, so people can actually connect to jobs," said Carolina Martinez of the Environmental Health Coalition.

The report suggests tracking improvements so city officials will be able to see where improvements are happening, and they suggest hiring city staffers to do just that. The city's adopted 2018 budget does not break down how much direct and indirect funding is being used to implement the Climate Action Plan, according to the report.

There has been no public data released regarding how much money the city has allocated for what the report calls "environmental justice communities" since the plan was adopted at the end of 2015.

Activists Push For Environmental Justice In San Diego Neighborhoods
Environmental activists push for benefits to San Diego's low-income neighborhoods as the city advances plans to meet tough climate action plan goals.

Corrected: October 1, 2023 at 3:27 PM PDT
City News Service contributed to this report