On April 3, 2019, Jerry Rivero and I led an interactive workshop at Mesa College on the City of La Mesa’s Climate Action Plan and on environmental justice in Barrio Logan. A class of about 40 urban geography and environmental economics students and their respective professors engaged in a dialogue on topics such as Community Choice Aggregation, active transportation policies, and the importance of community participation and engagement. We talked about the collaborative process between interagency and community based organizations to develop and implement a climate action plan that was reflective of community priorities.
Jerry Rivero, San Diego Section American Planning Association (SDAPA) Membership Inclusion Director and Toxic Neighborhoods Campaign Director at the Environmental Health Coalition presented on the built environment and the impacts on community health. He gave a brief history on environmental justice in California and particularly in Barrio Logan. He highlighted land use and planning issues related to heavy duty truck traffic that correlated with community health in the Barrio Logan neighborhood. The students discussed in small groups the effects of heavy duty trucks and its impact on Barrio Logan residents. Each group was assigned to represent a specific stakeholder group including residents, businesses, city staff, environmental advocacy, the Port of San Diego, and elected officials. The students presented their public comments and engaged in dialogue between groups that led to recommended solutions and specific actions agreed upon by the elected officials. The outcomes discussed in the class were very similar with how the actual stakeholder engagement process and policy development played out in the public forum. Mr. Rivero went on to share how the City Council adopted a resolution to protect Barrio Logan residents from the pollution created by heavy duty trucks driving through the community.
The workshop encouraged students to continue to advance their professional career interests in urban planning, geography, and sustainability. Students provided exceptional feedback and engaged the topic areas in a thoughtful manner. We shared with the students the importance with being involved in professional associations early on in their careers and highlighted the SDAPA and how students can enjoy free membership. Students left the class optimistic and with an increased awareness on climate planning and policy making.
Urban Studies and Planning student, Ivanna Guerrero shared, “the activity demonstrated how the community, government, businesses, and urban planners make decisions in order to create solutions for our cities. Through a real-life example, I was able to come to understand a bit more what it takes to make decisions for progress to be made.”
Urban Studies and Planning student, Nick Petersen also shared, “I learned that many stakeholders are both involved with and impacted by urban planning decisions. The discussion and simulation of a public meeting demonstrated that civic engagement is important in making a change.”