Advancing equitable, healthy and livable communities for all San Diegans

The General Plan guides future development across the City through citywide policies addressing land use, mobility, urban design, economic prosperity, recreation, conservation, noise, historic preservation, public spaces, services and safety. Environmental Justice will be a new element added to the General Plan to further the City’s efforts to advance the equitable distribution of benefits and limit environmental burdens in the City to promote healthy and livable communities for all San Diegans.  

The DRAFT Environmental Justice Element is now available for public review! This draft includes goals toward a more equitable future, policies that inform City decision-making, proposed activities that build on existing programs to advance environmental justice, and a description of areas of the City most impacted and negatively affected by environmental burdens and associated health risks – collectively known as Environmental Justice Communities (EJ Communities).  

Goals, policies and proposed activities within the DRAFT EJ Element are categorized by the following seven topics, adapted from SB 1000

  • Inclusive Public Engagement in City Decisions
  • Pollution Exposure and Air Quality
  • Active Play
  • Promoting Healthy Food Access
  • Safe and Healthy Homes
  • Climate Change and Resilience
  • Public Facilities and Infrastructure Prioritization

While the DRAFT Environmental Justice Element applies Citywide, special attention is needed in EJ Communities to advance equity and sustainability goals.  The varied development patterns in the city, while contributing to economic growth and community enrichment, reveal stark inequalities in how adverse effects are distributed. The DRAFT Environmental Justice Element is critical in addressing these inequities.

We invite you to review the DRAFT Environmental Justice Element and attend upcoming public hearing meetings.  

Review the DRAFT Environmental Justice Element

The City of San Diego partnered with five community-based organizations (CBOs) to ensure community engagement is inclusive to all people in our City. The selected CBOs were:  

  • Bayside Community Center

  • Bikes del Pueblo

  • Casa Familiar

  • City Heights Community Development Corporation

  • The Urban Collaborative Project

Priorities identified by people living and working in EJ Communities were critical to informing the development of this element. Forty engagement events were held in partnership with CBOs to connect with community members at places and events in their neighborhoods.  We are thankful to the CBOs and all of the people who provided feedback through these engagement events to help shape the DRAFT Environmental Justice Element.  

Strategic Plan Priority Areas of Focus

This initiative focuses on the following priority areas of the Strategic Plan:

Protect & Enrich Every Neighborhood

Includes policies that plan for cleaner air, high quality public spaces, safe and healthy homes, and other necessities that make great communities in traditionally underserved communities.

Champion Sustainability

Promotes reducing pollution exposure and advancing safe and sanitary homes to further support a built environment that best sustains our natural environment and public health.

Foster Regional Prosperity

Fostering connected and thriving communities equitably creates a livable city for San Diegans of all socio-economic backgrounds which supports workers at all levels crucial to a strong local economy.

General Timeline for the Environmental Justice Element

The Preparation Period will occur between August 2022 and January 2023. Project Initiation will occur between January 2023 and March 2023. Public Outreach and Engagement will occur between March 2023 and September 2023. The Public Hearing Process is expected to begin in September 2023 and conclude between December 2023 and Spring 2024.

Project timeline

Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice

Varied development patterns within a city can lead to unequal impacts in communities. New development, such as a regional port, can generate new jobs and enrich a city but may also increase air pollution in the surrounding area. On the other hand, an absence of local development can also adversely impact a community. For example, a lack of grocery stores in a community limits access to healthy food choices, which has been linked to increased obesity rates. Some communities suffer more from the adverse effects of varied development patterns by carrying a more significant and disproportionate burden of the associated health risks. Environmental justice speaks to these historical imbalances that exist in our communities, despite all being part of one city.

The State of California defines environmental justice as:

"[The] fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies." California Government Code Section 65040.12(c)

Environmental justice ensures that people of all races, cultures, and incomes are equally and equitably valued, protected and served by laws. This includes regulations and policies that impact the quality of the environment around us, such as transportation, parks, natural spaces, urban landscapes, City services and the overall use of land.

To learn more about these disparities view the Story Map

Story Map button

Purpose of the
Environmental Justice Element

Purpose of the
Environmental Justice Element

The purpose of the Environmental Justice Element is to identify and reduce unique or compounded health risks in our city with a focus on disadvantaged communities. Priorities outlined in the Environmental Justice Element will be reflected in community plans, City Council policies, infrastructure priorities and facility improvement programs, as well as annual City budgets that work together with the General Plan to advance improvements in neighborhoods throughout San Diego.

Topics addressed by the Environmental Justice Element will work toward:

  • Promoting physical activity
  • Reducing barriers to civic engagement
  • Reducing pollution exposure
  • Creating comfortable public space and facilities
  • Championing food access
  • Advancing safe and sanitary homes

How to Make
Environmental Justice a Reality

How to Make
Environmental Justice a Reality

There are already great community-led projects and programs across the City of San Diego advancing environmental justice. The story map below highlights a few of these projects. This work must continue to be elevated through supportive policies, objectives, and goals that inform future analyses, projects, and funding priorities.

EJ Case Studies

The Environmental Justice Element will prioritize the following:

Access to fresh foods that nourishes our bodies.

Clean air that affects our children's health.

Safe and healthy homes where our families live.

Communication between City officials and San Diegans to inform decision making.

Enjoyable spaces where our families can recreate.

Understanding conditions in communities impacted by compounded health risks will inform the development of equitable goals, policies, funding strategies and implementation measures to address historical inequities. To make environmental justice a reality, communities most impacted and negatively affected by environmental burdens and associated health risks will need to be identified. Environmental Justice Communities can begin to be identified based on quantifiable factors pertaining to neighborhood quality and environmental hazards such as air pollution, access to fresh food and household income, all of which are known to contribute to health issues. While the Environmental Justice Element will apply to all areas of the city, special attention will be given to Environmental Justice Communities to advance the City's climate and equity goals.

The Planning Department conducted an initial Environmental Justice Screen to inform the selection of Environmental Justice Communities. This exercise was informed by the CalEnviroScreen 4.0 tool developed by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, the Climate and Economic Justice Screening 1.0 tool developed by the Council on Environmental Quality within the Executive Office of the President, and additional local data to supplement these tools in relation to Food Apartheid and Heat Indicators. The Environmental Justice Screen will be further informed by the lived experiences of people across the city and feedback collected will serve to refine or expand upon findings from the data analyzed. Outreach and engagement will be conducted in the spring of 2023 to ensure the final selection of Environmental Justice Communities reflects input from community members and better captures areas impacted by compounded health risks.

Draft Environmental Justice Communities for discussion and further input.

Get Involved
and Stay Connected!

Get Involved
and Stay Connected!

Community involvement is extremely important to the City and the input received from our communities will drive the decision-making process. Below are ways to stay connected and provide feedback.

More Participation = More Environmental Justice!

More Participation = More Environmental Justice!

Drawing of diverse group of faceless people




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Save the Date & Attend the City Council Meeting

The DRAFT Environmental Justice Element will be presented to City Council on Monday, July 1, at 2:00 p.m. Members of the public may attend this meeting in-person or online. For information on how to participate, please review the below information. If you wish to speak on the item, please follow the City Council rules that can be found here. Your input is valued, and we want to hear from you!  

City Council Meeting

Meeting Agenda: Coming Soon 
Date/Time: Monday, July 1, at 2:00 p.m.

Attending the meeting in person:
City Administration Building  Sa
Council Chambers – 12th Floor 
202 C Street, San Diego, CA  92101

Attending the meeting virtually:

To join by using your phone: 
Dial 1-669-254 5252 | When prompted, input
Webinar ID: 160 780 7743# 


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The DRAFT Environmental Justice Element is Ready for Public Review! Send Us Your Comments

The project team welcomes comments and suggestions for the Environmental Justice Element for consideration, which can submitted using the Comment Form or sent via e-mail to


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Tell Us How You Would Like to Engage

As these important policies are further developed, the City would like to learn how you would like to stay engaged. Please take a moment to complete the form linked below.

Interest Form in English / Cuestionario de Intereses


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Share Information with Friends and Family

To facilitate learning about the Environmental Justice Element, easily sharable materials have been developed and are linked below.

Fact Sheet | Hoja de Información
Draft EJ Communities Story Map | EJ Case Studies Story Map


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Review Documents

As documents related to this initiative are developed, they will be posted below for public review.



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Outreach and Engagement Summaries

The draft Environmental Justice Element was developed with inclusive community input in mind. The documents linked below summarize outreach and engagement efforts as well as community input collected.  

  • EJ Outreach and Engagement Summary - This document provides an overview of the steps taken to create opportunities for meaningful public input and gather feedback from partner organizations on ways to better engage the public. It provides an overview of engagement events conducted, the project timeline and the overall strategy for outreach and engagement, followed by an engagement summary that informs the Environmental Justice Element.
  • Previous Outreach and Engagement Summary- This document summarizes valuable feedback collected from past outreach and engagement activities across multiple initiatives to inform the goals, policies, and objectives of the Environmental Justice Element.

Environmental Justice Roundtable Meeting Summaries

The City is working closely with five community-based organizations (CBOs) on outreach efforts and engagement activities to gather feedback on environmental justice topics, with the goal of reaching those most impacted by unique and compounded health risk. A variety of engagement tactics will be used to reach stakeholders to share and receive feedback on issues related to environmental justice. As part of this effort, Community-Based Engagement Team Roundtables will be held monthly. Roundtable summaries for these meetings will be listed below.

Environmental Justice Background Review Report

Mapping pollution data and characteristic data gives us a initial glance at areas throughout the city that carry a greater share of the impact of development patterns. The Environmental Justice Background Review Report is a mapping exercise to visualize several data points and help identify challenges our communities are facing related to environmental justice.

Background Review Report of Findings - Full Document (90MB)

Environmental Justice Survey Report

This survey sought to better understand environmental justice issues San Diegans experience in their neighborhood. Two documents are provided below: (1) the report and (2) the accompanying Microsoft Excel file providing detailed analysis of responses by community.


Equity Forward San Diego logo

Environmental Justice Element logo

City Planning