Located in San Diego County’s second oldest city, Old Town National City remains a primarily low-income Latino neighborhood with evolving surroundings. Over the past 50 years, the community has changed from a mainly residential neighborhood to a mixture of auto-related businesses located around schools and homes. Auto-body shops in residential neighborhoods burden the health of the community by emitting toxic pollution into the air we breathe.

In 2005, our community decided to combat conflicting land use and bring health back to the community with a vision for a vibrant and toxic-free neighborhood. Our plans included affordable housing within walking distance of a transit center, construction that wouldn’t damage Paradise Creek and a healthy community park to replace polluted grounds.


After 11 years, the community’s vision has become a reality. Today, if you walk by the 24th blue line trolley station on 22nd street in National City, you will see 201 affordable Paradise Creek Apartment Homes under construction by Community Housing Works and Related California. Most recently, the project was awarded $9.2 million by the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Grant through California’s Cap-and-Trade program, which you can learn more about here. The first phase of construction will be completed in 2016 and 109 families will move into homes in December 2016.

This project, spearheaded by the community voice, has received recognition across the country including a national award from the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Most importantly, the Paradise Creek Apartments set a precedent for low-income communities nationwide. National City neighbors identified the community’s needs and remained involved every step of the way.

Now, it’s your turn. Learn to become a leader in your community and make your voice heard to build a better environment to live, work and play in, because everyone deserves a healthy neighborhood.

By: Carolina Martinez, policy advocate at Environmental Health Coalition

As part of a master plan for developing the Chula Vista Bayfront, the Port of San Diego recently approved the Chula Vista Natural Resources Management Plan. This is the latest milestone in a community planning process that has been ongoing for at least two decades.

The plan is intended to protect and enhance fish and wildlife populations and habitats through environmental protection measures applicable to all development within the Chula Vista Bayfront project area.

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Laura Hunter, longtime EHC policy advocate, served as chair of the wildlife advisory group that sheparded the plan to completion.

“This is a historic agreement for the region that will guide us as we seek to improve the Chula Vista Bayfront with more recreation and economic opportunity while protecting the birds, fish, plants and animals that live here and that people love so much," she said.

Ash Israni, chairman of Pacific Companies and one of the major developers for the Bayfront Project, agreed. “It’s amazing to be in the position once again to speak in support of an element of a plan that began as a large scale development proposal with powerful public opposition," he commented. "This is now a model for collaboration and conflict resolution."

After decades of work, this victory is a tremendous step toward protecting the environmental health of the Chula Vista Bayfront, and all the plants, animals and wildlife that depend on it.

On April 14, 2016, the Port of San Diego unanimously voted to approve a new plan for National City Terminal – including the 2.5-acre expansion of Pepper Park.

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The new plan resulted from unprecedented compromises between the City of National City, the Port of San Diego and community members. It was EHC’s policy advocate, Carolina Martinez, who opened the Port’s eyes to an inconvenient truth - the public amenities sought by the City for the bayfront were not what the residents of National City needed.

The City prizes hotels, restaurants, marinas and other tourist-serving commercial businesses that bring in revenue. While National City needs revenue, not many National City residents own boats, stay in hotels on their own waterfront or eat at pricey restaurants.

What residents do need is open, public park space where kids can play. A level, grassy area for pick-up softball and soccer games. Perhaps even a water feature – given that the bay itself and Sweetwater Channel are not safe or accessible for swimming.

Carolina and National City residents like Margarita Garcia, Leonor Garcia and Lorena Chavez impressed the Port with these realities. It responded by creating several options for redevelopment of the terminal that included more park space. Residents turned out to Port-led workshops in January of 2016 to advocate for the configurations that produced contiguous, usable park space. The new plan will provide 2.5 more acres for exactly these kinds of uses.

The decision to expand Pepper Park is a win for public participation, public health and environmental justice. EHC members from National City have fought for years for this greatly needed community improvement. This victory belongs to them.

Yesterday, National City broke ground on 201 Paradise Creek affordable housing units. This development, nationally recognized for being transit-oriented and sustainable, is a perfect example of what can happen when residents come together and get involved in the planning of their communities.

Thank you to the City of National City and the developers, Related and Community Housing Works, as well as the many other partners and people that came together to make the community's vision a reality. 

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To learn more about what this development means to the community, please click here. For more information on National City, please click here

Our annual BarrioLive! tour and mixer brought together community members and local leaders who care about #healthyhoods. The guided bus tour showed participants the problems, solutions and progress in our communities first hand.

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We stopped in Old Town National City at Kimball Elementary; the school located near two of the most polluting businesses in the the community. Today, the businesses have relocated safely away from homes and schools and the children of National City breathe cleaner air when they walk to school and play outside at recess.

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We made another important stop in Old Town National City at Paradise Creek. After ten years, on November 17, 2015, the Paradise Creek Affordable Housing Units finally broke ground. These units, once completed, will be the first transit-oriented, sustainability award winning affordable housing development in the community.

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For our last stop, we visited Chicano Park in the heart of Barrio Logan. Residents in the community have turned space underneath the freeways into an artistic expression of the community's history. Today, the park is home to vibrant murals representative of Barrio Logan's rich culture and has been recorded in the National Register of Historic Places.

The tour ended at Border X Brewing where we enjoyed appetizers, craft beer and friends new and old. 

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Thank you to everyone who attended BarrioLive! We feel grateful to know and work with people who as enthusiastic about climate justice and #healthyhoods for all as you.