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WHAT YOU REALLY NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SB 1000
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By Jessica Bispels – Assistant Planner

State Bill 1000, otherwise known as “The Planning for Healthy Communities Act” was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on September 24th, 2016. It says that a local agency will now be required to address environmental justice issues when it adopts or revises two or more general plan elements. The starting date for his mandate was January 1, 2018. Thereafter, any adoption or revision of two of more General Plan elements will require an adoption of an environmental justice element or integrate environmental justice goals, objectives, and policies into other elements of the General Plan.

What is Environmental Justice?

The EPA defines environmental justice as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Fair treatment means that no group of people should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, governmental, and commercial operations and policies. SB 1000 requires an environmental justice element that identifies disadvantaged communities within the area covered by the city or county’s General Plan. This part of the general plan needs to identify objectives and policies to reduce the health risks in these disadvantaged communities, and to promote civil engagement in the public decision-making process.

Photo Credit:  https://www.senate.ca.gov/

Where Do We Need Environmental Justice?

Low-income residents, communities of color, tribal nations, and immigrant communities have disproportionately experienced environmental burdens and related health problems. Oftentimes most of polluting industries are located near the most disenfranchised communities.  This inequity can be mitigated by smart land use planning, enforcing proper zoning and regular inspections, preventing discriminatory housing and lending practices, prioritizing public health over business interest, and placing economic and environmental benefits in areas within disadvantaged communities. According to the California Environmental Justice Alliance, the following topics can be addressed in general plans so that it represents a positive vision for the future:

  1. Pollution Exposure and Air Quality
  2. Pubic Facilities
  3. Food Access
  4. Safe and Sanitary Homes
  5. Physical Activity
  6. “Civil” or Community Engagement
  7. Improvements and Programs that Address the Needs of Disadvantaged Communities

How Can We Help?

The list above spells out just a few of the many ways that cities and counties can incorporate environmental justice into their general plans. We at QK have worked with clients to include elements of environmental justice that are comprehensive and thoughtful. Our work toward environmental justice predates this law, and we are excited at the opportunity to assist cities in incorporating this essential aspect to their General Plans.

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