FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, April 2, 2021
Communications Director, Environmental Health Coalition
Three Public Members Join Newly Reformed San Diego Air Pollution Control District Board
Ushering in a New Era of Clean Air
With the sixth worst air quality in the nation, Environmental Health Coalition is hopeful San Diego’s new Air Pollution Control District (APCD) board will take bold action to protect the health of the 3 million San Diego County Residents.
San Diego’s APCD appoints the state’s first ever-Environmental Justice Member, along with a Public Health/Physician Member, and Air Pollution Science/ Technology member.
SAN DIEGO, April 2, 2021 – Environmental Health Coalition congratulates the three public members appointed to the newly reformed San Diego Air Pollution Control District Governing Board. The three new members appointed by the Board are Anne Marie Birkbeck-Garcia, MD to the Public Health/Physician Member seat, Enrique Medina to the Air Pollution Science/Technology Member seat, and Georgette Gomez to the Environmental Justice Member seat – the very first in the state.
With these three public members, the SDAPCD Board is now comprised of 11 members tasked with improving San Diego County’s air quality to protect the health of its over 3 million residents who breathe some of the most polluted air in California and the nation. In San Diego, nearly 10% of children across the region have asthma, and children in the areas most impacted by air pollution have three to five times more than the county average in hospitalizations.
“My family has lived in Logan for a few generations and as a result, we have endured a tremendous amount of air pollution in our neighborhood. Due to this pollution, my mother has had to undergo two surgeries for her breathing problems,” said Maritza Garcia, a Barrio Logan resident. “Having an Environmental Justice member on the board that cares about neighborhoods like mine makes me hopeful to see major improvements to clean our air. Our lives depend on it.”
Gomez will be the first environmental justice member to sit on an ACPD board in the state. The immediate past president of San Diego City Council and former EHC Associate Director, Gomez has lived, worked, and represented nearly all the 40 San Diego census tracks that are the top 25% most polluted areas in the state. Most of those census tracks are south of interstate eight in low-income neighborhoods of color.
“Anne Marie, Enrique, and Georgette all deeply understand the terrible health impacts pollution has on our most vulnerable communities because of their personal experiences with it and will work to significantly improve air quality in these communities,” said Diane Takvorian, Executive Director of Environmental Health Coalition.
Raised in South San Diego, Dr. Birkbeck-Garcia is a pediatrician who treats children suffering from respiratory and other life-threatening diseases made worse by severe air pollution. An EHC board member since 2009, Medina is an environmental and occupational health and safety professional who volunteers his time and expertise in San Diego and Tijuana addressing air pollution and health issues.
“It is really exciting to see AB 423 become reality. The new SDAPCD Board is so much more representative of San Diego County’s vast and diverse population,” said Mayor Todd Gloria. “It provides a great opportunity for the Air District to get on the right track and I look forward to air quality improvements in the near future.”
In 2019, following demands from environmental justice communities to strengthen SDAPCD, Governor Newsom signed AB 423 into law. This bill – authored by then Assemblymember Todd Gloria and sponsored by EHC – sought to make the SDAPCD board more accountable, transparent and diverse.