Truck on 28th Street in Barrio Logan
A truck on 28th Street in Barrio Logan. Courtesy Google Maps

The county Board of Supervisors has approved a plan to reduce air pollution in Barrio Logan, Logan Heights, Sherman Heights and western National City by studying the types of trucks and cars driving through them.

The study would create a local “inventory” of air pollution and the types of vehicles expected to be emitting it.

“This vote is a step in the right direction to correct some historical, environmental wrongs committed on the residents of Barrio Logan and Logan Heights,” said Brent Beltrán of Logan Heights, former vice chair of the Barrio Logan Community Planning Group. “For decades, elected officials have allowed our communities to be a toxic dumping ground. It’s good to see that attitude changing.”

Two months ago, supervisors cited privacy concerns and declined a pollution-reduction plan that in part would read vehicle license plates to pinpoint sources of polluting emissions.

At the time, the board asked instead that the county Air Pollution Control District return in November with alternatives to the system.

The district’s Community Air Protection Program was developed in response to state Assembly Bill 617, which is aimed at reducing exposure to air pollutants in disadvantaged communities, including Barrio Logan and National City.

A steering committee held public meetings at Perkins Elementary School in Barrio Logan and residents supported the proposal.

Local concerns about toxic pollution go back decades, with the Environmental Health Coalition leading a fight for solutions.

The inventory would then allow the county to more accurately target $18 million in incentives to encourage people to change from high-polluting vehicles and equipment to less-polluting types, thus reducing pollution and improving health.

The study unanimously approved Wednesday will use automated license plate reader software to allow the county’s Air Pollution Control District to analyze information about the types, makes, models, age and fuel type of cars and trucks driving in the Portside neighborhoods.

The license readers will not include any personal information such as owners’ names and addresses, the county said.

No information will be shared with any other agencies, including law enforcement. All information collected will be deleted within three days of completing the analysis.

The Portside Neighborhood, communities disproportionately harmed by air pollution because they’re near ports, shipping, freeways, rail yards, freight, warehouses and industries, was one of the first 10 selected earlier this year by the state to be part of California’s Community Air Protection Program.

The California Air Resources Board created the program in response to California’s passage of AB 617 in 2017, which aimed to help local communities threatened the most by air pollution.

The Air Pollution Control District has historically monitored regional air quality. However, the district started monitoring, for the first time, the local “community level” air quality in those Portside communities in March, using $2.5 million from the California Air Resources Board, to cut air pollution.

That work included placing multiple monitors in the four neighborhoods, using “mobile” air monitors mounted in low-polluting Toyota Priuses driving throughout the neighborhoods; collecting air quality data; and using the district’s air quality improvement projects to reduce pollution.

— County News Center and City News Service contributed to this report.