Environmental and Social Justice in Barrio Logan

A caffeinated-history with Gabe:

Logan Avenue in San Diego was named after Congressman John A. Logan in 1881. Congressman Logan wrote legislation to provide federal land grants and subsidies for the construction of a transcontinental railroad that ended in San Diego. Overtime, Logan became the term to describe the general area. The area is now referred to as Logan Heights, and the southernmost section as Barrio Logan.

In 1910, the Mexican Revolution erupted and armed conflict lasted for 10 years. Due to the revolution, there was a massive influx of Mexican immigrants to San Diego. They relocated to the southern part of Logan Heights, hence the name Barrio Logan.

Francisco [Pancho] Villa and Staff, 1911, Unknown. Gelatin silver print, 8.7 x 13.7 cm. The Getty Research Institute, 89.R.46. Digital image courtesy of the Getty Open Content Program

Barrio Logan has had a lot of historical injustice. It all started during World War II, when the City of San Diego denied residents of Barrio Logan waterfront access and allowed the rest of the San Diego Bay residents access. In the 1950s, the Logan Heights area was rezoned as an industrial and residential area. This brought auto repair shops and junk dealers into the area which then created unsuitable residential conditions such as air pollution and noise pollution.

Residents of Barrio Logan continued to have their voices silenced throughout the 60s as the Interstate 5 and subsequent onramps to the Coronado bridge were constructed through the area. As the Civil Rights Movement gained momentum, locally and nationally, so did demands for a community park in Barrio Logan. In 1969, the park was officially approved by the City of San Diego.

Photo taken from San Diego Reader article by  Walter MenckenOct. 29, 2016

On April 22, 1970, a San Diego City College student noticed bulldozers next to the area designated for the park. He asked the construction workers what was going on, and he was told that they were going to build a parking lot for a California Highway Patrol station. Outraged, he notified his family and went door to door notifying his community members of the news.

Long story short, the Barrio Logan community banded together and peacefully protested the construction. The protest lasted 12 days and grew upwards of 250 people. On July 1, 1970, the city allocated $21,814.96 for the construction of 1.8 acre park.

This was a huge civil rights win for the Chicana/Chicano community and movement.

Although decades have past since the park was established, the community still battles against social and environmental injustices. Community organizer and activist, Jorge Gonzalez, is at the forefront of this ongoing effort.

Jorge Gonzalez is a community organizer with the Environmental Health Coalition, a non-profit that works toward issues of environmental justice for low-income communities and communities of color. (K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

“Environmental justice is the right of all people to live, work and play in a safe and clean environment. That simple. Environmental injustice, or environmental racism, cannot be easily defined. It is the cumulative impacts of environmental, social, political and economic vulnerabilities that affect the quality of life of a community.”

-Jorge Gonzalez

The Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) is heavily involved in addressing and counteracting the unequal burden placed on low-income communities of color resulting from historically discriminatory policies. They do this through actively auditing and analyzing the San Diego Climate Action Plan (CAP). For the EHCs in depth analysis see: https://www.environmentalhealth.org/images/FINAL-Full-Doc—Web—An-EJ-Assessment-of-the-CAP.pdf

Key findings from the EHC analysis on environmental justice (EJ) communities:

  • In the City of San Diego, 90% of census tracts with the worst air pollution due to diesel emissions are located in EJ communities
  • 13% of the City of San Diego has tree-canopy coverage to provide shade and natural resources, while EJ communities average only 10.6%

The EHC is always looking for volunteers to help in their pursuit of justice. You can visit their website for opportunities: https://www.environmentalhealth.org/index.php/en/

Also, for those of you who are SDSU students, the Special Collections department in Love Library has historical documents, photos, books, newspapers and personal belongings related to the San Diego Chicana/Chicano Movement and Chicano Park protest for you to access.

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