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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)

Since 1980, Environmental Health Coalition has defended the right to live in healthy and sustainable communities. We empower people, organize communities and achieve justice.

Through leadership development, organizing and advocacy, EHC improves the health of children, families, neighborhoods and the natural environment in the San Diego/Tijuana region.

The cumulative impacts of environmental, social, political and economic vulnerabilities that affect the quality of life in our communities inspires our work. We focus on climate justice, healthy kids, border environmental justice, leadership development, voter empowerment and toxic-free neighborhoods because we believe in the right of everyone to live, work and play in a healthy community.

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.


Las comunidades de color y escasos recursos deben ser líderes en lo que respecta a soluciones ante el cambio climático, ya que, si bien es cierto que éste nos afecta a todos, las comunidades de escasos recursos son las que sufren los primeros y peores impactos.

Científicos climáticos locales pronostican cambios importantes en la región de San Diego, entre ellos calores extremos, sequía, escasez de agua, incendios naturales, contaminación atmosférica y elevación del nivel del mar. Los efectos del cambio climático se magnifican en barrios de escasos recursos como Barrio Logan, City Heights y National City debido a que es en estas comunidades en las que se encuentran ubicadas las principales fuentes de contaminación. Sus habitantes asimismo enfrentan industrias contaminantes, infraestructura inadecuada, limitadas alternativas de transporte y pocas oportunidades económicas.

En 2015, el Ayuntamiento de San Diego adoptó un Plan de Acción Climática cuyo fin es reducir la contaminación en dicha ciudad durante los próximos 50 años. EHC trabajó arduamente en vigilar que este plan priorizara la equidad social.

EHC vigila que nuestras comunidades participen plenamente en desarrollo de políticas y en abogacía para reducir la contaminación atmosférica, mejorar las alternativas de transporte y lograr que se beneficien de la transición hacia prácticas energéticas limpias y eficientes. Nuestra labor para fomentar dichos cambios se realiza en apego a nuestros principios rectores.

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

Los niños de nuestras comunidades merecen hogares saludables donde crecer sin estar expuestos a plomo y otras sustancias químicas tóxicas.

  • Los ataques de asma que requieren hospitalización y las visitas a salas de urgencia son hasta tres veces mayores en niños que viven en comunidades con niveles elevados de contaminación atmosférica
  • Muchas de las viviendas en comunidades de escasos recursos se construyeron antes de 1979 y aún tienen pintura a base de plomo
  • Hace más de 15 años, padres de familia comenzaron a reportar que sus hijos se estaban enfermando tras consumir dulces que posteriormente se descubrió contenían elevados niveles de plomo

La labor de la Campaña Niños Saludables de EHC es reducir o eliminar los riesgos ambientales a la salud infantil y fomentar viviendas y comunidades seguras, saludables, accesibles y asequibles.

Le invitamos a seguir estos vínculos para conocer más acerca de Niñez y Tóxicos, Prevención de Intoxicación Infantil por Plomo y Dulces Libres de Plomo.

Las comunidades de color y escasos recursos han sufrido por mucho tiempo por prácticas racistas de uso de suelo que merman su salud, seguridad y calidad de vida.

Tóxicas combinaciones de desarrollos industriales, autopistas y rutas de camiones de carga se concentran en barrios de escasos recursos, entremezclados con hogares y escuelas. El trasfondo de este patrón que vemos con demasiada frecuencia son normas discriminatorias de uso de suelo que no protegen la salud de la comunidad.

La manera en que se planifican nuestros barrios—o en que se les abandona al descuido por falta de planificación—determina los niveles de contaminación atmosférica y la concentración de industrias tóxicas con los que tienen que vivir los habitantes. Por otra parte, las comunidades de color y escasos recursos viven una carencia de vivienda asequible y un limitado acceso a transporte público, espacio abiertos y alimentos sanos. La justicia ambiental existirá solo cuando se trate a todas las comunidades por igual.

La diligencia de nuestros y nuestras dedicadas(os) líderes han dado como resultado triunfos monumentales en materia de justicia ambiental, entre ellos:

Nadie tiene mayor derecho de determinar el futuro de una comunidad que sus propios habitantes. El Modelo de Cambio Social para la Justicia materializa esta creencia. Al empoderar a los integrantes de la comunidad mediante desarrollo de liderazgo, organización comunitaria y esfuerzos de abogacía colectivos, ellos(as) se convierten en líderes comunitarios a quienes nos sumamos en abogar por comunidades saludables, hogares saludables y entornos naturales tanto limpios como seguros, laborando hacia la meta final de lograr justicia social y ambiental.

Under California law, all municipalities are required to complete General Plans that provide a blueprint for a long-range vision for cities. EHC successfully advocated for an Environmental Health and Justice element in the National City General Plan and a buffer zone between polluters and homes/schools in the Chula Vista General Plan – both firsts in the state. State law does not require the completion of community, area and specific plans, but when executed they apply General Plan standards to a specific geographic area to enable communities to determine the density, building height, zoning and amenities for their neighborhoods.

EHC’s community-driven planning efforts have focused on these plans because they offer the opportunity for self-determination for residents and enable residents to be proactive rather than reactive to inappropriate development proposals. The process also represents a holistic strategy for a community to engage in planning. It may allow residents, perhaps for the first time, to envision their community using their values and aspirations, not the developer’s or the city councilmember’s.

EHC currently works on community-driven land-use planning in Barrio Logan, City Heights and Sherman/Logan Heights in the City of San Diego, and in National City.

In each community, the underlying process is the same.

Building Community Power

BarrioLoganCommunityPlanningAuthentic community involvement in every aspect of community planning and visioning leads to better outcomes that respect neighborhoods and their residents. EHC’s core strategies for all our efforts include community organizing and policy advocacy, which we combine with grassroots leadership development, research and communications to implement each strategic plan. To ensure that the community’s voice is heard, EHC employs the following tactics:

  • Community Action Teams
    In each community, EHC establishes a Community Action Team comprising residents trained as EHC leaders. These leaders develop the community vision and priorities that direct our efforts. They serve as spokespersons for the campaign at meetings with elected officials and government agency representatives and on various planning committees established to oversee plan development.

    José Medina, National City resident since 1969 and EHC leader, expressed his hopes for the Old Town National City Specific Plan when he said: “The plan will allow me to see the neighborhood change into something I remember when I was a boy, when a lot of residents were connecting with each other. In the mid-80s it changed for the worse – I saw houses flattened and autobody shops moved in.”
  • Leadership Training— SALTA (Salud Ambiental Líderes Tomando Acción -- Environmental Health, Leaders Taking Action)
    All EHC leaders complete an eight-session Core SALTA training program providing them with skills and knowledge to become effective advocates and community organizers. A five-session mini-SALTA focusing on land use also provides training on redevelopment, zoning, and affordable housing, plus air quality, contaminated site cleanup, reducing industrial pollution, and sustainable building, including green building materials and renewable energy options.

  • Conducting Community Surveys
    EHC Leaders commit to understanding the priorities of their neighbors and representing those needs when developing EHC platforms and positions. They utilize community surveying as a method for collecting and documenting these needs. In National City, for example, leaders surveyed residents and found that the highest priorities included development of affordable housing, relocation of auto body shops and changing zoning to prohibit incompatible mixed-use. These community priorities were incorporated into the community plan.

  • Community Visioning
    Once aware of the impact and importance of community planning EHC leaders in both Barrio Logan and Old Town National City elected to develop their own neighborhood vision. EHC raised funds to employ a land-use planning firm to work with residents to develop detailed plans with zoning changes, volume and affordability levels of new housing units, identification of industries for relocation, park acreage, school requirements and more. Barrio Logan’s community plan—one of the City of San Diego’s oldest—had not been updated since 1978. After years of promises and delays, residents took planning into their own hands. This resulted in the Barrio Logan Vision, now endorsed by over 1,000 area residents, community organizations and local businesses. EHC then secured $1.5 million from a neighboring downtown development agency for the City to update and revise the official Barrio Logan Community Plan, a process starting in early 2008. EHC pushes for the community plan update to be consistent with the Barrio Logan Vision.

    Hilda Valenzuela, EHC leader and Barrio Logan resident, expressed her excitement about the start of the planning process: “I hope with the Community Plan Update process we can resolve the problems sooner – improve affordable housing, have a healthier environment for children and a better place to live.”

Ensure Healthy Neighborhoods

For many years, EHC has promoted pollution prevention and the precautionary principle as the best way to prevent toxic exposure for community residents and workers. Communities subjected to toxic exposure due to discriminatory zoning need to take action to protect themselves and create separation between residential and industrial land uses. They must also ensure that industrial businesses adopt and implement the most up-to-date technology.

  • Buffer Zones
    EHC proposed the Toxic-Free Neighborhoods Ordinance in the City of San Diego in 1990, which would have required a buffer between industries using or emitting hazardous materials and residences, schools, and day care centers. Local polluters spent thousands of dollars lobbying against the ordinance and ultimately defeated it. Without an ordinance, EHC targeted polluters that chronically violated the law. Master Plating fit the bill with over 150 violations on the books. Community organizing efforts compelled the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and local government to take action resulting in Master Plating’s shutdown in 2002. CARB’s monitoring revealed a cancer risk four times higher than a "typical urban area" due to hexavalent chromium emissions. As a result of this local action, CARB developed the Air Quality and Land Use Handbook in 2005 that recommended buffers for many polluters for the first time in state or local regulatory history. The recommended buffer for chrome platers is 1,000 feet. The distance between Master Plating and the house next door was 4 feet. The guidance document also recommends separation of housing and major roadways, which presents difficulties with "transit-oriented development" that may encourage development very near freeways.

    Elvia Martinez, Master Plating’s next door neighbor and EHC leader, said: “This is the way it’s supposed to work…when a community works together to make its neighborhood a better place to live.”

  • Zoning
    Community plans can include zoning ordinances that determine where industrial, commercial and residential areas can be located. "Mixed-use" zoning that allows free uses in the same area plagues Barrio Logan and National City. EHC seeks specific zoning designations in the new community plans that separate industrial areas from residential areas and remove incompatible mixed-use zoning.

  • Polluter Relocation and Removal
    Rules that prohibit new sensitive uses near pollution sources help, but to restore residential neighborhoods and make them healthy places to live, polluters adjacent to homes and schools must be relocated. EHC has pursued several tactics to accomplish this. In National City, the City Council adopted an amortization ordinance that will phase out industries currently allowed to operate near sensitive uses such as schools. The ordinance sets up a process for relocation of prioritized industries when the amortization period is triggered.

Nadie conoce la lucha de vivir con contaminación tóxica como la gente que enfrenta este reto todos los días de su vida. “Hablamos por nosotros mismos” es el principio para cuyo logro labora EHC a través de nuestro programa de desarrollo de liderazgo, el cual vela porque los afectados tengan la oportunidad que merecen de elevar sus propias voces y exigir cambio.

El desarrollo de liderazgo es esencial para alcanzar el éxito y es una de tres estrategias rectoras del Modelo de Cambio Social para la Justicia de EHC, y que permite que el poder de la base se guie hacia nuestras metas.

El curso de liderazgo estandarte de EHC, SALTA (Salud Ambiental, Líderes Tomando Acción), se imparte a todos y todas las(los) líderes de EHC que forman parte de nuestros Equipos de Acción Comunitaria. En 2017, SALTA celebro su vigésimo aniversario junto con más de 2,500 líderes locales que participaron en el mismo. EHC recientemente organizó su exitoso curso de capacitación para ofrecerlo en línea como un programa interactivo de desarrollo de liderazgo a fin de permitir a líderes de todos los rincones del mundo adquirir las habilidades y experiencia necesarios para lograr la justicia ambiental en sus propias comunidades.

Para líderes apasionados por transformar sus barrios, nuestro Video y programa de capacitación Barrios Saludables: Planeación Comunitaria para Superar la Injustica utiliza ejemplos verídicos y casos de estudio para ilustrar que cualquier persona puede convertirse en activista y defensor de la justicia social y ambiental a través de la planeación comunitaria.

Toda comunidad ubicada en una frontera internacional tiene el gran privilegio y la gran responsabilidad de superar los límites políticos y fusionar a dos culturas en una singular forma de vivir. La Campaña Fronteriza Pro Justicia Ambiental labora en reducir la contaminación tóxica que genera la industria maquiladora en Tijuana y fomentar un comercio internacional y una globalización justos.

Nuestra participación en la región fronteriza inició en 1983 con nuestro copatrocinio de una Conferencia Ambiental Internacional en Tijuana. Nuestras relaciones transfronterizas continuaron fortaleciéndose en torno a una diversidad de temas de justicia social y ambiental. En 1993, creamos nuestra Campaña Fronteriza Pro Justicia Ambiental en aras de impedir la suscripción del Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del Norte, en reconocimiento de la devastación que ocasiona el comercio injusto a lo largo de la frontera.

Nuestro Equipo de Acción Comunitaria en Tijuana, el Colectivo Chilpancingo Pro Justicia Ambiental, inauguró las oficinas de EHC en la Colonia Chilpancingo en 2002 con la finalidad de apoyar a habitantes de la localidad comprometidas con la lucha por la justicia ambiental a lo largo de la franja fronteriza mexicana.

Le invitamos a ver los videos y leer más acerca de los históricos esfuerzos de éxito de EHC, entre ellos:

leadbundlesCon la globalización corporativa, el comercio y la contaminación han aumentado a lo largo de la frontera de Estados Unidos y México. Tratados como el TLCAN fallan en responsabilizar a las corporaciones contaminadoras o en proporcionar recursos para la protección ambiental.

De los 66 casos registrados como sitios de deshechos tóxicos en los estados mexicanos fronterizos, el más infame es el de Metales y Derivados en Tijuana, una fábrica maquiladora estadounidense que reciclaba baterías importadas de los Estados Unidos. El propietario, José Kahn, huyó al otro lado de la frontera en 1994 cuando debido a reportes de la comunidad de problemas de salud, y repetidas violaciones a la ley medio ambiental registradas por el gobierno mexicano, se clausuró la maquiladora. El Sr. Khan dejó 23,000 toneladas de deshechos tóxicos mezclados, incluyendo 7,000 toneladas de escoria de plomo, exponiendo a la intemperie y a los trabajadores y familias de la colonia Chilpancingo de Tijuana.

La EHC y la comunidad llevaron acabo una campaña por más de una década para obligar una limpieza. En 1998, la EHC y la comunidad presentaron una petición ciudadana con la agencia ambiental del TLCAN, la Comisión para la Cooperación Ambiental.
El reporte de la comisión, publicado en 2002, concluyó que el sitio representaba un "grave riesgo a la salud humana." Sin embargo, la comisión no tiene la autoridad ni los recursos para limpiar sitios tóxicos. Después de más de una década de organización y abogacía, en 2004 la EHC y la comunidad celebraron junto con el gobierno mexicano la firma del acuerdo histórico para la limpieza, y formaron un grupo binacional de trabajo compuesto de comunidad y gobierno. La limpieza concluyó en 2008, antes de la fecha programada, e incluyó monitoreo independiente por parte de la comunidad. (Descargue la cronología completa de la limpieza.)

Metales y Derivados es el caso emblemático del fracaso del TLCAN de cumplir con la promesa de sus negociadores de proteger la salud pública y el medio ambiente. Sin embargo, Metales y Derivados simboliza la justicia ambiental que se logró. El caso estableció por primera vez la estructura transfronteriza y colaboración entre gobierno y comunidad en las limpiezas de sitios tóxicos, y no hubiese sido posible sin estos individuos y organizaciones quienes contribuyeron al esfuerzo.