West Coast
Erik Anderson / KPBS Public art, with the Coronado Bridge in the background, at Cesar Chavez Park in Barrio Logan on May 11, 2023.

CA - California celebrates a decade of a key environmental data tool

California officials and environmental justice advocates are cheering the first 10 years of an innovative environmental data tracking tool. CalEnviroScreen has helped focus cleanup efforts in many of the state’s disadvantaged communities.


The data tool is a collection of environmental, health and community indicators that measure an area’s environmental burden.

San Diego’s port-side communities have benefited greatly over the last decade; Barrio Logan is just one example.

The community is a mish-mash of industry and homes that consistently ranks as one of the state’s most polluted, meaning residents there carry some of California’s heaviest health burdens.

Residents know that in large part because of CalEnviroScreen. The statewide map of every census district measures risk and assigns the region a color. Green represents a light environmental burden. Red signifies a heavy burden.

“It gives us a real sense of how people are experiencing the environment in their real day to day lives,” said Yana Garcia, the secretary for California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA).

Garcia said the tool puts relevant information into the hands of community advocates and public officials who were pushing for change.

The database organizes seemingly disparate bits of information like housing costs, emergency room visits, and air pollution to name a few. All together, that information can gauge the environmental risk in a specific region.

The CalEPA can use the visual data to see the parts of the state that need help and direct limited state resources there.

“That allows not only the state but local governments and community-based organizations to understand various layers of impact that are affecting neighborhoods,” Garcia said.

Barrio Logan, which has long struggled with high levels of air pollution linked to diesel trucks, is a dark red. Parts of San Diego’s portside region are among areas in California that suffer the most.

“It really shows the neighborhoods that are suffering the most impacts from different factors,” said José Franco García, the executive director of the National City-based Environmental Health Coalition.

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