Community Advocates Celebrate San Diego's Transportation Plan

San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) passes the most equitable, environmentally just Regional Transportation Plan to date.

Today, SANDAG’s Board of Directors approved the 2021 Regional Plan (RP), which will determine San Diego County’s transportation future for decades to come. The newly passed RTP provides a pathway to modernize San Diego’s transit system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, decrease lung-damaging air pollution, and meet the needs of the low-income communities of color who have been hit hardest by the pandemic.


“The planet is burning and our current transportation system is heavily contributing to the fire, damaging our lungs, and failing the low-income communities of color who depend on it the most,” said Carolina Martinez, Climate Justice Director, Environmental Health Coalition. “93% of San Diego’s low-income residents do not have access to fast and frequent transit and the 2021 Regional Plan provides critical lifelines to change that.”


Led by the San Diego Transportation Equity Working Group, residents at the frontlines of the climate crisis in Barrio Logan, City Heights, and National City identified 10 priorities to improve the transit system- the 10 Transit Lifelines. These lifelines reflect a vision to advance affordable and frequent transit solutions that will benefit all San Diegans. Transportation justice advocates have worked for decades to advance expanded transit with little success until the last few years with the SANDAG reforms instituted by AB 805.


“Throughout the planning process, SANDAG was proactive in including our communities, as a result, the 2021 Regional Plan is the most equitable and solution-driven regional plan to date,” said Diane Takvorian, co-founder and Executive Director, Environmental Health Coalition. “The Regional Plan paves a path to make the 10 Transit Lifelines a reality.”


The 10 Transit Lifelines are:

  1. A Regional Plan that prioritizes environmental justice
  2. Youth opportunity passes
  3. Bus service every 10 minutes
  4. Build a 24-hour Blue Line Express
  5. 24 – hour service
  6. Fund the Purple Line
  7. An all-electric bus fleet by 2030
  8. Anti-displacement strategies
  9. Restroom access
  10. Emergency-ready transit system

“I’ve lost countless moments with my family waiting at bus stops, running to catch the bus, coordinating my life around our inconvenient and unreliable transit system,” said Esperanza Gonzalez, a City Heights Resident who rides the bus to work. “I used my 30 years of experience riding the bus to help develop the 10 Transit Lifelines and it is so encouraging that SANDAG listened to us and passed a regional plan that will improve the lives of working people like me.“


To learn more about Esperanza and the 10 Transit Lifelines, visit





Founded in 1980, Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) builds grassroots campaigns to confront the unjust consequences of toxic pollution, discriminatory land use, and climate change. Visit [] to learn more.


Barrio Logan Finally Gets A Community Plan That Protects Residents

After more than four decades and a devastating industry-led referendum, San Diego City Council approved an update to Barrio Logan’s community plan.


Today, the San Diego City Council voted unanimously to approve a Community Plan Update for Barrio Logan that will prioritize resident’s health, air quality, and culture, while slowing gentrification. This update is more than 40 years in the making. The previous Barrio Logan Community Plan allowed polluting businesses to operate right next to homes and schools.


“Barrio Logan residents have fought for a community plan update since the 1970s,” said Diane Takvorian, Executive Director of the Environmental Health Coalition. “This update is long overdue and will help put an end to the environmental racism residents have faced for generations.”


One of only 14 California Cultural Districts designated by the state, Barrio Logan is one of the most Latino/a/x communities in San Diego and has some of the lowest median income in the City. This vibrant cultural gem also suffers from some of the worst air quality in the State. Polluting highways and industries surround it. These same industries ran a referendum in 2013 that crushed a council-approved update to Barrio Logan’s community plan, which would have separated residential areas from industry.


“I know some neighbors that have asthma, in particular children,” said Barrio Logan resident Elizabeth Chavez speaking in support of the Community Plan Update during the City Council meeting. “With this plan in place, future generations' health won’t be at high risk for developing even worse health issues.” She was one of the more than 20 residents who spoke in support of the plan.


The 2021 Barrio Logan Community Plan Update provides even stronger environmental protections for residents than the 2013 Draft. The new update that the City Council approved will:


  • Put a buffer zone between industrial and residential areas of the neighborhood
  • Promote more green spaces, like parks, and tree canopy
  • Preserve community culture and history
  • Improve walkability and increased opportunities for safe, accessible public transit
  • Require more affordable housing and prevent displacement of residents in new developments


“On top of pollution residents live with daily, they are now threatened by gentrification,” said Julie Corrales, Barrio Logan resident and Policy Advocate at Environmental Health Coalition. “Although this plan provides unprecedented gentrification and displacement protections, the community still needs more. It must be this Council’s most pressing priority in the coming year to adopt an update of the City’s Tenant’s Right to Know Ordinance that will provide more tenant protections.”





Founded in 1980, Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) builds grassroots campaigns to confront the unjust consequences of toxic pollution, discriminatory land use, and climate change. Visit [] to learn more.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, July 16, 2021


Angelica Estrada


Esta dirección de correo electrónico está siendo protegida contra los robots de spam. Necesita tener JavaScript habilitado para poder verlo.


Clean Air Plan Aims to Reduce Cancer Risk for Portside Communities

San Diego Air Pollution Control District adopts ambitious plan to reduce cancer-causing pollution in San Diego’s portside communities.

SAN DIEGO, July 16, 2021 –  A newly reformed and more diverse SDAPCD board distinguished itself on Friday from its predecessors by approving an ambitious public health-centered Community Emission Reduction Plan (CERP). In addition to reducing air pollution, the newly approved plan establishes strategies to decrease the cancer risk for communities neighboring the Port of San Diego. These portside communities - Barrio Logan, Logan Heights, Sherman Heights, and West National City – are exposed to vastly disproportionate amounts of cancer-causing air toxins.

Portside community cancer risks are as follows:

  • According to EPA’s National Air Toxics Assessment, residents in the portside area have a higher risk of developing cancer from air toxins than 93% of the nation.
  • Portside communities are exposed to more diesel particulate matter pollution – which is known to cause cancer – than 95% of California.
  • Diesel pollution causes 84 percent of the cancer risk from air pollution in Barrio Logan and National City communities, according to the California Air Resources Board.

“Many families, including my own, have suffered both physically and financially from health complications due to the air pollution we breathe. My grandfather who lived in Barrio Logan the majority of his life passed away from lung cancer, and my mother has had to undergo two surgeries to address her respiratory problems,” said Maritza Garcia, a third-generation Barrio Logan resident. “The SDAPCD’s vote to approve the Community Emission Reduction Plan (CERP) shows that they are listening to the community and prioritizing our health. We deserve clean air just like everyone else.”

Currently, the San Diego APCD cancer risk reduction threshold is 100 per million, which - along with San Joaquin Valley - is the highest for the five large air districts in California. This means that in the San Diego region each permitted business can emit enough toxic air contaminants to put 100 people in a million at risk of developing cancer. The recently adopted CERP will work to reduce this risk down to 10 people per million people in portside communities by 2026. This is just one of 11 community health-centered goals in the plan.

“The new SD APCD board has shown great leadership and a deep commitment to environmental justice by voting to approve this aspirational CERP,” said Joy Williams, who represents the Environmental Health Coalition on the Portside Community Steering Committee, also known as the AB 617 Steering Committee. “The CERP addresses the community’s highest priorities to reduce health risks due to air pollution, such as diesel and other toxins, and increase trees and green spaces in their neighborhoods.”

The CERP includes goals to lower diesel pollution from 2018 levels by 2031 and transition medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks from diesel to 100% zero-emission vehicles five years ahead of the state requirements. Diesel pollution does not just cause cancer. It aggravates respiratory diseases like asthma and is associated with low-birth weight. Children in portside communities, like Logan Heights and National City, have more than double the rate of asthma emergency rooms visit than the county average, and triple the rate of La Jolla.

To read the entire CERP in English, click here.

To read the entire CERP in Spanish, click here.



Founded in 1980, Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) builds grassroots campaigns to confront the unjust consequences of toxic pollution, discriminatory land use, and climate change. Visit online at

 Under Increasing Community Pressure, Port of San Diego Charts New Direction to Meaningful Clean Air Strategy

Board of Port Commissioners supports public health goals in its Maritime Clean Air Strategy

SAN DIEGO, May 14, 2021 – Portside communities have long suffered from air pollution generated by Port of San Diego operations, which causes cancer, heart disease, asthma, and other respiratory problems. On Tuesday, May 11, 2021, the Port’s Board of Port Commissioners held a virtual hearing on the Port’s draft Maritime Clean Air Strategy (MCAS), a plan that is supposed to outline how the Port will reduce the air pollution it generates and address public health in Portside communities.

A coalition of community residents, and state and local organizations led by Environmental HeaIth Coalition (EHC) mobilized in opposition to the current draft MCAS. They argued that it would maintain the status quo and not meaningfully reduce harmful air pollutants. In response, the Board directed Port staff to develop a new draft that sets specific public health goals for clean air, creates an achievable transition plan to zero emission heavy-duty trucks, while supporting economic development. The Board also asked staff to increase community and stakeholder outreach and provide a longer review and comment period.

“The MCAS as we know is a guiding document, but even as a guiding document it holds itself to be transformative on how we provide a path on encouraging sustainable economic growth that won’t be at the expense of public health,” said Port Commissioner Sandy Naranjo.

Agreeing with Naranjo, Commissioner Jennifer LeSar said, “I really believe that clean air is a civil rights issue.” She called for approaching the MCAS from a restorative lens that does not focus on just meeting minimum requirements but embraces aspirational goals that push the Port to lead.

Some commissioners called for an approach that balances public health with tenants and industry interests. While maintaining the importance of economic vitality, Board Chair Michael Zucchet reminded the commission of the Port’s imbalanced history.

“I don’t think there has been a balance. I think there has been a 100% emphasis on commerce and the maritime industry…,” said Zucchet. “…we can all think of all the ways where environmental quality, where public health has been sacrificed over the years…”

Portside communities, like National City and Barrio Logan, have some of the highest levels of diesel pollution in the region. Children in these communities have more than double the rate of asthma emergency room visits than the county average. A recent report found that over 80% of the cancer risk San Diegans breathe in is from diesel pollution.

“My husband suffers from respiratory problems and has cancer, and the pollution that comes from the port and the trucks that pass through my community every day makes his medical condition worse...,” shared Alicia Sanchez, a National City resident, during the public comment portion.

The coalition led by EHC is calling for an MCAS that 1) decreases the risk of cancer by reducing diesel and other toxic air pollutants, 2) requires heavy-duty diesel drayage trucks to transition to 100% zero-emission vehicles by 2030 – five years ahead of the state’s requirements, and 3) provides the infrastructure, funding, and implementation mechanisms necessary to achieve these goals. Over 200 community members signed a petition in support of these environmental justice goals.

“With the amount of diesel pollution our communities are exposed to, they cannot afford to wait until the state’s 2035 ZEV goal to breathe cleaner air. We need a commitment from the Port of San Diego that they will lead the state in emission reduction, not begrudgingly follow,” said Diane Takvorian, the executive director of Environmental Health Coalition. “Based on what we heard today, it looks like this new Board of Port Commissioners is listening to the community and is ready to do their part so we can all breathe clean air. We are cautiously optimistic, but we will not let up the pressure.”

Port staff is expected to produce a new draft for public review and comment, before presenting a final draft to the Board of Port Commissioners in September 2021. To watch the May 11, 2021, hearing, please click here. The MCAS is item 15.




Angelica Estrada
Communications Director, Environmental Health Coalition
Esta dirección de correo electrónico está siendo protegida contra los robots de spam. Necesita tener JavaScript habilitado para poder verlo.


Founded in 1980, Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) builds grassroots campaigns to confront the unjust consequences of toxic pollution, discriminatory land use, and climate change. Visit online

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, April 2, 2021


Angelica Estrada

Communications Director, Environmental Health Coalition

Esta dirección de correo electrónico está siendo protegida contra los robots de spam. Necesita tener JavaScript habilitado para poder verlo.


Three Public Members Join Newly Reformed San Diego Air Pollution Control District Board

Ushering in a New Era of Clean Air

With the sixth worst air quality in the nation, Environmental Health Coalition is hopeful San Diego’s new Air Pollution Control District (APCD) board will take bold action to protect the health of the 3 million San Diego County Residents.

San Diego’s APCD appoints the state’s first ever-Environmental Justice Member, along with a Public Health/Physician Member, and Air Pollution Science/ Technology member.

SAN DIEGO, April 2, 2021 – Environmental Health Coalition congratulates the three public members appointed to the newly reformed San Diego Air Pollution Control District Governing Board. The three new members appointed by the Board are Anne Marie Birkbeck-Garcia, MD to the Public Health/Physician Member seat, Enrique Medina to the Air Pollution Science/Technology Member seat, and Georgette Gomez to the Environmental Justice Member seat – the very first in the state.

With these three public members, the SDAPCD Board is now comprised of 11 members tasked with improving San Diego County’s air quality to protect the health of its over 3 million residents who breathe some of the most polluted air in California and the nation. In San Diego, nearly 10% of children across the region have asthma, and children in the areas most impacted by air pollution have three to five times more than the county average in hospitalizations.

“My family has lived in Logan for a few generations and as a result, we have endured a tremendous amount of air pollution in our neighborhood. Due to this pollution, my mother has had to undergo two surgeries for her breathing problems," said Maritza Garcia, a Barrio Logan resident.  “Having an Environmental Justice member on the board that cares about neighborhoods like mine makes me hopeful to see major improvements to clean our air. Our lives depend on it.”

Gomez will be the first environmental justice member to sit on an ACPD board in the state. The immediate past president of San Diego City Council and former EHC Associate Director, Gomez has lived, worked, and represented nearly all the 40 San Diego census tracks that are the top 25% most polluted areas in the state. Most of those census tracks are south of interstate eight in low-income neighborhoods of color.

“Anne Marie, Enrique, and Georgette all deeply understand the terrible health impacts pollution has on our most vulnerable communities because of their personal experiences with it and will work to significantly improve air quality in these communities,” said Diane Takvorian, Executive Director of Environmental Health Coalition.

Raised in South San Diego, Dr. Birkbeck-Garcia is a pediatrician who treats children suffering from respiratory and other life-threatening diseases made worse by severe air pollution. An EHC board member since 2009, Medina is an environmental and occupational health and safety professional who volunteers his time and expertise in San Diego and Tijuana addressing air pollution and health issues.

“It is really exciting to see AB 423 become reality. The new SDAPCD Board is so much more representative of San Diego County’s vast and diverse population,” said Mayor Todd Gloria. “It provides a great opportunity for the Air District to get on the right track and I look forward to air quality improvements in the near future.”

In 2019, following demands from environmental justice communities to strengthen SDAPCD, Governor Newsom signed AB 423 into law. This bill - authored by then Assemblymember Todd Gloria and sponsored by EHC - sought to make the SDAPCD board more accountable, transparent and diverse.


San Diego Board of Port Commissioners Delays Consideration of Polluting Project, Responding to Community Demands for Electric Truck Requirements


San Diego/Tijuana’s leading EJ organization to step up the fight against environmental and systemic racism


Community-driven projects will support strengthening local economy, improving public health, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Port urged to protect public health, improve air quality, and reject all new shipyard projects in disadvantaged portside communities

Joy Williams of Environmental Health Coalition has spent over 30 years improving health and air quality for most impacted communities in San Diego/Tijuana