The majority of Environmental Health Coalition's work supports residents in low-income communities of color in urban areas of San Diego County and the communities around San Diego Bay. These are the largely Latino communities of Barrio Logan, Sherman/Logan Heights, and City Heights in the City of San Diego, and in National City with major emphasis on the Westside. These residents immigrated from Latin America, Asia and Africa, and many have little formal education.
Problems in these communities commonly occur in many low-income communities of color: substandard housing, over-crowded schools, a lack of social services, low-paying jobs, polluting industries mixed with residential and commercial sites, industrial truck traffic, lack of parks and healthy food outlets, severe air pollution and lead contamination in aging housing stock.
All of EHC's target communities developed around the same time in San Diego's history, the late 1860-80s, and went through similar transitions. Hopes of a railroad line connecting San Diego to points east rose and fell, and with these hopes land speculation was followed by financial crashes. Our region developed first what is now downtown San Diego, and by the late 1880s, the adjacent communities of Logan Heights (which then included Barrio Logan) and Sherman Heights got subdivided. Public transportation to these neighborhoods and out to City Heights allowed the population to grow. Logan Heights and Sherman Heights were upper class neighborhoods; City Heights was a working class neighborhood.
National City, San Diego County's second oldest city, developed around the same time, again driven by hopes of a railroad. It developed as an agricultural and industrial hub, with a population spanning the economic and ethnic spectrums.
Improved roads and the introduction of the automobile allowed many of the wealthier residents to move to new suburbs, and Logan Heights and Sherman Heights became home to successive waves of immigrants and minorities who were excluded from living in the new neighborhoods by racial, ethnic, and religious discrimination: Irish, Jews, Japanese, Chinese, African Americans, and Latinos. After World War II, National City became home to a large Filipino population. City Heights was the first home of many Southeast Asian refugees following the Vietnam War and home to many other more recent refugees following civil strife in their homelands.
Common factors that contributed to the decline of each neighborhood include:
- The construction of highways and freeways
- Increased population density
- Absentee landlords and the deterioration of the housing stock
- Increased industrialization
- Zoning changes
- Wars and the rise of San Diego as a military center
According to research conducted by The California Endowment, one's zip code is a reliable predictor of life expectancy. A common thread in all of EHC's work is the recognition of the cumulative impacts of environmental, social, political and economic vulnerabilities that affect the quality of life in our target communities.
The following chart uses 2010 Census and American Community Survey (2009-2013) data to compare some of these factors in EHC target areas to the County of San Diego as a whole:
For more information on each of these neighborhoods, use the menu bar at the left.
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