San Diego County supervisors on Wednesday unanimously approved a roadmap for a new environmental office focused on reducing air pollution and toxic chemical threats to residents, putting the emphasis on minority and low-income communities.
The Office of Environmental and Climate Justice roadmap also provides direction, scope, roles and responsibilities, according to county officials.
According to the county’s Department of Land Use and Environment, once OECJ staff members are hired, they will begin to address region-wide sustainability needs in poorly populated communities. served.
The Supervisory Board voted to create the office, proposed by Vice President Nora Vargas, last spring. Vargas said Wednesday she was “beyond thrilled” with the final step for the office, which will represent “transformative politics for our environmental justice communities” and drive systemic change, she said.
Vargas called it fantastic that the roadmap “really evolved into what the community members (wanted).”
Nicole Ambrose, group program manager for the county’s Department of Land Use and Environment, told council members that other goals are meaningful community participation and input. She said previous meetings with various community groups have covered topics such as investment opportunities, access to healthy food, housing, toxic hotspots, urban heat island effects and transportation. .
Ambrose said his department wants to recognize past injustices against 17 Native American tribes in the county, including the Cahuilla, Kumeyaay and Luiseno.
“We aspire to learn from indigenous traditional knowledge,” she said.
Ambrose said the OECJ will conduct public outreach and work with stakeholders in areas and unincorporated towns in the county, including North El Cajon, North Lemon Grove, Spring Valley and Sweetwater.
Murtaza Baxamusa, land use program manager, said the OECJ roadmap addresses present and past injustices and “ensures that these injustices do not happen again in the future.”
As an example, Baxamusa said the OECJ will use mapping tools to look at areas where there are few parks or homes with high amounts of lead.
Baxamusa added that the map “is a working document and may change over time.”
Vargas also asked the county to apply for grants and work with its Air Pollution Control District and the California Air Resources Board to reduce emissions from medium and heavy vehicles.
Supervisor Jim Desmond thanked Vargas for his efforts to create the new office and said the county needs to be vigilant about where it allows solar power projects to be built, as these can impact residents. living nearby. Council’s approval last August of a major solar farm in the rural community of Jacumba was met with considerable opposition from residents.
Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer also credited Vargas, saying it’s important for communities to have a voice. “I wish we were there in person to celebrate,” she added.
As they have done for the past few months, board members participated via teleconference on Wednesday.
City News Service contributed to this article.