port sunsetThe Port of San Diego and the UT both released stories recently about the Port’s dramatically reduced air pollution and greenhouse gases from its operations between 2006 and 2012. And it is good news for our climate, for the region as a whole, and for the workers at the Port terminals and the residents of neighborhoods immediately downwind, such as Barrio Logan and west National City. While we join the Port in welcoming the downward trend in emissions, we must offer some additional perspectives and a note of caution.

1. Port Operations are a small piece of the emissions pie along San Diego Bay.

The Port’s report covers only the emissions from Port operations themselves. The Port is not tracking emissions from their tenants, such as the shipyards or other waterfront industries, nor from the airport or the Navy.

Why is that important? While the Port manages operations within some of the operations along San Diego Bay, including the cargo terminals in San Diego and National City, the Port leases 66 percent of the land (not including the airport and the Navy) to a variety of tenants, including shipbuilding and repair companies, a gas turbine manufacturer, several large hotels, restaurants and retail shops. Port operations are a small portion of emissions compared to those of its tenants, not to mention the airport and Navy. For example, one Port tenant--General Dynamics-NASSCO-- was the single largest air pollution emitter in the U.S. EPA’s most recent Toxic Release Inventory, the federal right-to-know law.

A full and transparent accounting of the air quality impact of the Port must include the emissions of all businesses along the bay. The lungs of people downwind do not distinguish between the pollutants from Port operations and those of Port tenants.

2. “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Some portion of the drop in Port air emissions was due to the severe economic recession of 2008, which reduced both cruise and cargo ship traffic for several years. The Port’s report acknowledges this impact, but not the concerning corollary-- as the economy picks up again, emissions will rise. New growth at the Port’s cargo and cruise terminals must be accompanied by new investment in clean technologies, such as electrification of diesel emission sources. Workers and downwind residents should not subsidize economic growth with their health.

3. Requirements are more effective than asking nicely.Port sid voorakkara and rafael castellanos for port commission

State and federal regulations drove a large part of the emission reductions as well. California Air Resources Board laws that were adopted or went into effect since 2006 forced reductions in emissions of ships and trucks visiting California terminals by requiring trucks to use cleaner emissions technologies and ships to use electricity, rather than diesel engines, while docked at shore. The Port, to its credit, made California’s port truck rule (Drayage Truck Rule) more effective by banning noncompliant trucks from cargo terminals starting in 2011.

Regulations work far more effectively than voluntary programs. The Port, the State, and local governments should learn from this and keep implementing more requirements to reduce emissions and use cleaner technologies, for the sake of our health and our future.

Low-income communities of color have long struggled with racist land use policies and practices that diminish their health, safety and quality of life, resulting in incompatible community development due to the permitting of industrial facilities next to homes, schools and open spaces. At the root of this all-too-common pattern are discriminatory land use regulations, such as zoning, that do not protect the community's health.

The community of Barrio Logan, one of San Diego's oldest neighborhoods, currently contains an unhealthy mix of homes, schools, and industries, turning it into a microcosm of environmental racism, including:

  • A community of color created by racially discriminatory real estate covenants
  • Encroachment of industry into residential areas
  • Destructive effects of highways and bridges
  • Failure of government to provide services, provide protective zoning, and keep their promises, and ultimately
  • The conversion of a once vibrant community into a land of junkyards, poverty, and substandard housing


Much of this transformation took place from the 1920s to 1950s, but the community was physically torn apart in the 60s. In 1963, Interstate 5 was built through the middle of Logan Heights – the area to the northeast of the freeway retained the name of Logan Heights, while the area to the southwest became known as Barrio Logan. In 1967, the Coronado Bridge was built over the new community, dissecting the new area of Barrio Logan. Thousands of homes were destroyed and families displaced by these events.

This period also sparked the birth of San Diego Chicano Park. The land that was promised as a park under the bridge was instead to be turned into a highway patrol station but people revolted. Eventually Chicano Park was created, an iconic area now home to world-famous murals. A free health clinic was also established, many of the junkyards were eliminated and in 1978 the Barrio Logan/Harbor 101 Community Plan was adopted.

Since 1978, this neighborhood has not seen a community plan update, making it the most outdated community plan in San Diego. Imagine for a moment the changes in your community since the late 70s; the technology, innovations and new businesses that have come to be. Then think about your neighborhood. Do you have metal-plating industries on your street? How about petroleum distributers or major metal recyclers?

Barrio Logan suffers from the outdated land-use zoning in its current 1978 community plan which allows polluting industries to operate across the street and next to homes, schools, and parks. Without areas designated for commercial, homes and industries, the residents of Barrio Logan continue breathing the toxic fumes of the factories next door and children visit the emergency room three times more than the counties average due to asthma incidents.

yesbccouncilEnvironmental Health Coalition (EHC) along with community residents have fought for decades for a new community plan and zoning in the community, spending the last five years coming together to develop a new, healthier plan that works for residents and businesses. In October of 2013 the San Diego City Council approved the plan but after billion-dollar, out-of-state corporations launched a referendum to mislead San Diego voters, which resulted in placing the new adopted plan to a citywide vote. In June of 2014 the Barrio Logan community plan was overturned by citywide voters, but more than 75 percent of voters surrounding the Barrio Logan community supported the plan, making a strong and clear statement that Barrio Logan wants a healthy and safe neighborhood.

yesbcggWith our ever-growing community voice, we know Barrio Logan will earn a new community plan to make the neighborhood a healthy, safe place for families to thrive and grow just like the rest of San Diego. Until then, we continue to stand up for what we know every community deserves: environmental justice and a toxic-free future.

If you are interested in learning more about getting involved in your region's community planning, check out our inspirational video that empowers real people to become leaders for health and justice in their communities just the way EHC community members have. The video shows impacts of toxic pollution and discriminatory land-use policies in ways that anyone can understand, empowering everyone to become involved in planning and policymaking. You can sign in and watch the video here.


Did you know its National Lead-Poisoning Prevention Week? EHC works to ensure our communities understand the hazards of lead poisoning and what you can do to prevent children from becoming sick.

Lead is a dangerous metal, harmful to developing brains and responsible for irreversible developmental problems. Lead can be most commonly found in the lead-based paint and paint chips from homes built before 1979. Children may get sick by breathing or ingesting dust from this paint as it deteriorates over time.

Not too long ago, lead was present in many of our favorite candies. Environmental Health Coalition, the California Attorney General's Office and partners spearheaded the early 2000s movement to regulate lead levels in candy. After a thorough investigation, lawsuit and a statewide law, California now requires candy manufacturers operate within strict legal standards and undergo regular audits to ensure compliance. As a result, candy sold in stores today has been tested for lead levels and certified as lead free.

Most children with lead poisoning do not look or act sick, which is why it's important to get a blood-lead test every year until age six. It is also important for pregnant mother’s to get their blood-lead levels tested. The test only requires a finger prick and offers results in less than three minutes. You can find information on the next free blood-lead testing here.

Please explore our website to learn more about lead poisoning in children and read our frequently asked questions about lead-free candy to learn how to keep your family healthy and safe.

If you think your home may have lead-based paint, you may be eligible to have it tested and remediated for free. Call our community organizer at (619) 474-0220 ext. 141 for more information.


After more than ten years of community struggle, Barrio Logan residents and Environmental Health Coalition celebrated a monumental victory for public health as the owner of Master Plating agreed to stop operating by October 15, 2002 through a settlement agreement that requires a complete clean-up.

Master Plating 12


Master Plating was a decorative chrome plater operating in extremely close proximity to families and homes. Responding to community demands state and county officials conducted air monitoring that showed levels of chromium 6 detected near the plating company 28 times higher than typical urban areas. Chromium 6 is a toxic air pollutant that can increase the risk of cancer even at very low levels. The highest levels were found in the front and back of the Martinez family residence, located next door to Master Plating.

Master Plating had over 150 violations of environmental health rules in a five year period and pleaded no contest to illegal disposal of hazardous waste in the storm drain and trash in 1994.

Master Plating 13NEXT:

In 2002, the City of San Diego acknowledged the need for a new community plan in Barrio Logan. There are dozens of facilities like Master Plating in Barrio Logan, and the health of local residents can't wait for problems to be addressed one by one. The problem must be addressed from a broader perspective and the closure of Master Plating should be a kickoff to this process.


  • Environmental Health Coalition – a nonprofit organization fighting toxic pollution in underserved communities in San Diego and Tijuana
  • Barrio Logan community members
  • Master Plating


Newton Ave, Barrio Logan – within several feet of homes


September, 2002 after more than ten years of community advocacy.

This morning I had the pleasure of joining doctors, nurses and healthcare advocates at the UCSD Medical Center to publicly announce their endorsement of the Yes on B & C campaign to protect children's health in San Diego and uphold the Barrio Logan community plan update. 

press conference 1

In the first public media appearance by the campaign, the healthcare professionals reflected on Earth Day and the environmental health effects of polluting businesses next to schools, playgrounds and residences that threaten environmental health and justice in San Diego.

I had the chance to speak, announcing that kids in Barrio Logan have the same right to clean air and healthy neighborhoods as every other community in San Diego and the entire city should support Propositions B & C - to protect all of our childrens' health. 

For those of you who may not know, children and families have felt the effects of poor land-use policies since the Barrio Logan communtiy plan was last updated in 1978 and this update gives the community a new chance at having healthy communities by desgnating specific zones for homes, business and industry. This morning's attendees all agreed that the current, incompatible and polluting land-use policies in Barrio Logan must be changed to reverse the trend of unhealthy air causing high asthma rates among our kids.

"The asthma trends affecting Barrio Logan's children are clearly documented," said Dr. Martin Stein, MD Pediatrician. "If Yes on B & C and Barrio Logan's plan isn't upheld, the families there will continue to suffer from a lack of healthy air that sends kids to emergency rooms three times as often as the rest of our county."

press conference 4Barrio Logan is one of many communities in San Diego working on updating outdated community plans to improve neighborhood health, economic development and overall quality of life. There is concern that if Propositions B & C are defeated and the Barrio Logan Plan is repealed, a dangerous precedent could be set, threatening community planning and healthy neighborhoods across the city.

"This isn't a just a threat to Barrio Logan," said Michael Jackson, RN, UCSD Medical Center ER nurse. "If B & C don't pass, we could see children's health in peril all over San Diego."

Voting "Yes" on B & C will uphold the community's plan to keep toxics, pollutants, carcinogens, and flammable chemicals, a safe distance away from schools, playgrounds and homes and increases jobs in our city. Protect our children's health and vote "Yes" on B & C! To learn more, visit www.yesonbandc.com.

Thank you for your continued support for children's healh and Barrio Logan's right to toxic-free air.  

- Georgette Gomez