In its April 16 UT Editorial, "The real polluters of Barrio Logan," UT San Diego has conveniently drawn data selectively from the Barrio Logan Community Plan environmental analysis, creating a falsified scapegoat for toxic businesses to hide behind. Instead of sticking up for San Diego's children and the opportunity to provide a better life, the UT is promoting bogus claims.

Barrio Logan view from FJV

One of San Diego's busiest freeways, I-5, runs through the neighborhood and industrial shipyards surround the community. Within the boundaries of Barrio Logan, auto body and plating shops operate next door to homes and schools. We know the pollution is a combination of all of these, but we cannot move I-5 or the shipyards.

So, instead of giving up and feeling helpless, the residents of Barrio Logan, the City of San Diego and key stakeholders—including industry— took five years to consider all points of view and generate an all-around solution that can change conditions in the community - better land-use zoning, currently an outdated mess created in 1978.

The new community plan re-zones Barrio Logan so residents and polluting businesses can both operate safely. The buffer zone separates the neighborhood from the heavy industries and shipyards while the rezoning establishes industrial, commercial and residential areas within the community.

The Barrio Logan community plan is not a perfect solution to decades of neglect and discriminatory land-use practices. For right now, this is the first step toward moving families and children away from the polluting industry next door. A YES vote on propositions B and C allows the neighborhood to take that first step.

The major industrial sources of pollution, the shipyards, should act now to reduce pollution they allege to be concerned about, instead of fighting every proposed change for decades – not just in Barrio Logan, but also cleaning up San Diego Bay, rerouting diesel trucks and using less-toxic chemicals. There is no argument that there is much more work needed to clean up Barrio Logan. For now, YES on B and C is the immediate answer.

Georgette Gomez
Environmental Health Coalition

Wow. Our 2014 Awards Celebration: Victory for Healthy Communities, presented by Pacifica Companies, simply knocked the ball out of the park.

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With friends, neighbors, allies, fellow advocates, business owners, sponsors and elected officials, we came together on Thursday, April 10, 2014, and had an incredible night of laughter, good food, award presentations and of course, selfies.

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Click here to view our full gallery of event photos.

Nearly 300 folks spent their Thursday evening supporting EHC and helping us recognize the incredible work done by our #healthyhoods heroes. These heroes include:

Spirit of Justice Award: Ruth Heifetz, EHC founding board member and senior lecturer at UCSD School of Medicine; For a lifetime of dedication to raising awareness among students, professionals, workers and residents to the hazards of toxic pollution.

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Champion Award:

  • Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, City of National City councilwoman; For leadership on the Westside Specific Plan, the implementation of phasing out polluting businesses, adding 201 affordable housing units and more.
  • Lara Gates, plan update manager at the City of San Diego; For stewardship of the Barrio Logan community plan update, enabling all stakeholders to find a just outcome to neighborhood land-use issues.

Community Award:

  • Adriana Alfaro, EHC leader; For years of dedication to improving Old Town National City and tireless work towards achieving environmental justice in the San Diego region.
  • Maria Martinez, EHC leader and promotora; For leading and inspiring community members in Barrio Logan to fight for a healthier neighborhood.
  • The National City and Barrio Logan Community Action Teams; For standing strong as community leaders in National City and Barrio Logan and organizing and empowering other residents to have a voice in the issues effecting their neighborhood.

Using the hashtag #healthyhoods to capture moments for Twitter and Instagram, our guests helped document the evening one selfie at a time. Cumulatively, EHCSanDiego and friends posted close to 150 tweets during the event and got #healthyhoods trending in San Diego; meaning it was the most talked about Twitter subject in San Diego on the evening of April 10. One lucky social media maven even won an EHC t-shirt for tweeting at EHCSanDiego and hashtagging #healthyhoods throughout the event with photos and clever 140-character-or-less phrases.

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Click here to view what all our guests said about #healthyhoods.

Thank you to all our sponsors, including: San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, MAAC, Port of San Diego, the California Endowment, Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, the United Food & Commercial Workers Union and Ryan Brothers Coffee.

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We can't say thank you enough to everyone who joined us to honor the people making healthy and safe communities a possibility for National City, Barrio Logan and all of San Diego. We are humbled and honored to know and work with all of you. See you next year!

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.



Recently, Executive Director Diane Takvorian spoke at the Port of San Diego's launch of Shorepower- a new Port process reducing operational air pollution. 

Shorepower provides a significant reduction in diesel particulate matter (air pollution). This advancement is critically important for Barrio Logan given the staggering asthma rates in children and the overall air pollution.

We know what happens on the working waterfront greatly affects our surrounding communities, and we applaud the Port's actions to reduce pollution. We also recognize City of San Diego's effort through its adoption of the Barrio Logan community plan update

The shipyards should follow the actions of the Port and the City and abandon their efforts to undo the Barrio Logan Plan plan. Instead, they should focus attention on reducing their own air emissions – estimates are that the shipyards alone emit over one ton of diesel particulate pollution and another 175 tons of toxic pollution into the community.

Congratulations to the Port of San Diego, and we look forward to taking more toxic-free steps together.

As a kid growing up in the LA air basin during the smoggy 50s and 60s, I thought of irritated eyes and a sore chest as normal parts of life. The sky on hot summer afternoons was a brownish yellow shade, and the air sometimes made your eyes water. In my later childhood years, I came to view air pollution as a symbol of how radically alienated from nature Southern California life was; as I thought of it in apocalyptic, if poetic, terms, we had poisoned heaven. Later, in college, I learned to think in more analytical, and hopeful, ways -- smog could be analyzed, understood and to a large extent, controlled. The ochre-brown color came from nitrogen oxides; the lung-damaging substance was ozone. Particulates added a hazy quality. It wasn't an amorphous cloud of human failure hanging over our cities, it was a specific set of pollutants with knowable causes and controls. If you increased the fuel efficiency of cars and added on catalytic converters, the air quality got better. And the photochemical smog picture of SoCal actually has improved since the 60s.

Freight Report 3

While ozone levels have improved, California has seen a massive increase in diesel pollution from trucks, trains and ships. As the economy globalized and manufacturing jobs went to lower wage countries (another catastrophe that is not inevitable), goods are shipped here from all over the world, unloaded at California's ports and trucked or shipped by rail all over the US.

Unlike smog, diesel pollution is more concentrated near emission sources, such as ports, freeways and rail yards. These diesel hot spots, as we all know, tend to be located in poorer, people of color communities. The result? More frequent and severe asthma, earlier deaths from heart and lung diseases, more premature and low-birth-weight babies, and maybe more of a wide range of other disorders, including diabetes and autism. Not to mention the safety hazards of heavy duty trucks on narrow surface streets, and the lights, noise and vibrations of massive shipping and warehousing operations.

Freight Report 2A new report released this month by the California Cleaner Freight Coalition (of which EHC is a member) concludes that there are cleaner freight alternatives that go well beyond today's cleanest diesel and natural gas powered trucks to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. For local and short haul trips, using electric transportation powered by a clean electricity grid provides the greatest overall reduction in pollutants, and can eliminate tailpipe emissions in communities where freight movement occurs. For regional trips, moving goods by train and ship can reduce emissions compared to today's cleanest diesel trucks, if the cleanest engine technologies are used. Read the executive summary here, or the full report here. 

So, it's time to move past the idea that diesel is inevitable and the best we can do is to put filters on the trucks. We can start moving now toward zero- or near-zero emission technologies. This is life saving technology, and there's no excuse for delay.

What else isn't inevitable? Readers who are waiting breathlessly for further information about my intellectual development will be relieved to learn that I don't think technology is the whole solution. Belatedly I stumbled onto the idea that things happen because people in power make decisions about them. Bad land use, outsourced jobs, freeways cut through historic communities, distribution centers sited next to schools, all of them in disadvantaged areas – none of these are unplanned, smog-like emanations from our culture. Specific people made specific decisions that led directly to these results. Sure, there is institutional inertia, timid regulators, lack of imagination, laziness and stupidity. But beyond all that, there are decision-makers. In truth, the most important pollution control device is a functioning democracy.


Joy Williams has been the research director for Environmental Health Coalition for nearly thirty years. Find out more about Joy and her work here.