San Diego County Board of Supervisors
Greg Cox, District 1; Dianne Jacob, District 2; Kristin Gaspar, District 3; Nathan Fletcher, District 4, Jim Desmond, District 5.

County supervisors voted 4-1 Wednesday in favor of reassigning two Air Pollution Control District employees to develop a plan to reduce emissions and community exposure.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who made the proposal, said it was based on environmental justice.

An existing deputy director and program coordinator will work to ensure the district complies with state Assembly Bill 617. Also known as the Community Air Protection Program, AB 617 focuses on reducing pollution exposure in communities based on environmental, health and socioeconomic information.

According to Fletcher’s office, they’ll also work on permit fee structures, district rule development and multilingual community relations. The staffing reassignments will not affect the county budget.

Fletcher said that along with the county’s generally poor air quality ratings, the USS Bonhomme Richard fire at Naval Base San Diego in July — which sent columns of acrid smoke across much of the city — showed that communities, especially those of color, need more information on environmental health.

“A child in Barrio Logan is eight times more likely to have asthma than a child in La Jolla, and we have to do a better job of tackling this injustice,” Fletcher said.

Supervisor Jim Desmond cast the lone no vote, saying that while he appreciated the spirit of Fletcher’s request, he doesn’t like “hiring from the diocese.”

“We’re policy makers,” Desmond said. “We allow executives to determine how to execute our policies. This seems to be reaching down too deep in the hierarchy.”

Desmond also took issue with those who cited the American Lung Association’s ranking of San Diego as the sixth-worst community in the nation for air pollution.

Board Chairman Greg Cox said that without a doubt, there are some disparities among certain communities where children face greater health challenges, and “we should do whatever we can to address that.”

A dozen speakers, many of them representing environmental or community activist groups, urged the board to support Fletcher’s proposal.

Joyce Lane, vice president of San Diego 350, described Fletcher’s proposal as a unique opportunity to reshape the board and “improve the lives of those who have suffered for far too long.”

San Diego resident Cherry Robinson said that when she worked as a Head Start advisor in Barrio Logan, National City and Logan Heights, she was appalled that one of every three children in that program had asthma.

“These neighborhoods require people who represent them, who have walked that road,” Robinson added.

Before the board voted, Fletcher played a video showing more support for his proposal from environmental groups and medical community members.

— City News Service