"The Better Barrio" – A three-part blog series highlighting a time when Logan Heights flourished and enriched all of San Diego.

The community of Barrio Logan, once known as Logan Heights, is one of San Diego's oldest neighborhoods, rich in history and stories to tell; stories of a time when Interstate 5 did not exist, the community was diverse, the small business economy thrived and legends left their mark.
While today we fight to relocate industrial businesses and repair poor air quality in Barrio Logan, it helps to remember all the good that exists in our community and what our neighborhood has done for San Diego.

A legend worth mentioning is Helen Marston, founder of San Diego's Neighborhood House which served as a settlement house for the Mexican community for nearly sixty years and continues to provide service to various San Diego communities today. This house served as a place families could go for help with common problems, engaging community programs, to meet their neighbors and gain a sense of family and community pride.

Neighborhood House Story Time - 1930s

For six decades Helen turned the Neighborhood House into a prominent San Diego establishment focused on working with community members dealing with the pressing issues of the time, including public health, education, and Americanization. Helen devoted herself to her community and the Neighborhood House while capitalizing on her journalism skills to disprove Latino prejudices as well. In 1920 her article, "Mexican Traits", was published in a well-known publication. The article explained the work of the Neighborhood House and the Latino families she interacted with on a daily basis. Her writings and the Neighborhood House gave Barrio Logan and our surrounding communities an understanding and welcoming place where neighbors could meet and overcome obstacles of the time, together.

Barrio Logan has a chance to restore this togetherness and neighborhood unity once again. We support Alternative 1 for Barrio Logan's Community Plan Update; to give community members an opportunity to build healthy neighborhoods and make positive, long-lasting changes for the betterment of the community - like Helen did.

Please sign our letter to support Alternative 1 and a promising future for Barrio Logan.

You can read more about Helen's life of activism here

(Neighborhood House Association is an independent 501 (c) 3 organization and does not participate or endorse attempts for lobbying or political activities.)

EHC recently wrote a piece on why Barrio Logan needs Alternative 1 to restore the neighborhood to a safe, healthy and livable community. It was published in the UT San Diego on August 21, 2013. Please read the article below and sign our letter to support Alternative 1!

 

By Georgette Gomez, Rudolph Pimentel & Albert Dueñas.

What do you love about your neighborhood? Large parks. Local businesses. Well-maintained streets. Children playing outside. Clean air.

These seemingly obvious characteristics, which we expect in a livable community that we call home, aren't universal qualities shared by all San Diego communities. For instance, Barrio Logan's striking feature is land uses mixed together in a way not seen elsewhere in the city. Industries, homes, schools, auto body shops, recycling yards, stores, and parks share the same compact space, wedged between the I-5 freeway and the waterfront industries bordering San Diego Bay south of the Convention Center.

This raises concerns about air quality.

"I can never open the windows in the apartment, because my children are constantly sick. The little one, if we don't take care of her, she is going to develop asthma," Barrio Logan resident Estela Lopez told a reporter. "The doctor gave us a breathing machine for her. That's why the windows are shut, so she can breathe clean air."

Children in Barrio Logan have almost 2.5 times the asthma hospitalization rate as the county average. Unfortunately, that's striking. This year the state of California confirmed that Barrio Logan is a pollution hot spot and that the community ranks in the top 5 percent of the most vulnerable areas in the entire state.

Thankfully, community members, property owners and businesses have actively engaged in a five-year planning process to bring a new community plan to Barrio Logan, called Barrio Logan Community Plan Update Alternative 1. Heading to the City Council in September, this stakeholder-approved plan will end Barrio Logan's unhealthy mix of homes and schools next to polluting industries and begin properly zoned planning that will bring San Diego another livable community with a strong economy.

This is why the San Diego Planning Commission unanimously supported Alternative 1, which creates a necessary buffer between industrial uses and homes to allow our important maritime industry to thrive and also give mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and grandchildren a healthy place to call home.

Alternative 1's buffer zone puts an end to today's deadly mix of polluters and homes by preventing residential development in the buffer area but allowing maritime-supporting businesses and parking structures, another much-needed community amenity to support the shipyard industries along the bayfront. This has the dual benefit of protecting the residents by not allowing industrial uses near homes, parks and families. This key element also differentiates Alternative 1 from the other option, which would allow industrial uses within the buffer zone and also industrial development within 50 feet of homes.

The buffer zone between streets where young children play and spots where industries use toxic chemicals works in conjunction with the creation of a heavy industrial zone. Alternative 1 calls for this industrial park to centralize the maritime-industrial operations that support industries on the waterfront, such as welding shops, refinishers, ship repair support, and other port-related industries that will be grandfathered into the fabric of the neighborhood.

According to the environmental impact report for this project, the buffer zone and industrial park combination in Alternative 1 will contribute to a projected increase in employment from just over 10,000 jobs to nearly 15,000. This 47 percent increase will occur because more acreage is dedicated to industrial, commercial, retail and maritime support. And this industrial park is located away from schools and homes — a striking feature people expect in a healthy community.

Imagine the beauty of an economically secure Barrio Logan where the massive industries support the local community with a thoughtful buffer zone, a concentrated industrial park and a new parking structure for its thousands of employees.

Barrio Logan's daunting profile of pollution sources and vulnerability requires active, informed residents and comprehensive policy solutions, starting with reform of land use. The good news is that the stakeholder committee overwhelmingly supported Alternative 1 — which will finally address several of Barrio Logan's most pressing problems: separation of incompatible land uses; provision of more affordable housing; designation of parking areas for the large industrial workforce; and substantial conservation of industrial land uses to support the job-intensive waterfront.

That's something we can all love to see in Barrio Logan.

 

Gomez is associate director of Environmental Health Coalition; Pimental, a Barrio Logan business owner, and Dueñas, a Barrio Logan property owner, are members of the Barrio Logan Community Update Plan Stakeholder Group.

Professor Ralph Keeling Climate Change San Diego

"When I travel with my kids, I tell them they're seeing things I don't expect they'll see again in future because of the climate crisis."

This is what Professor Ralph Keeling— world-renowned climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography's CO2 Program— told the San Diego City Council regarding the state of our region's climate. Keeling shared insights from his research and startling statistics about what challenges lie ahead for San Diego.

With atmospheric CO2 levels at the highest Earth has seen in the past 800,000 years, Professor Keeling warned that San Diego will see at least 15 feet of sea level rise. He also predicted more intense heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and impaired air quality— all especially concerning for low-income communities such as Barrio Logan, Sherman Heights, City Heights and National City. Our communities already suffer the health consequences of the region's pollution and lack of resources such as healthcare, air conditioning and transportation, making it more challenging to cope with worsening conditions.

We have already seen climate change disproportionately impact our disadvantaged communities. During the state's heat wave of 2006, 99 percent of the associated deaths occurred in zip codes where more than half of residents were below the poverty line. The California Department of Public Health and the American Public Health Association have identified climate change as one of the most serious public health threats facing our nation, warning that the impacts are occurring sooner than expected.

San Diego can still tackle the great challenges of climate change, and the time to act is... yesterday! We have many solutions within our grasp to reduce pollution and create local jobs at the same time, such as installing solar panelson our rooftops and in our parking lots, making our buildings more energy and water efficient, building better transit and making neighborhoods more walkable and bikeable. The City of San Diego and the Port of San Diego have the opportunity to plan and implement all of these solutions by passing sustainable Climate Action Plans.

Old plans were not aggressive enough to keep up with the pace of climate change, and the Port of San Diego has yet to release a full draft of the plan it's been crafting for nearly three years. Meanwhile, our communities are already experiencing the effects of climate change. San Diegans deserve climate action plans that work, and they deserve them now.

Professor Keeling gave us hope that we still have a window of opportunity to stop the worst of climate change, but he warned that window is quickly closing. Hopefully his research and advice will urge City Council and the Port to take action equally as fast and aggressive as climate change. Stay tuned for more updates on the City and Port of San Diego's Climate Plan progress.

You have probably heard of Alternative 1, but what exactly is it? What does it mean for Barrio Logan, and why should the rest of San Diego care?

The community of Barrio Logan has one of the oldest existing community plans, last updated in 1979. This outdated plan has led to the development of a toxic environment; unhealthy and unsafe for the community. Neighborhood safety, health and quality of life are compromised by the massive polluting industries operating next door to houses, parks and schools. Barrio Logan has high rates of asthma hospitalization; a level three times the County's average. The intermingling of industries and neighborhoods is clearly not the safiest nor healthiest for children and families, and this is exactly why Alternative 1 was born.

Kids Playing Outside 1

Alternative 1 is the community proposed alternative to the Barrio Logan Community Plan Update to address the environmental injustice placed in our neighborhood. While toxic industries impact the community wellbeing, this plan does not propose to kick them out but to designate a heavy industrial zone away from homes and schools. 

Alternative 1 also recommends:

  • Clear separation of industrial and residential zones
  • Small scale development from residential to commercial
  • Sustainable development
  • Development of maritime supporting business
  • An exclusive, heavy industrial area
  • A parking structure that will serve the workers at the working waterfront
  • Most importantly: A safe place to live, work and play

For five-years, the City of San Diego has facilitated a community-involved process to update to the Barrio Logan community plan, which the City Council will hear on September 17th. From that process came Alternative 1, and the future of Barrio Logan will be determined by a vote.

But we, the community, can make our voice heard before City Council votes. We strongly urge supporters to sign our letter in support of Alternative 1. This plan was supported by the majority of the stakeholders of the community plan update, as well as a unanimous support by the Planning Commission.

David Alvarez Alternative 1

Why should the rest of San Diego care? 

Because these are mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, aunts, uncles and best friends just asking to live in a toxic-free neighborhood - something most communities never have to experience or fight for. Think about how much you love your clean air, nice parks and safe streets. What would you want for your mothers, fathers, daughters, sons and best friends?

You can watch Georgette Gomez, associate director of toxic-free neighborhoods, speak more about Alternative 1 here.

salsa

The answer may be yes. A recent study revealed four popular brands of salsa contain unsafe levels of lead. 

The four salsas to avoid are:

El Pato Salsa Picante
Salsa Habanera
Salsa Picante de Chile Habanero
Bufalo Salsa Clasica

The FDA is working with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) to determine a standard for lead in salsas. UNLV has been one of our strongest allies in the lead in candy battle.

In the meantime, avoid eating these salsas. Our Latino community, including children, eat El Pato Salsa Picante in chilaquiles and enchiladas and Bufalo Salsa Clasica with popcorn and snacks.

Remember to pay attention when buying salsa and avoid these four. EHC will post updates to help keep you, your children and your family safe from lead-poisoning.  

Read more about lead in salsa here.