OTMC KimballSchool DayoftheDead

Old Town National City is an area bordered on west by Interstate 5 and the east by Roosevelt Avenue stretching from W. Plaza Boulevard south to W. 24th Street (AKA Mile of Cars Way). In the heart of the community are Kimball Elementary School and Paradise Creek. Currently Old Town National City contains an unhealthy mix of homes, schools, and polluting industries.

For years, EHC and community residents advocated for a new community plan and zoning in the community. The many auto-related shops and small industries that located in the neighborhood raised high concerns. Generally, planners consider a non-conforming use "grandfathered in" after a zoning change – that is, they allow it to stay in its current location. To overcome this challenge, EHC developed an "amortization" plan which would give the city the right to require a non-conforming business to leave after a reasonable amount of time.

Community victorious

Amortization Ordinance passed: August 2006

Westside Specific Plan passed: March 2010

Westside Specific Plan Ordinance (changing the zoning) passed: August 3, 2010

View these documents on National City's website.

US Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Transportation select National City for their Partnership for Sustainable Communities Program: February 2010

Westside Affordable Housing Transit Oriented Development Project approved by City Council and Community Housing Works and The Related Companies of California selected to develop plan: June 2011

The steps taken to gain these victories are summarized below.

Step 1: Create the vision. The National City Community Action Team created their vision of a healthy neighborhood, one with adequate affordable housing, and one that preserved community character and promoted a livable community. The Community Action Team participated in a land-use SALTA training to prepare members for the work ahead. They conducted a community survey that laid the foundation of priorities for which the community would advocate.

Step 2: Convert the vision into a land-use map. The Community Action Team worked with a professional land-use planner to develop an Old Town National City Vision Map separating incompatible land uses.

Step 3: Gain community support. The Community Action Team utilized house meetings, community meetings, presentations to other groups, door-to-door canvassing, and participation in community fairs to explain and gain support for the vision.

Step 4: Incorporate the vision into the elements of a new Community Plan: A community plan has many elements making it an important tool for comprehensive change. The Westside Specific Plan contains the following elements: land use, design guidelines and standards, circulation, infrastructure and public services and implementation. Each can promote the community vision.

Step 5: Be persistent. Officials held more than 30 public meetings since the planning process officially began in 2005. We also held as many Community Action Team meetings to review drafts and prepare for the meetings.

Step 6: Gain support of local city council representatives. A new Community Plan goes through numerous committees and advisory boards, but the City Council must ultimately pass it. Inviting Councilmembers to community meetings, making advocacy visits to their offices, and providing them with evidence of the community support for the plan all help to secure their support.

Step 7: Celebrate adoption, but monitor implementation. The Westside Specific Plan met the Vision of the Community Action Team by changing the zoning (thereby allowing for polluter relocation), designating a large portion of land for redevelopment as affordable housing, limiting building heights to three floors, and creating a 500-foot buffer between the freeway and new residential development.

The Work Ahead

A Public Advisory Committee is being formed to monitor progress and ensure that the Westside Specific Plan implementation advances in a timely and responsive manner.

The Partnership for Sustainable Communities program produced reports on the following topics to help the city and community members implement the plan.

EHC is working with the California Environmental Justice Alliance on a State-wide Green Zones for Economic and Environmental Sustainability Initiative. As part of this effort, EHC selected Old Town National City as our Green Zones Pilot project.

Other victories in National City

"Healthy Homes" ordinance – July 2006. Because National City's housing stock is among the oldes in the county and over 75% of the occupied housing unites are rentals, EHC worked with National City to pass a Healthy Homes ordinance in July 2006. The ordinance, sponsored by the City's Building and Safety Department, establishes annual inspections of all rental properties to ensure that all of National City's rental units are well maintained and free of lead and other toxic hazards. This is the first pro-active inspection program covering all rental units in the county.

Diesel Truck Prohibited from Practicing Close to Schools – April 2007.

In January 2007, trucks from the Momax Truck Driving School warmed up below the Jimenez residence, releasing large plumes of exhaust. That afternoon, Javier Jimenez died of complications related to asthma, family members say. Just after Mr. Jimenez' death, EHC measured toxic levels of particulate matter, as much as eight times higher than normal levels. Diesel emissions are a major source of particulate matter, which is a powerful asthma trigger and can cause cancer.

In response to this public health crisis, EHC staff, local residents and teachers from Kimball Elementary School held a community meeting with Councilmembers Frank Parra and Louie Natividad. The Council swiftly responded, ordering the City Attorney to investigate and bring an ordinance for the council's consideration.

In April the City Council adopted an ordinance to prohibit diesel truck drivers from practicing within 100 feet of schools.