Nadie conoce mejor la lucha de vivir con la contaminación tóxica que los que enfrentan el reto a diario. La EHC cree que las partes afectadas deben tener la oportunidad de expresarse y exigir el cambio. Es por eso que la mayoría de nuestro trabajo se lleva acabo en la región de San Diego/Tijuana en comunidades de bajo ingreso y de color.

Entre los barrios más pobres en la región, los residentes sufren la carga desproporcionada de la contaminación, con altos índices de hospitalizaciones por asma y consecuencias de largo plazo como el cáncer y enfermedades del corazón. Muchos de los residentes son inmigrantes de Latino América, Asia, y África y muchos tienen pocos estudios.

Los problemas en estas comunidades son comunes para muchas comunidades de bajo ingreso y de color: viviendas de calidad inferior, escuelas con sobre cupo, falta de servicios sociales, trabajos mal pagados, industrias contaminantes mezcladas con sitios residenciales y comerciales, transito de camiones industriales, falta de parques y tiendas de comida saludable, contaminación del aire severa y contaminación por plomo en vivienda vieja.

Por parte de y con estas comunidades de bajo ingreso y de color, trabajamos a niveles local, regionales, estatales, nacionales y hasta internacional para educar a los legisladores sobre oportunidades que lograrán nuestras metas y beneficiarán comunidades de bajo ingreso. Compartimos nuestros modelos, aprendemos de otros y fomentamos políticas de justicia ambiental en cada uno de los niveles de gobierno.

No one knows the struggle of living with toxic pollution like the people who face this challenge everyday. Environmental Health Coalition believes that those affected should have the opportunity to raise their own voices to demand change. That’s why much of our work takes place in low-income communities of color in the San Diego-Tijuana Region.

In these communities, among the poorest in the region, residents bear a disproportionate pollution burden, with record asthma hospitalization rates and long-term consequences like cancer and heart disease. Many residents are immigrants from Latin America, Asia and Africa, and many have little formal education.

Problems in these communities are common to many low-income communities of color: substandard housing, over-crowded schools, a lack of social services, low-paid jobs, polluting industries mixed with residential and commercial sites, industrial truck traffic, lack of parks and healthy food outlets, severe air pollution and lead contamination in aging housing stock.

On behalf of and with these low-income communities of color, we work at the local, regional, state, national and international levels to educate policy makers about opportunities that will accomplish our goals and benefit low-income communities. We share our models, learn from others, and promote environmental justice policies at every level of government.

ShermanHeights website map May 2012EHC's current efforts in Sherman Heights

Community Planning – assist the Historic Logan neighborhoods of Sherman Heights, Grant Hill, Stockton, Logan Heights and Memorial develop a vision for the Commercial/Imperial Corridor as a vibrant community link

Healthy Kids – reduce lead poisoning and asthma associated with poor housing and air pollution 

Green Energy/Green Jobs – improve the housing stock through energy efficiency and installation of solar energy and create green jobs for community residents 


Sherman Heights is one of the oldest residential communities in the City of San Diego, being first subdivided in 1869. Its original boundaries went from Market Street to the north, 15th Street to the west, 25th Street to the east, and Commercial Street to the South.

The original settlers of Sherman Heights represented diverse economic groups, but as the wealthier residents left, Sherman Heights became home to racial, ethnic and religious groups restricted from the newer developments. In the early 1900's it was home to German, Irish and Jewish immigrants; in 1920s, it became home to Japanese and Chinese immigrants; through the 1940s it was a thriving middle class neighborhood.

Highway construction from the 1940's into the 1960's (State Route 94 and Interstate Highway 5) and the subsequent adoption of the 1987 Southeastern San Diego Community Plan redrew the boundaries. SR 94 became the northern boundary, I-5 the western boundary, and Imperial Avenue the southern boundary. The original 160 acres was reduced to about 140 acres.

ShermanSchoolFrom 1950-1970 Sherman Heights was predominantly African American, and since the 1970's it has been mainly Latino. The proximity of Sherman Heights to the recently redeveloped East Village has increased rents, and many of the older homes that were divided into apartments are being reconverted to single family homes. This is forcing low-income residents to areas of lower rent such as City Heights. In the 2010 census, Sherman Heights was one of the few communities to become less "non-white."

Although much of the original housing stock remains, over the years many single-family homes were converted to apartments and second homes built in the rear yards. Home ownership declined and absentee landlords allowed the housing to deteriorate. Vacant land next to the freeways attracted criminal activity, and the 1970's and 80's were a bleak period.

The Southeastern San Diego Community planning area originally included more than 7000 acres, including all of the communities recognized as part of the Historic Logan Area except for Barrio Logan. Because the planning area is so large, many of the communities have developed individual plans. The Sherman Heights Revitalization Plan was adopted in 1995, and included the commercial corridors along 26th Street to the east and Commercial Street to the south. The Commercial/Imperial Corridor connects the Sherman Heights, Grant Hill and Stockton communities to the Logan Heights and Memorial neighborhoods to the south. Imperial Avenue is mainly mixed-use commercial while Commercial is zoned industrial. A new Corridor Plan was initiated in 2011 to develop a new 20 year vision.

Environmental Racism

Environmental racism is not easily defined but easy to recognize; it is the cumulative impacts of environmental, social, political and economic vulnerabilities that affect the quality of life of a community.


Area  2010 Population   Non-White   Under 18   18 and Older   Families in Poverty   Renter Households 
 Sherman Heights  1,858 81% 22% 78% 36% 87%

Pollution Burden

Sherman Heights is primarily a residential neighborhood, except for the Imperial/Commercial Corridor. Imperial Avenue is mostly commercial, while Commercial is light industrial. The pollution burden of Sherman Heights comes from the industries along Commercial Avenue, illegal auto-repair/body-repair shops in the residential area, its proximity to the freeways and the deteriorated quality of its housing.

EPA Respiratory Risk data from 2005 show that Sherman Heights residents experience a 5-6 times greater risk than a neighborhood considered "safe." Total cancer risk from air contaminants is among the highest in the County.

Sherman Heights has been identified as a "hot spot" for childhood lead poisoning due to the age and poor condition of its housing and the large number of children under the age of 6. Much of original housing was built in the early 1900's when levels of lead in paint were highest.

EHC's History/Successes in Sherman Heights

Read about EHC's City Heights Leadership Team and Community Action Team.

The majority of EHC's work supports residents in low-income communities of color in urban areas of San Diego County and the communities around San Diego Bay. These are the largely Latino communities of Barrio Logan, Logan Heights, Sherman Heights and City Heights in the City of San Diego, and Old Town (also known as Westside) in National City. Many residents are immigrants from Latin America, Asia and Africa, and many have little formal education.

Problems in these communities are common to many low-income communities of color: substandard housing, over-crowded schools, a lack of social services, low-paying jobs, polluting industries mixed in with residential and commercial sites, industrial truck traffic, lack of parks and healthy food outlets, severe air pollution and lead contamination in aging housing stock.

(Click here for a brief history of San Diego's target communities) All of EHC's target communities developed around the same time in San Diego's history, the late 1860-80's, and went through similar transitions. Hopes of a railroad line connecting San Diego to points east rose and fell, and with these hopes land speculation was followed by financial crashes. What is now downtown San Diego was developed first, and by the late 1880's, the adjacent communities of Logan Heights (which then included Barrio Logan) and Sherman Heights were subdivided. Public transportation to these neighborhoods and out to City Heights allowed the population to grow. Logan Heights and Sherman Heights were upper class neighborhoods; City Heights was a working class neighborhood.

National City, San Diego County's second oldest city, developed around the same time, again driven by hopes of a railroad. It developed as an agricultural and industrial hub, with a population spanning the economic and ethnic spectrums.

Improved roads and the introduction of the automobile allowed many of the wealthier residents to move to new suburbs, and Logan Heights and Sherman Heights became home to successive waves of immigrants and minorities who were excluded from living in the new neighborhoods by racial, ethnic, and religious discrimination: Irish, Jews, Japanese, Chinese, African Americans, and Latinos. After World War II, National City became home to a large Filipino population. City Heights was the first home of many Southeast Asian refugees following the Vietnam War and home to many other more recent refugees following civil strife in their homelands.

Common factors that contributed to the decline of each neighborhood were:

• The construction of highways and freeways

• Increased population density

• Absentee landlords and the deterioration of the housing stock

• Increased industrialization

• Zoning changes

• Wars and the rise of San Diego as a military center

Place matters. According to research conducted by The California Endowment, one's zip code is a reliable predictor of life expectancy. A common thread in all of EHC's work is the recognition of the cumulative impacts of environmental, social, political and economic vulnerabilities that affect the quality of life in our target communities.

The following chart uses 2010 Census and American Community Survey (2009-2013) data to com¬pare some of these factors in EHC target areas to the County of San Diego as a whole:

CommunityPeople of ColorFamilies in PovertyRentersPopulation < 18 years old
Logan Area

97% 39% 75% 33%
Westside National City 94% 29% 77% 28%
National City (total) 90% 25% 66% 25%
City Heights 90% 26% 80% 32%
Combined EHC Target Area 90% 32% 80% 32%
San Diego County 52% 14% 46%  23%

For more information on each of these neighborhoods, click on the map or use the menu bar at the left.

(Eventually, the map will be clickable - Click on the map to learn more about each community.)

CommunityPeople of ColorFamilies in PovertyRentersPopulation < 18 years old
Logan Area

97% 39% 75% 33%
Westside National City 94% 29% 77% 28%
National City (total) 90% 25% 66% 25%
City Heights 90% 26% 80% 32%
Combined EHC Target Area 90% 32% 80% 32%
San Diego County 52% 14% 46%  

The current boundaries of City Heights were created by the 1998 Mid-City Communities Plan. Environmental Health Coalition works primarily in the Corridor, Teralta West, Cherokee Point and Castle neighborhoods, the neighborhoods most impacted by the freeways and the businesses along El Cajon Boulevard and University Avenue.

CityHeights website map May 2012

EHC's current efforts in City Heights

Community Planning – help community residents create a sustainable City Heights which is safe, healthy and affordable

Healthy Kids – reduce lead poisoning and asthma associated with poor housing and air pollution

Green Energy/Green Jobs – improve the housing stock through energy efficiency and installation of solar energy and create green jobs for community residents 


In 1880, 240 acres of land were purchased by developers and named City Heights because of its 360 degree expansive views. The highest neighborhood was called Teralta. Although an electric trolley line connected the new community with downtown, growth was slow. The 1910 census showed only about 400 residents in City Heights.

Anticipation of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition in San Diego spurred growth, and by 1912 the 4,000 residents of City Heights voted to incorporate as a separate city called East San Diego. The city prided itself on its high moral character (no liquor stores, gambling or dance halls, no gun totting). A 1918 advertisement described City Heights as the home of the working men of San Diego; 8 out of 10 families owned their home. Thriving commercial development grew up along University Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard.

Soon the new city experienced problems: unavailability of a reliable supply of water; the trolley line operators threatened to discontinue service; the City of San Diego decided to greatly increase the cost for providing high school education for East San Diegans. In 1923, residents voted to become part of San Diego and this was finalized in 1924.

Zoning problems

City Heights continued to grow and prosper as a mostly white, middle class community until the College Grove shopping mall was completed in 1959. This began a rapid decline in business along University Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard, and failing business owners believed they could stave off bankruptcy by increasing the population density. The 1965 Mid-City Development Plan rezoned most of the area for multi-family dwelling units. Developers began tearing down single-family homes and putting up small, cheaply constructed apartment buildings known as "six-packs." In 1950, only 9% of housing in City Heights was multi-family units; by 1970 it was 31%; it is currently more than 60%.

As the housing density increased, the demographics shifted. Following the end of the Vietnam War in 1974 City Heights became home to many Southeast Asian refugees. This was followed by waves of other refugees fleeing violence in their homelands: Ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, Central Americans, East Africans, and Kurds. African-Americans and Latinos also moved to City Heights as rents in other parts of the City escalated, often due to gentrification. More than 30 languages and 80 dialects are now spoken in City Heights.

The 1970s and 80s saw sharp increases in crime, and the 1984 Mid-City Community Plan identified the increased multi-family residential housing with reduced resident ownership and deterioration of residential housing stock as major problems. In 1990, crime was so bad that the City declared a State of Emergency in City Heights.

Highway related problems

In 1932, City Heights welcomed the construction of the Fairmount/Murphy Canyon highway that connected communities to the north and south of Mission Valley, and extended all the way to Mexico. Interstate 805 was also seen as a boon to community access when it was built in the 1960s.

But the planned expansion of Interstate 15 that had been contemplated since the late 1950s was another issue. There were several starts and stops in the 1970s and CalTrans purchased hundreds of homes in anticipation of constructions. Instead of tearing them down, the houses were boarded up and became hangouts for drug users and prostitution.


Several community non-profit groups formed in response to the decline in City Heights including the City Heights Community Development Corporation in 1981 and Mid-City Community Advocacy Network (Mid-City CAN) in the late 1980s. The CHCDC worked with residents in 1991 to develop a vision for the I-15 corridor – they supported a covered freeway to prevent neighborhoods from being torn apart and the loss of a significant area of land. As one resident said, she didn't want "a divisive slash through my community, a hole with cars in it." Covering the entire portion of I-15 through City Heights proved to be cost prohibitive. When I-15 was completed in 1999 only University Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard were widened over the freeway to accommodate bus stops and a park was built over the freeway between Orange and Polk Avenues close to Central Elementary School.

When the last supermarket serving City Heights announced in 1994 that it was leaving, Philanthropist Sol Price became involved. The City Heights Initiative was formed between Price Charities and public agencies and non-profit organizations. A new library/recreation/educational complex was built, along with a six story office building, hundreds of affordable housing units and La Maestra Community Health Clinic (a Gold Medal LEED certified building).

In 2010 The California Endowment included City Heights in its Building Healthy Communities initiative. The local collaboration is led by Mid-City CAN; EHC leads the Built Environment team that includes City Heights Community Development Corporation, Proyecto Casas Saludadbles, and the International Rescue Committee.

Environmental Racism

Environmental racism is not easily defined but easy to recognize; it is the cumulative impacts of environmental, social, political and economic vulnerabilities that affect the quality of life of a community.


Area  2010 Population   Non-White   Under 18   18 and Older   Families in Poverty   Renter Households 
 City Heights  18,482 90% 32% 68% 32% 87%

Pollution Burden

City Heights has never had much industrial activity. Almost all of the Hazardous Materials Management and Air permits are for auto-related businesses and other small facilities that line much of University Avenue and El Cajon Blvd. Its pollution burden comes from its proximity to the freeways and the deteriorated quality of its housing.

Asthma hospitalization rates in 2009 for children ages 0-17 were 162/100,000 in City Heights compared to 107/100,000 for San Diego County as a whole. EPA Respiratory Risk data from 2009 show that City Heights residents experience a 4-5 times greater risk than a neighborhood considered "safe."

City Heights has been identified as a "hot spot" for childhood lead poisoning due to the age and poor condition of its housing and the large number of children under the age of 6. Most of City Heights original housing was built from 1910-1930 when levels of lead in paint were highest; the apartment boom of the 1960's and 1970's took place before lead was completely banned in household paint in 1978.

EHC's History/Successes in City Heights

  • Blood Lead Level Testing. In October 2010 EHC sponsored a blood lead level testing at Cherokee Point Elementary School.
  • Leader Development.

Relationships to other EHC Efforts

Regional Transportation Planning: Lack of adequate public transportation, congested surface streets, and increased freeway traffic are concerns for City Heights residents.

San Diego Bay: Chollas Creek runs through part of City Heights on its way to San Diego Bay.

Goods Movement (Port of San Diego and Border Ports of Entry): Interstate 805 is the major truck route for freight truck coming across the U.S./Mexico Border Port of Entry at Otay Mesa and from the Port District's Marine Terminal in National City. Interstate 15 was not intended as a major truck route, but is experiencing increased truck traffic.

The Historic Barrio District area includes the communities of Logan Heights, Memorial, Sherman Heights, Grant Hill and Stockton; the historic Logan Heights area also included Barrio Logan. Environmental Health Coalition works throughout the Logan area, but especially in Barrio Logan.

Barrio Logan LoganHts Map


Logan Heights/Barrio Logan is a microcosm of environmental racism. You can find it all here:

  • A community of color created by racially discriminatory real estate covenants,
  • Overcrowding, as more and more people are restricted to a small area,
  • Encroachment of industry into residential areas,
  • Effects of war and economic downturns on immigrant communities,
  • 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.

best fisherphoto

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, dissecting the new area of Barrio Logan. Thousands of homes were destroyed and families displaced by these events.

But this period also sparked the birth of San Diego Chicano Park.

When land that was promised as a park under the bridge was instead to be turned into a highway patrol station, people revolted. Eventually Chicano Park was created and is now home to world famous murals, a free health clinic was established, many of the junkyards were eliminated, and in 1978 the Barrio Logan/Harbor 101 Community Plan was adopted.

Click here for a more detailed history of the area


Area  2010 Population   Non-White   Under 18   18 and Older   Families in Poverty   Renter Households 
 Barrio Logan            4,890  85%  26%  74%
 Logan Heights                         14,196  95%  34%  65%  30%  70%

Environmental Racism

Environmental racism is not easily defined; it is the cumulative impacts of environmental, social, political and economic vulnerabilities that affect the quality of life of a community.

The Barrio Logan Community Plan Update

For the first time in 30 years, residents of Barrio Logan proposed the first update to their community plan. Click here to learn more about our current efforts

In Barrio Logan, EHC works on:

Community Planning

Children's Health

Green Energy/Green Jobs

National City map for website

Environmental Health Coalition's current efforts in National City

Community Planning – implementation of the Westside Specific Plan and relocation of polluting industries; development of affordable housing 

Healthy Kids – reduce asthma and other illnesses associated with poor housing and air pollution 

Green Energy/Green Jobs – improve the housing stock through energy efficiency and installation of solar energy and create green jobs for community residents 


National City is the second oldest city in San Diego County. Its modern history started in 1868 when Rancho de la Nación was purchased by the Kimball brothers. Hopes of a railroad spurred population growth, but when it didn't materialized the population dropped from 5,000 to 1,500 in 1873. Growth was slow, and based largely on agriculture. The transcontinental terminus of the Santa Fe Railroad was built in 1885 and the City was incorporated in 1887.

The Westside area, also known as Old Town, is an area bordered on the west by Interstate 5 and the east by Roosevelt Avenue stretching from W. Plaza Boulevard south to W. 24th Street. During the early development of National City, small single family homes were constructed in Old Town. Many of these early homes constructed around the turn of the century still remain. After World War II, to encourage economic development, industrial uses were permitted in the area.

In an interest to resolve the conflicting land uses, the community encouraged the City to develop the Westside Specific Plan. The Council embarked on the preparation of the Westside Specific Plan in 2005 to comprehensively address environmental and land use issues, leading to this plan that reflects residents' aspirations for their community. This Specific Plan was prepared to address concerns of the impact of incompatible land uses expressed by the community at numerous City Council meetings and at several community workshops.

Environmental Racism

Environmental racism is not easily defined but easy to recognize; it is the cumulative impacts of environmental, social, political and economic vulnerabilities that affect the quality of life of a community.


Area  2010 Population   Non-White   Under 18   18 and Older   Families in Poverty   Renter Households 
 National City  39,831 88% 26% 74% 23% 76%


Pollution Burden

According to the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health, National City is currently home to 32 million pounds of hazardous substances and 870,000 cubic feet of toxic or hazardous gases. Just the top 10 polluters release 150,000 lbs. of toxic or smog forming air pollutants per year. In comparison, La Jolla has 3.8 million pounds of hazardous gases. 

National City asthma hospitalization rates in 2010 for children ages 0-17 were 122/100,000 compared to a countywide rate of 87.


EHC's History/Successes in National City

  • Westside Specific Plan Ordinance (changing the zoning) passed: August 3, 2010 
  • Westside Specific Plan passed: March 2010

View these documents on National City's website

Green Zones are designed for places like National City that face a deadly combination of public health burdens, environmental degradation, and socioeconomic stressors. We seek to transform these areas into healthy, thriving "Green Zones" by creating proactive, solution-oriented, community and interagency partnerships. Working together, we will target public and private resources and programs into Green Zone areas to support implementation of community-based solutions developed through intensive resident engagement and leadership.

The California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA) (a statewide coalition of six community-based organizations) has launched a California-wide Green Zones Initiative, with sites in Los Angeles, Riverside, Southern San Joaquin Valley, Oakland, Richmond and San Francisco. Environmental Health Coalition anchors the San Diego Green Zones effort and has selected Old Town National City as its Green Zone Pilot.

Old Town National City: Now a "Brown Zone"

The Old Town neighborhood of National City is plagued by decades of poor land-use planning, which has left an unhealthy mix of homes, toxic industries, and warehouses, compounded by a lack of affordable housing and open space. There are over 34 autobody shops in a 90 block area, releasing an estimated 23,000 tons of air toxins. The area is bordered by Interstate 5 and home to a diesel bus station, both of which contribute to high levels of particulate matter. As a result, residents face a range of "cumulative impacts:"

• 20% of housing units are overcrowded, with 2 or more people per room.

• 14% of children have diagnosed asthma, twice the average rate in California

• 94% are people of color

• 41% of families live in poverty

• 75 % of the population are renters.

Mapping Cumulative Impacts with the Environmental Justice Screening Methodology)

The Environmental Justice Screening Methodology (EJSM) is a tool to identify what areas face a combination of environmental and socioeconomic stressors, or "cumulative impacts." It has been developed by Rachel Morello-Frosch (UC Berkeley), Manuel Pastor (University of Southern CA), and Jim Sadd (Occidental College). The EJSM creates and maps a "cumulative impact" score for census tracts. The methodology combines indicators from publicly-available data on:

• public health and air quality

• land use data

• the number of hazardous facilities and sensitive receptors in an area

• socioeconomic vulnerabilities

The scores range from 3 - 15, with 15 being "highly impacted."

Census Tracks in Old Town National City have an EJSM score of 13 and 14, meaning it is highly impacted.

What does a National City Green Zone look like?

Relocating unhealthy land-uses: In 2010 National City began the amortization/phase out process of incompatible land uses, such as autobody shops, away from residential areas. National City is now determining the order in which the non-conforming land-uses will be amortized, with the process set to start in early 2012.

Create a green industrial park: Businesses relocated under the amortization process would move to an industrial area a few miles west of the residential neighborhood. The park would serve a hub for the paint and auto-body industry and foster green practices.

Affordable housing transit-oriented development: 14 acres of land adjacent to the light rail Trolley Stop will be cleaned up and developed into 201 affordable housing units. The site has been chosen by EPA as part of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities Brownfields Pilots.

Paradise Creek Educational Open Park Space: Community residents have been working to restore this salt marsh wetland that flows from San Diego Bay into the city since 1993. The 2 acre park is the only park serving a community of about 1600 people and passes by the local elementary school. The first phase of the interpretive park opened in 2007 after 12 years of planning and fundraising.

RespectSacredPlacesEnvironmental Health Coalition has opposed the construction of Gregory Canyon landfill for over a decade.

The proposed 300-acre Gregory Canyon landfill site is located in northern San Diego County on State Route 76, approximately three miles east of Interstate 15 and two miles southwest of the community of Pala. The pristine undeveloped canyon is adjacent to the San Luis Rey River and lies along the western slope of Gregory Mountain.

Even after 15 years, the proposed Gregory Canyon Landfill has not obtained any of its permits, but its proponents continue to press forward.

In 2010, State Senator Juan Vargas introduced SB833 to prevent the construction of the Gregory Canyon landfill. The bill passed the legislature, but unfortunately Governor Brown refused to sign it into law.

Following is EHC's statement on the landfill and SB833:

Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) has opposed the construction of Gregory Canyon landfill for over a decade. EHC is also strongly in favor of SB833. SB833 is urgently needed to protect the San Luis Rey River and to prevent the desecration of a Luiseño sacred site, Gregory Mountain. The legislation would make it illegal to operate a landfill within 1,000 feet of drinking water sources for large cities or Native American sacred sites. The bill would apply only to new landfills, and not existing, permitted landfills or any expansion of an existing, permitted landfill.

One of the issues often raised is the vote of the people 'in favor of' the landfill. The Prop B propaganda sent by GCL proponents to voters to encourage a NO vote on Prop B was clearly misleading. A NO vote on B was a vote FOR the dump. The vote of the people was clearly not an authentic representation of their perspective and I hope it will not be used to support the landfill's approval.

The GCL site was never approved through a local planning process. In fact, the GCL site was rejected numerous times by SD county staff because of significant and non mitigatable impacts mainly because of its proximity to the San Luis Rey River and aquifers. That is why GCL investors had to run Prop C.

SB833 is a clear and direct way to end this ill-advised debate and move on to developing effective pollution prevention and waste management options that do not present the glaringly obvious threat to water resources, and the deep injustice of placing a trash dump adjacent to a sacred site.

For a more comprehensive environmental and environmental justice analysis of the proposed Gregory Canyon landfill, EHC submitted this letter opposing the issuance of a solid waste permit to the County of San Diego in March 2011.

Visit the website to stop the Gregory Canyon Landfill to stay updated on the project.

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is the metropolitan planning organization for the 18 cities in San Diego County and the county government. The SANDAG Board is made up of mayors, city council members, and county supervisors. SANDAG makes strategic plans and provides information on a broad range of topics pertinent to the region's quality of life.

SANDAG has developed a number of plans and strategies that relate to Climate Change, including the 2009 Regional Energy Strategy, the 2010 Climate Action Strategy and the Regional Transportation Plan.

The Regional Transportation Plan lays out what transportation options will look like in the San Diego Region from now until 2050. Approximately, $200 billion of transportation investments are projected to take place from 2011 to 2050. Every time you purchase a non-food item at the store, a certain percentage of the taxes you see on your receipt go to fund local transportation projects. This sales tax is called TransNet. 

EHC opposes the plan that is moving forward. The plan  invests heavily in freeway expansion projects, postponing many transit projects to the later phases of the plan. 

The community continues advocating for SANDAG to invest in transportation network that will lead to the following outcomes:

  • Make our communities healthier by reducing the number of cars on the road that create air pollution and climate change;
  • Make it easier, affordable, and quicker to get to work, school, doctor and other important places; and
  • Make is safer for people to walk and bike in our neighborhoods.

Freeways can wait, but people can’t. If having affordable, reliable, healthy and safe transportation options are important to you, get involved.

History of the SANDAG Regional Transportation Plan

SANDAG became the first of California’s 18 metropolitan planning organizations to complete a Sustainable Communities Strategy in its Regional Transportation Plan in accordance with the requirements of SB375. SANDAG adopted the 2050 Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy in 2011, despite the warning from California Attorney General Kamala Harris that the Regional Transportation Plan “does not deliver GHG (green house gas) reductions that are sustainable in the long term… and may …preclude any realistic possibility of meeting the Executive Order’s goal of an 80% reduction in GHG emissions.”


  • The 2050 RTP passed in 2011 will worsen health risks in communities that already suffer from disproportionate levels of pollution.
  • The plan contains no public health analysis of increased pollution in low-income communities of color.
  • The plan prioritizes highway expansions and defers investment in transit projects for 20 years.
  • The strategy promotes urban sprawl, will increase greenhouse gas emissions and worsen traffic congestion.
  • The plan will allow particulate air pollution - the type of pollution most linked to respiratory ailments - to increase, causing serious health consequences.

You can read UT San Diego's editorial in favor of the plan and our response.

The Cleveland National Forest Foundation (CNFF) and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit challenging the flawed 2050 Regional Transportation Plan, and the California Attorney General joined. SANDAG’s flawed plan has lost twice in court and is now being reviewed by the California Supreme Court.


CleanPort2The San Diego Unified Port District maintains two marine terminals: the 140 acre National City Marine Terminal and the 96 acre Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal in Barrio Logan. These terminals handle a variety of products including fruit, automobiles, lumber, and windmill components.

EHC supports a working waterfront and is working to make certain the Port's operations support a healthy environment.

Diesel pollution from goods movement is a major concern. According to the California Air Resources Board, goods movement related ship and truck traffic have the following health impacts in the San Diego region:

 Health Impact  2005 Estimates   2020 Estimates with no further controls
 Deaths         44 per year  100 per year
 Asthma-related health impacts                    
Asthma attacks  860  2,465
Lost work days  7,630  14,675
Restricted activity days  51,624  164,360
School absence days  19,360  50,842

(2006 Emission Reduction Plan for Ports and Goods Movement in California)

In response, EHC formed United for Clean and Safe Ports in 2006, a coalition of community, health, and labor organizations, and asked the Port to:

  • Reduce diesel pollution from ships docketed at all terminals
  • Create a sustainable energy plan
  • Reduce diesel pollution from trucks servicing the terminals through retrofits and replacement, and strict enforcement of state regulations
  • Reduce diesel pollution from cargo handling equipment through retrofit and replacement.

The Port has made some progress, but EHC continues to advocate for a plan that meets all of these goals, is fully funded, and is strictly enforced.


  • The Port has installed shore power at the Broadway Pier cruise terminal. This allows ships to plug in to the electric grid instead of using their diesel engines for power. Shorepower at the marine terminals has not been accomplished.
  • EHC secured a truck parking and idling ban on residential streets in Barrio Logan.
  • Trucks leaving the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal are not allowed to use Cesar Chavez Parkway and other streets in Barrio Logan to get to Interstate 5, but have been rerouted along Harbor Drive. The Port is working on a reconfiguration of Harbor Drive and freeway entrances that will direct trucks entering the Terminal away from residential Barrio Logan.
  • The Port's and California's "truck rules" have greatly reduced the number of non-compliant trucks at the Port. Non-compliant trucks are lacking proper pollution controls.
  • Cargo handling equipment has been retrofitted or replaced to reduce pollution.
  • The Port is developing a Climate Mitigation and Action Plan.

Unfortunately, these actions have not yet led to decrease in diesel pollution in Barrio Logan. Possible reasons for this are the overall increase in number of truck trips to and from the Port, the use of non-compliant trucks picking up fruit cargos from a warehouse on Main Street, and trucks ignoring the ban on Cesar Chavez Parkway ban on Cesar Chavez Parkway.

jackie loza san diego bay

The pollution burden of the San Diego Bay can be found in its water and in the bay floor. The sources of pollution are many, but the most toxic pollution has come primarily from the military and shipyards, other bayside industries, and the South Bay Power Plant. Urban runoff also contributes to the pollution burden.

Pollutants of primary concern include Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), Tributylin Tin (TBT), arsenic, copper, lead, mercury, zinc along with the pesticide Diazinon.

EHC's History and Successes in San Diego Bay

EHC's Clean Bay Campaign began in 1987 with the goal to clean up, restore, and protect San Diego Bay as a clean and healthy multi-use water resource. In March 2012, the Regional Water Quality Control Board ordered a cleanup of the 143,400 cubic yards of toxic sediments from the bottom of San Diego Bay. After a 20-year battle, the Regional Board finally held  polluters accountable, and the bay will have a chance to return to a cleaner state.

Blueprint for a Clean Bay

Even as the newly formed Clean Bay Campaign began tackling the problems of cleanup and strengthening existing regulations, it started formulating its long-term vision. Published in 1991, the Blueprint for a Clean Bay set out a 10 point plan.

  • Sustain the Use – decisions must be considered in context of sustainable use; what is left of natural areas must be protected.
  • Enforce the laws – ensure permit compliance, make chronic violators accountable, impose mandatory fines for violations of NPDES permits, assess full find for Clean Water Act violations
  • Prevent pollution discharge – reduce use of toxic and hazardous materials, permit no new discharges into the Bay, reduce poison runoff, stop discharges from boats and ships, adopt pesticide use reduction programs
  • Cleanup toxic hot spots – evaluate cleanup plans according to health and safety based criteria
  • Protect Wildlife Habitat – stop wetland destruction, create the South Bay National Wildlife Refuge; Port District should emphasize environmental protection
  • Make the Bay fishable – Stop destruction of fish habitat and nursery areas; expand fish habitat and increase the numbers and diversity of fish; test fish for contamination
  • Monitor the Bay – set up a San Diego Bay Monitoring program; conduct marine life sampling; nominate the Bay as an "Estuary of National Significance," set standards for a Clean Bay
  • Military must cleanup – set a schedule for toxics use reduction; clean up old dumps; comply with existing laws
  • Provide for appropriate recreation – stop the flow of sewage to the Bay; encourage boating of appropriate intensity; connect open space and park systems to the Bay
  • Involve the public – encourage people to be good stewards of the Bay: to speak out, to hold their representatives accountable, to reduce their impact on the Bay

Cleanup of toxic sediments

Toxic sediments in at least eight sites have been cleaned up, but it's never an easy process. Efforts to clean up toxic sediments in San Diego Bay follow a similar pattern: clear evidence of pollution and the polluter are identified; cleanup levels are established by the Regional Water Quality Control Board; a Cleanup and Abatement Order is issued by the RWQCB; the responsible party appeals the Order; EHC intervenes to uphold or strengthen the Order. The polluter spends years fighting the Order. The best cases result in cleanup actually taking place. In the worst case, the toxic sediments around the shipyards, the foot dragging has continued for more than 20 years.

  • Paco Terminals was one of the first advocacy efforts for the Clean Bay Campaign, and its history is included as an example of the watchdogging and advocacy required.
  • 1979-1985: Tons of copper ore spill into San Diego Bay at the 24th Street Marine Terminal in National City due to faulty loading equipment. Levels of ore in sediment reach 50,000-60,000 parts per million.
  • 1986: San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Boards issues a Cleanup Order to reduce copper to 1,000 ppm (10 times above level before spills began).
  • 1988: RWQCB fines Paco $50,000 (reduced from staff's recommended fine of $200,000). EHC protests reduction.
  • 1989: San Diego Unified Port District named as a Responsible Party along with Paco.
  • 1990: Paco files for bankruptcy; is out of bankruptcy by 1991 when it appears that their insurance company may be fiscally responsible for cleanup.
  • 1991: RWQCB goes against advice of its staff and weakens cleanup level to 4,000 ppm.
  • 1992: EHC appeals the revised order and the State Water Resources Board reverses the Regional Board's decision.
  • 1992: Paco and Port unsuccessfully sue the State Board over their decision.
  • 1995: Cleanup to 1000 ppm completed!
  • Convair Lagoon – PCB's were discovered as a result of the State Mussel Watch Program from 1979-1985. In 1986 the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control issued a cleanup and abatement order to Teledyne-Ryan. PCBs entered the Bay through the storm water system; the contamination was found down to a depth of 10 feet. Seven acres of bay sediments were capped in 1986 and RWQCB issued a new order requiring maintenance, monitoring and repair of the cap. In 2004 evidence of new PCB contamination was found and a new Cleanup and Abatement Order was issued. This has not yet been completed. The site is being considered as a depository for contaminated sediments from the current Shipyard Sediment Site.
  • Campbell Shipyard – sediments contaminated with PCBs, copper, zinc, lead, TBT, PAHs, and other petroleum hydrocarbons; cleanup ordered in 1995; cleanup completed in 2003
  • The Blob – an underground plume of petroleum hydrocarbons under downtown San Diego was discovered moving toward the Bay. Unocal, Shell, GTF Frost, Golden West Hotel, CCDC, and Transportation and Leasing Company were determined to be responsible parties. Cleanup ordered in 1990; completed in 1991.

Protection from further contamination requires strong regulations, strict monitoring and enforcement, eliminating or reducing the use of toxic chemicals, education, and cooperation. EHC has consistently advocated for protection through the following actions.

  • Strengthen Regulations: Basin Plan, California's Bay Protection and Toxic Cleanup Program
  • Elimination of toxic pollutants
    • EHC successfully appealed a Waste Discharge Permit for failing to require monitoring of Tributylin Tin (TBT), an extremely toxic product that was used to protect boat bottoms. TBT was subsequently
    • Pollutants entering the bay from the South Bay Power Plant were eliminated after more than 40 years when EHC's efforts to close down the plant succeeded
  • Human health advisories – People need to be informed about the hazards toxic pollution in the Bay can cause. EHC secured the posting of two fish consumption advisories: the first in 1990 and the second in 2006. Now written in English, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese, the County Department of Health Services and the San Diego Unified Port District provide more specific advice in the signs to fishers of the Bay compared to what was originally posted in 1990.
  • Shipyard Pollution Prevention: EHC worked with shipyard workers and a consultant to develop a series of opportunities for consideration by the shipyards.
  • Military: In 2001 EHC worked with Congressman Bob Filner to introduce the Military Environmental Responsibility Act. A field hearing was held in San Diego and people from across the nation testified on the harm military toxics caused in their communities. The legislation was not passed, but brought much needed attention to the many exemptions the Military claimed from environmental regulations.
  • Urban runoff: Recognizing that urban runoff contributes to pollution of San Diego Bay and other water bodies, EHC introduced storm drain stencils in San Diego County with the message "No Dumping – I Live Downstream." Bilingual educational materials were developed as part of our San Diego Bay Watershed Protection program.
  • Integrated Pest Management Program for Port of San Diego. EHC provided technical assistance to the Port in development of an IPM program for the maintenance of their parks and buildings.

Restoration – a vision

As part of EHC's San Diego Bay Watershed Protection Program, we advocated for the restoration of Chollas Creek including removal of concrete channels and returning the creekside to a natural riparian habitat.

South Bay Unit of San Diego National Wildlife Refuge
In June 1999, the South San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge was officially dedicated, the culmination of more than 20-years of work involving a unique partnership among environmental groups, community residents, and local, state, and federal agencies. The refuge initially conserved 2,200 acres of significant habitat, including essential wetlands and mudflats which are home to more than 560 plant and animal species.

EHC's current efforts in South San Diego: (short description of goal with link to expanded info)

Community Planning – insure that the Bayfront Master Plan is implemented

Green Energy/Green Jobs – make certain that the bayfront development utilizes the maximum renewable energy and the highest green building standards


Prior to the 1900's, San Diego Bay was a fertile, shallow bay supporting great biodiversity in its open water, salt marshes and mud flats. Dredging and filling of the Bay, along with development have eliminated over 90% of the mudflats and 78% of the salt marshes. Those that remain are found mostly in South San Diego Bay.

Most of the land surrounding San Diego Bay is controlled by the San Diego Unified Port District or the U.S. military. The last remaining piece of privately owned bayfront property was 125 acres between the Sweetwater Marsh Unit of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge and a marina/commercial development on Port controlled land to the South. When developers proposed dense commercial and residential development at this site, environmentalists and South Bay residents objected. (read more>)

Sweetwater Marsh Unit of SDNWR: In the late 1970's/early 1980's two projects were proposed that would severely threaten these remaining wetlands habitats: a combined highway/flood control channel along the Sweetwater River that separates National City and Chula Vista, and construction of a 440-room hotel at Gunpowder Point along with high rise residential complexes on the D-Street Fill.

A multi-year legal battle, led by the Sierra Club and League for Coastal Protection, ensued. In 1987 a District Court judge issued a permanent injunction to stop all work, and in 1988 the 315.8-acre Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge was created. It is now home to the Chula Vista Nature Center.

South San Diego Bay Unit of SDNWR: The water and land at the far south of the Bay was still unprotected

Pollution Burden:

Pollution in South San Diego Bay has come from the South Bay Power Plant, bayside industries such as Rohr Industries, the nearby Interstate 5, and urban runoff.

EHC's West Chula Vista Leadership Team (links to bio)

Laura Hunter, Associate Director – Clean Bay Campaign

Kayla Race, Policy Advocate, Green Energy/Green Jobs Campaing

West Chula Vista Community Action Team

Relationships to other EHC Efforts (links to other areas of the website)

Regional Transportation

San Diego Port District

San Diego Bay

SBPowerPlant Dirty Energy 940From 1960 until decommissioned in 2010, the South Bay Power Plant’s four generators polluted South San Diego Bay and emitted tons of toxic and greenhouse gases.

Environmental Health Coalition's concern started with the impacts of the power plant on San Diego Bay, but expanded to include air pollution and development of a sustainable energy policy. In 2001, the San Diego Bay Council, comprised of Environmental Health Coalition and six other non-profit organizations, published Deadly Power, A case for eliminating the impacts of the South Bay Power Plant on San Diego Bay and ensuring better environmental options for the San Diego/Tijuana region.

It took another ten years of community organizing and advocacy before we reached the goal of shutting down the power plant.

Current Issues – cleanup and reuse

The South Bay Power Plant occupies 115 acres of bayfront property owned by the Port of San Diego in the City of Chula Vista. Now comes the task of tearing down the 175-foot structure, cleaning up the contamination and restoring the land for future use.  

Chula Vista's Bayfront Master Plan includes this site. 

As part of the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan Settlement Agreement between the Bayfront Coalition, the San Diego Unified Port District, the City of Chula Vista and the Redevelopment Agency of the City of Chula Vista signed in May 2010, a South Bay Wildlife Advisory Committee (WAG) was formed to advise the Port on the development of a Natural Resources Management Plan.

The WAG seeks to ensure that the precious natural resources including fish, wildlife, invertebrate, plant, and ecosystems of and surrounding the Chula Vista Bayfront are protected enhanced and managed through the preparation, implementation and review of a Natural Resources Management Plan, comprehensive agreements, and other relevant wildlife plans and actions.

In addition to the organizations signing the Settlement Agreement, Other WAG members include the Chula Vista Nature Center – Education and Operations programs; South County Economic Development Council; South Bay Boatworks; Pacifica Companies; Resource Conservation Commission, four residents from the City of Chula Vista; Zoological Society of San Diego; Sportfishing Association of California; San Diego Foundation; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – Refuges & Ecological Services; National Marine Fisheries Service; Regional Water Quality Control Board, California Department of Fish & Game, California Coastal Commission.

The WAG began meeting in April 2011, with the Port District providing support staff and EHC and Pacifica representatives serving as co-chairs. The Port, with the WAG participating in the interview process, is currently hiring the consultant to develop the NRMP. The consultant will be meeting regularly with the WAG.

More information on the WAG can be found on the Port's website.

military san diegoThe US military is a major force in San Diego County. It controls 47% of San Diego Bay tidelands, including the largest naval base on the west coast located between National City and Barrio Logan. Other military facilities range from the southern tip of the county in Imperial Beach to Camp Pendleton at its most northern portion, from Point Loma and Coronado on the Pacific Ocean to the Marine Air Base at Miramar at the eastern edge of the City.

The Department of Defense is also one the nation's leading polluters, yet they avoid full regulation and accountability via various exemptions. In 2000, EHC worked with Congressman Bob Filner to draft the Military Environmental Responsibility Act, federal legislation that would subject the military to the same federal, environmental, worker and public safety laws that govern all other industrial and commercial operation.

Although the MERA legislation was not enacted, it brought national attention to this issue of unjust exemptions. The military is increasingly being held to the same regulations as the private and other governmental sectors.

The California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) Advisory Committee on Environmental Justice was formed in 2001 to help Cal/EPA incorporate environmental justice into all of its programs and policies. EHC's Executive Director, Diane Takvorian, served as co-chair of the Advisory Committee.

On September 29, 2003, more than 250 community residents representing many of the state's low-income communities and communities of color traveled to Oakland. For more than eight hours they testified in favor of the recommendations of the Advisory Committee.

Three key recommendations called for Cal/EPA to recognize the significant burden of toxics and pollution on impacted communities. The advisory committee recommended that Cal/EPA:

  • Use a precautionary approach: A precautionary approach to decision making means that regulations should prevent harm when there is credible evidence that harm is occurring, or is likely to occur – even when complete scientific evidence or proof is not available – in drafting and enforcing regulations.
  • Prioritize pollution prevention over pollution control: All too often communities of color have been left feeling sorry by pollution control – sorry for their lost health and quality of life.
  • Evaluate the cumulative impacts of toxics in an impacted community when making regulatory decisions. This process requires that the health effects of all sources of pollution be taken into consideration when determining the impact of pollution in individuals, communities, and the environment.

The landmark environmental justice policies were adopted by Cal/EPA. EHC and California Environmental Justice Alliance continue to advocate for inclusion of the policies in all Cal/EPA efforts. In 2005, we achieved passage of the first state air pollution rule which requires a buffer zone between a polluting industries and sensitive receptors.

On February 16, 2005, the Cal/EPA Secretary and the heads of the Cal/EPA Boards, Departments and Offices approved the following definitions of cumulative impacts and precautionary approaches for use in the environmental justice pilot projects.

Cumulative impacts means exposures, public health or environmental effects from the combined emissions and discharges, in a geographic area, including environmental pollution from all sources, whether single or multi-media, routinely, accidentally, or otherwise released. Impacts will take into account sensitive populations and socio-economic factors, where applicable and to the extent data are available.

Precautionary approaches means taking anticipatory action to protect public health or the environment if a reasonable threat of serious harm exists based upon the best available science and other relevant information, even if absolute and undisputed scientific evidence is not available to assess the exact nature and extent of risk.

EHC believes that the proper role of government is to protect human and environmental rights. In addition to working locally, we also work at the state and national levels to promote government policies and regulations that protect human health and the environment. Many of these efforts are in cooperation with our allies in the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA).

EHC's current efforts with CEJA include the California Energy Policy and the Green Zones. These are far reaching initiatives that can benefit many environmental justice communities.

AB32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act passed by the California legislature in 2006, created an opportunity to put the State at the forefront of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There is great potential for pollution reduction and a booming green energy economy. EHC and CEJA work to make certain low-income communities benefit from these policies.

The Green Zone initiative will create a federal designation for neighborhoods or clusters of neighborhoods that face the cumulative impacts of environment, social, political and economic vulnerability. Communities with Green Zone designations would be able to access benefits at state and feral levels. This would ensure that those communities most highly impacted by environmental hazards and economic stressors receive much needed resources and support.

For more information about these efforts, click on the CEJA link above.

While not a primary strategy, EHC will work with state and national legislators to develop and introduce specific legislation.

Military Environmental Responsibility Act

Lead Free Candy – State of California (link to Lead-Free Candy Page)

More frequently, EHC works to influence policies and voter initiatives that have broad impact on our target communities.

California Environmental Justice Advisory Committee

Stop 23

cejaEnvironmental Health Coalition is a member of the California Environmental Justice Alliance. The other members are:

  • Asian Pacific Environmental Network
  • Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice
  • Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment
  • Communities for a Better Environment
  • People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Right

The mission of the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA) is to strengthen the progressive environmental justice movement in California by building on the local organizing efforts and advocacy successes of our member organizations to achieve state policy change. CEJA focuses on California's communities in the San Francisco Bay Area, Central Valley, the Los Angeles region, the Inland Valleys, and the San Diego/Tijuana Border region. CEJA works to achieve environmental justice by organizing in low-income communities and communities of color – those most impacted by environmental hazards – and by pushing for policies at the federal, state, regional and local levels that protect public health. Working together, CEJA's members organizations are building a movement for health and justice.

For more information about EHC's work with CEJA, click on the following reports and newsletter:

Building Healthy Communities from the Ground Up

Values for a Robust Distribution Generation Program in California

Green Zones for Economic and Environmental Sustainability

CEJA December 2011 Newsletter

  • CEJA turns up the heat on renewable energy policy
  • CEJA stands in solidarity with Occupy Movement
  • Green Zones team goes to Washington
  • Climate change fund for communities put on hold
  • CEJA members in the news – fighting Cap and Trade, warehouses and demanding equitable transportation planning

girl-pinataProtect your Child - Buy these Certified Lead-Free Candies

Lead is known to cause permanent and serious damage to children. It may still be found in many consumer products, including candy. The lead comes from ingredients, contaminated equipment and ink on candy wrappers.

In October 2005, the EHC Healthy Kids Campaign won passage of the first state law to ban the sale of lead-contaminated candies, generally imported from other countries, which significantly threaten children's health. This victory was the culmination of a three-year campaign that started with an EHC leader discovering the presence of lead in her child's candy. Implementation of the law is being monitored by EHC and enhanced by a settlement of EHC's Prop 65 lawsuit against major candy manufacturers.

Today, most candy is safe to eat. You can view the latest lead-in-candy results from the California Department of Public Health by clicking here.

For more information, download this list of certified lead-safe candy (in Spanish).


Tijuana: The communities of Colonia Chilpancingo, Colonia Murua and Nueva Esperanza share many of the problems found in San Diego's communities of color: substandard housing, over-crowded schools, a lack of social services, low-paid jobs, polluting industries mixed in with residential and commercial sites, industrial truck traffic, lack of parks and healthy food outlets, and severe air pollution. They are also adjacent to Tijuana's largest Maquiladora industrial complex.

EHC chose to work in these neighborhoods of Tijuana because their pollution problems skyrocketed after the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 and the resulting growth of the maquiladora industry.

Although comprehensive economic and demographic data is not available for these neighborhoods, available data show that 67% of the homes have dirt floors, 66% do not have piped water, and 33% do not have sewer hook-ups. Two adults employed full-time in the maquiladora industry, the main source of employment, cover only two-thirds of the basic needs of a family of four.

NAFTA and the Commission for Environmental Cooperation: The Commission for Environmental Cooperation was created by NAFTA to address environmental concerns. Although the Commission has very limited authority, EHC has successfully used one of its available mechanisms – the Citizens' Petition - to secure the cleanup of Metales y Derivados, an abandoned lead-recycling facility.

EHC's Executive Director, Diane Takvorian, was appointed by President Barack Obama as a member of the Joint Public Advisory Committee to the CEC. Through this membership, she hopes to strengthen the tri-national commitment to environmental justice and bring the voice of the people to the front and center. She is currently working to strengthen the Citizens' Petition process.

Children attending schools in the Tijuana communities of Colonia Chilpancingo and Colonia Campestre Murúa are exposed to high levels of diesel particulate matter, according to research conducted by Environmental Health Coalition and Colonia residents. Exposure to diesel exhaust is associated with serious health hazards including cancer, asthma and heart problems.

From December 2008 through April 2009, EHC and members of EHC's affiliate, the Colectivo Chilpancingo Pro Justicia Ambiental, conducted air quality sampling and traffic counting at three school sites – the communities' kindergarten, elementary school and high school. Analysis of the data showed that traffic volumes and ultrafine particulate levels are higher at the three school sites than at the control site.

Fifty percent of the trucks counted during sampling bore both U.S. and Mexican license plates, indicated they are licensed to operate on both sides of the border and are likely servicing the Maquiladora industry. Shortcuts past the schools save drivers time and fuel, but there are existing main arteries surrounding the neighborhood which are appropriate truck routes.

The community's conclusion that trucks needed to be banned from these streets was confirmed by a study conducted by Edgar Rodríguez of the San Diego State University Graduate School of Public Health. Working in cooperation with the Autonomous University of Baja California, he examined the relationship between roadside pollution and traffic counts to assess the potential exposure of these pollutants in elementary school children.

He concluded that high pollutant levels were present and justified re-routing commercial trucks away from residential neighborhoods and schools.

The community organized a successful petition campaign and trucks are now banned from the streets that pass the schools.

On October 17, 2010 EHC and our Mexican affiliate the Chilpancingo Collective for Environmental Justice marked an important victory in the bi-national campaign to restrict maquiladora truck traffic from Colonia Chilpancingo, where diesel emissions from the trucks have caused respiratory problems for school children (link to page about the testing).

Signage was posted in August banning the trucks from the streets where the schools are located. EHC, alongside members of the Collective and its Youth group, conducted a campaign for more than two years seeking to restrict semi-truck traffic driving past the three public schools in the neighborhood.

Semi-trucks serving the maquiladora assembly plants take shortcuts through the neighborhood. As a consequence, 2,000 school children and everyone who lives and works in the area are exposed to high levels of diesel emissions. Diesel emissions are associated with serious health risks, including asthma, cancer and heart disease. More than 1,000 supporters signed the petition circulated by EHC, the Collective and Youth group demanding a halt to the invasion of semi-trucks from the adjacent industrial park, the largest in Tijuana.