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The unequal burden placed on low-income communities of color resulting from historically discriminatory policies calls for an environmental justice (EJ) analysis of the City of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan (CAP). Start Here, Start Now: An Environmental Justice Assessment of the San Diego Climate Action Plan evaluates implementation progress and recommends immediate and long-term solutions.

Start Here Start NowDivided into six sections, Start Here, Start Now: analyzes the overall allocation of funds to program management and implementation, the CAP’s strategies, and air quality. It is important to highlight that this is a baseline analysis, which includes recommendations to advance equity and data collection necessary to assess progress.

For key findings, please see executive summary.

When cities advance environmental justice, everyone benefits. Through this assessment, it is evident that climate investments need to be measured to demonstrate a clear benefit to EJ communities. The assessment also demonstrates the centrality of mass transportation. Nearly all of the key priorities of the San Diego Climate Action Plan would benefit from significant investments in public transit and active transportation. Transportation Justice – here and now – is the most important message of this report. Vast improvements in transportation will improve air quality, create jobs, increase access to economic opportunity and do more to achieve GHG reductions than any other action.

Download full report here.

What to learn more, support, and get involved:
•Contact Caro Esta dirección de correo electrónico está siendo protegida contra los robots de spam. Necesita tener JavaScript habilitado para poder verlo. or call 619-474-0220 ext 131

climate justice

Low-income communities of color must lead when it comes to climate solutions. The climate crisis is real, is here, and affects us all, but it hits low-income communities of color first and worst. Environmental Justice (EJ) communities are at the center of the issue and we are the solution.

The Climate Justice Working Group defines climate justice as: “ensuring that the people and communities who are least culpable in the warming of the planet, and most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, do not suffer disproportionately as a result of historical injustice and disinvestment”. Unfortunately, the impacts of climate change are disproportionately felt by low-income communities of color, and it is these same communities who “have been kept out of the global processes to address climate change” (Indigenous Environmental Network, North America).1 As a result, Climate Justice affirms the rights of indigenous people and communities most affected by climate change to lead with the solutions. EJ communities represent and speak for themselves.

Climate justice sign

Llesenia Cevallos at the Transportation Justice Poster Making Workshop, 2015

Climate scientists predict significant changes in the San Diego region, like extreme heat, water shortages, drought, increased wild fire intensity and frequency, increased air pollution, sea-level rise and coastal flooding. The effects of climate change hit first and worst in EJ communities such as Barrio Logan, City Heights and National City. The effects are magnified because these neighborhoods house the largest sources of pollution and are already burdened by inadequate infrastructure, limited transportation options, and poor economic opportunities.

EHC’s Climate Justice Campaign works to ensure that the residents of Barrio Logan, City Heights and National City are able to speak for themselves and advance climate policies at the local, regional, state levels.

Campaign Core Elements:

1. Start Here, Star Now: An Environmental Justice Assessment of the San Diego Climate Action Plan. The prioritization of Environmental Justice Communities for climate related investments is key to real climate solutions. When cities advance environmental justice, everyone benefits.
2. Transportation Justice. Transformation of the San Diego region into a mass transit paradise where EJ community residents will not have to own a car to access jobs, go to the doctor, go to school and take care of their basic needs. Mass transit is the way.
3. Energy Democracy. Organizing to ensure investments in renewable energy are achieved for residents of low-income communities of color. Renters want solar too.

1 Indigenous Environmental Network, North America, et al. Bali Principles of Climate Justice (2002)

Homepage rotator transportation justice freeways can waitWe all need to move. How we get from place to place is deeply connected to our quality of life. Unfortunately, not all communities have the same access to healthy, safe, reliable and affordable transportation options, such as public transit and biking and walking paths. That means some people don't have access to the same quality of life, just because of where they live. Transportation justice is the equal access of all people to the transportation they need for a better quality of life.

Start Here. Start Now.
How we move matters, but not all communities have the same access to healthy and safe transportation options.

Public transit in communities south of the I-8 is often unaffordable, inaccessible and inconvenient. For those that don’t travel by car, a trip to the grocery store may require an hour walk on an unsafe sidewalk. Work commutes can be up to two hours longer by transit than they are by car. Improvements in transportation infrastructure must be prioritized for the people that need them most. It’s time that we demand transportation justice.

Transportation Justice Means:

  • Accessibility – Better and more abundant transportation options and increased affordability give community member's greater access to goods, jobs, housing and services.
  • Increased public health and safety – Pollution, along with pedestrian and bicyclist collisions with cars, are reduced through improved infrastructure.
  • Equity in investment and benefits – Investment in transportation for historically underserved communities creates an equal distribution of transportation benefits for all San Diegans.

Complete Streets
Transportation justice begins by transforming streets and public space into safe places to walk, bike and take advantage of comprehensive mass transit and drive. The Complete Streets program encourages the creation of streets not just built for cars, but for all modes of transportation. The program also promotes roundabouts to slow traffic, wide sidewalks to encourage walking and protected bike lanes to separate bicyclists from traffic and streetlights.

Get involved to make your voice heard and ensure transportation justice for all. Esta dirección de correo electrónico está siendo protegida contra los robots de spam. Necesita tener JavaScript habilitado para poder verlo. today: (619) 474-0220.

grid alter pic 2

People in low-income communities struggle with high rates of unemployment and limited economic opportunities. The Green Energy/Green Jobs Campaign advocates for programs and policies that invest in local communities to create career-track jobs and create a new energy economy.

In addition to having the greatest potential to meet our energy needs, {tip Also Known As::In the business, we call this Local Distributed Generation}rooftop solar{/tip} also boosts local jobs. For example, a recent report from UC Berkeley has determined that local distributed resources create three times as many jobs as a “business as usual” renewable energy implementation—mainly centralized plants located outside the load centers.

EHC wants to make certain people living in low income communities can take advantage of these job opportunities.  

Accomplishments include:

  • In 2010 we hosted a two-day energy efficiency training for our staff and allies, including representatives of City Heights Community Development Corporation.  These workers are conducting energy assessments in hundreds of homes in Barrio Logan, Sherman Heights, Logan Heights, City Heights and National City.
  • In all EHC energy efficiency assessment and education programs, we refer eligible families to programs that provide free energy efficiency retrofits.  These energy efficiency retrofit programs are done by nonprofit organizations that have specific energy efficiency job training programs and include the MAAC Project’s Pathways Out Of Poverty, San Diego Urban Corps’ Green Streets, and Grid Alternatives.
  • EHC successfully partnered with San Diego Gas & Electric to provide 1,000 free energy efficiency retrofits for low-income families with work being partially done by the MAAC Project’s Pathways Out Of Poverty program apprentices.
  • Worked with San Diego City Council President Tony Young to create a Green Energy Jobs task force.  
  • In 2011, we influenced the outcomes of SDG&E's Smart Grid Deployment Plan by successfully having them integrate language and policy outcomes that we wanted. These items include:
    • In the Vision Statement: "It is also important to SDG&E that all market segments have access to distributed energy systems, including underserved communities."
    • In the Vision Statement and Roadmap section: "SDG&E has a strong commitment to ensure its workforce reflects the labor markets it serves.   Therefore, as with all of its recruitment strategies, SDG&E will ensure the outreach for all employment opportunities related to Smart Grid is inclusive to all communities."
  • We secured a “local business” preference in their pending release of a RFP for 100MW of solar in San Diego County by SDG&E.  “In weighing different proposals, if two are close in value, the solar developer that agrees to subcontract with a local business and local hire will win the bid.”
  • In 2012, we influenced the California Public Utilities Commission to direct large gas and electric companies, like SDG&E, to do a number of things:
    • Develop a comprehensive Workforce Education and Training (WE&T) program that increases inclusion of disadvantaged workers and connects training with job opportunities.
    • Track WE&T data throughout all efficiency programs, so we learn where the opportunities are for improving inclusion of disadvantaged workers.
    • Fund classes and collaborate with community colleges, adult education programs, & community-based organizations.


Renters need clean energy too. In San Diego, non EJ communities have more than double the residential solar (40 per 1000 residents) compared to EJ communities (18 per 1000 residents).55 We attribute this discrepancy to a variety of barriers making solar installation difficult to access and afford for all people.

San Diego is a “solar star,” but not for environmental justice communities. According to a 2018 report by Environment California, San Diego has the second most solar power capacity among the 69 cities surveyed. Unfortunately, installed solar power does not extend to EJ communities.


The map titled Installed Residential KiloWatts of Solar Power, per 1000 Residents, by Zipcode, City of San Diego, 2017 shows the geography of the number of kilowatts installed per 1,000 residents. The table titled Average Number of Solar Installations per 1000 people includes this metric and the average number of installations broken out by EJ communities, City, and non-EJ communities. Both statistics highlight that residential solar power installation in EJ communities is minimal.

A study done by the California Energy Commission identified barriers and recommendations to bridge the clean energy gap for low-income customers and small business contracting opportunities in disadvantaged communities. The structural barriers identified include low home ownership rates, insufficient access to capital, and aged buildings. The report by the California Energy Commission is an excellent guide to inform the implementation of the San Diego CAP.

Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH)

In 2015, the California Environmental Justice Alliance together with the Center for Sustainable Energy, GRID Alternatives, and the Association for Energy Affordability, with the support of EJ allies like Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) secured passage of California Assembly Bill 693. This legislation provides $1 billion to install solar on multifamily affordable homes in disadvantaged communities across the state.


EHC will build awareness of AB 693 and the need for solar energy in EJ Communities and provide funding application technical support to increase solar deployment on low-income multifamily housing complexes in National City, Barrio Logan, and City Heights, so that they too can benefit from the utility savings from renewable energy and energy efficiency.

What to learn more, support, and get involved:

• Contact Caro Esta dirección de correo electrónico está siendo protegida contra los robots de spam. Necesita tener JavaScript habilitado para poder verlo. or call 619-474-0220 ext 131