national-city-fireIt's the nightmare we all wished wouldn't happen, but it does.

On march 23 at about 5 p.m., the E & S Autobody Shop located on Hoover Street and 11th Avenue exploded. Many of the Old Town National City residents communicated the incident to us here at EHC. They reported hearing explosions next to their homes, followed by a fire and toxic fumes. The black cloud of smoke could be seen from J street in Chula Vista, and the fumes are lingering even twelve hours past the incident.

Although unfortunate, it is not a surprise.

Jose Medina, an Old Town National City resident who lives roughly a block and half from the exploded business, shares how E & S Autobody Shop "is a big violator of clean air regulations in the 'hood'; continuously painting outside in the public way, in a neighborhood with homes and schools."

In fact, since 2011, residents together with EHC have reported over 20 code complaints for E & S Autobody Shop because of the business' unlawful painting of cars on the street and its after hours operation.

old-town-national-city-fireE & S Autobody is one of dozens of industrial uses located in the Old Town National City community threating the health, safety and quality of life of these families every day. We see the everyday life impacts these businesses have on humans reflected in children's asthma hospitalization rates in National City that rank above the county's average. In addition, the city currently ranks in the top 5 percent of California Environmental Protection Agency's CalEnviroScreen tool, which identifies communities that are disproportionally burdened by multiple sources of pollution.

In order to resolve this incompatible land use issue, EHC has worked with the community to phase out these industrial uses. The amortization ordinance that was passed in 2006, grants the City Council of National City the ability to order industrial uses (non-conforming uses as a result of the 2010 Westside Specific Plan) to be terminated within a reasonable amount of time, upon recommendation of the planning commission. National City is currently implementing the phase out of the first two businesses.

Today, the phase out of these toxic uses is ever more pressing. We cannot wait for one more explosion or a fire next to Kimball Elementary. Old Town National City residents deserve to live in a safe and toxic free community.