San Ysidro is a predominantly low-income, 93% Latino community, situated along the US-Mexico border, across from the Mexican city of Tijuana. Sources of air pollution include vehicle exhaust from traffic waiting to cross the San Ysidro Port of Entry, the largest land-border crossing in the Western Hemisphere, as well as air pollution from Mexico. This is where Casa Familiar, a community-based organization, has kicked off its Community Air Grant project, in order to empower community members to participate in the AB 617 process by helping to identify, evaluate, and ultimately reduce exposure to harmful emissions in their community.
The project will allow Casa Familiar to sustain and expand a current network of community-operated air monitors, providing residents of the border region, the local air district, CARB, and US EPA with the necessary data to better understand air quality impacts from vehicular border crossing at the new Port of Entry, currently under construction. “As a community that deals with 120,000 vehicles crossing the U.S.-Mexico border on a daily basis, San Ysidro residents and its local schools suffer 10 times higher levels of pollution than the neighboring city of Imperial Beach by the Pacific Ocean. We have learned from initial community air monitoring that for every 100-minute passenger vehicle wait time, there is a direct and relatable impact on air quality. This impacts 90% of all San Ysidro neighborhoods and schools,” according to David Flores, Community Development Director for Casa Familiar.
The goals for the project are to inform San Ysidro residents of the air quality levels and leverage partnerships to work towards air quality solutions. A unique aspect of Casa Familiar’s Community Air Grant is the planned community-to-community outreach. “As Casa continues to gain knowledge and expertise, we want to share this with other adjacent communities that are interested in establishing their own air monitoring and goal setting for community health & environmental justice. This is easier done when someone can point the way and identify challenges from experience,” says Flores. Specifically, under the project, Casa Familiar will hold at least three community-to-community training events, sustain and expand their current network community air monitoring sites, and deploy new ultra-low cost sensors for PM to provide information on pollution reaching indoor environments.