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What is Environmental Justice?

Environmental Justice (or EJ) is defined by the California Environmental Justice Alliance as:

The basic right of people to live, work, go to school, and pray in a healthy and clean environment—regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, culture, ability, nationality, or income.

In Sacramento, as in many other places, areas with the highest concentration of low-income families are more likely to be exposed to pollution and environmental hazards. Consequently, they experience higher rates of health-related issues.

Senate Bill 1000, The Planning for Healthy Communities Act was signed by Governor Brown in 2016 and requires cities and counties with disadvantaged communities to incorporate EJ policies in their General Plans.

Within SB1000, there are 7 primary objectives:

  • Prioritize the Needs of Our Disadvantaged Communities
  • Promote Civic Engagement
  • Improve Access to Public Facilities
  • Promote Food Access
  • Promote Safe and Sanitary Housing
  • Reduce Pollution Exposure
  • Promote Physical Activity

How will Sacramento 2040 address Environmental Justice?

The 2040 General Plan will add a new Environmental Justice element to help Sacramento address community issues in equity, and to develop an ongoing level of robust community engagement.

A key EJ principle is to involve the communities most impacted by pollution, toxins and other environmental problems in the public decision-making process that can impact their health and well-being. SB1000 requires that the General Plan contain policies to promote “civil engagement.”

Input from residents can bring knowledge, information, and ideas that local governments may not have thought of or be aware of. Community members that are affected by environmental issues on the ground can share their firsthand knowledge of the problems and can provide leadership on the solutions, which can lead to more effective planning decisions being made to remedy those burdens.

The City has convened an Environmental Justice Working Group made up of community leaders, advocates, and community-based organizations (CBOs) who currently serve our communities to develop an appropriate plan for moving forward with engagement and inform policy and implementation recommendations for the new EJ General Plan element.
The City will partner with community organizations to conduct effective outreach. Community engagement strategies for our EJ communities include:

  • Community and Neighborhood canvassing
  • Issue Identification with the help of our youth through a Photo Voice Program
  • Pop-up and tabling events
  • Community listening sessions
  • Engagement events for our non-English speaking communities
  • Environmental Justice focus groups around primary EJ objectives

Why is it important that we address Environmental Justice through this update?

There is broad recognition that health is heavily influenced by community factors not addressed by our health care system. Factors such as income, food, equity, education, shelter, healthcare access, physical and social environment, transportation and other non-medical factors are often called the social determinants of health (SDOH).

Poverty is the single largest determinant of health, and ill health is an obstacle to social and economic development. Poorer people live shorter lives and have poorer health than affluent people. This disparity has drawn attention to the remarkable sensitivity of health to the social environment. Read more

Planners and policy makers are increasingly becoming aware of the countless unjust, and often subtle, discriminatory policies and decisions made in the past. Although most of those policies and practices are no longer in effect, their consequences and legacy can still be observed in the social fabric and conditions of the present day. To achieve Sacramento’s vision of becoming the most livable city in America, it is necessary that we address equity and environmental justice in our City’s comprehensive General Plan.