Planning for Environmental Justice / SB 1000

Learn about Air District efforts to promote healthy community planning and assist Bay Area cities and counties with the incorporation of environmental justice policies in their General Plan updates.

The Air District’s Planning Healthy Places guidance document encourages local governments and developers to address and minimize potential air pollution issues early in the land-use planning and development process.

Per the requirements of Senate Bill 1000, the Air District is also providing information, recommendations, and technical tools to assist cities and counties in incorporating “best practices” for environmental justice policies into their General Planning processes around air quality and related community health impact considerations.

Despite tremendous improvements in air quality, some communities in the Bay Area still experience higher levels of air pollution than others, and therefore higher incidences of adverse health effects. The Air District’s CARE Program has sought to identify these disproportionately impacted areas and target resources in these areas to reduce local emissions and public exposure.

SB 1000 also aligns with other current state-level planning initiatives, such as AB 617, spurring efforts to reduce disproportionate pollution burdens in these communities. The Air District is taking a lead in supporting both of these efforts by working in partnership with community stakeholders to identify specific policies and land-use planning objectives that can link local planning to regional health and climate protection goals.

SB 1000

Although many cities and counties have long viewed environmental justice and social equity as important issues, state law has not previously required consideration of environmental justice issues as a part of community planning. In some cases, this has resulted in discriminatory land-use practices that resulted in sources of pollution, such as industry, freeways, or freight facilities, in close proximity to homes and schools and in the backyards of the most disenfranchised communities. Consequently, low-income communities and those of color are more likely to suffer from exposure to toxic chemicals, leading to higher rates of asthma, cardiovascular diseases, and cancers than more affluent communities.

In 2016, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 1000 – Land use: general plans: safety and environmental justice (Leyva, Chapter 587) requiring cities and counties with disadvantaged* communities to incorporate environmental justice policies into their General Plans, either in a separate element or by integrating related goals, policies, and objectives throughout the other elements. This update, or revision (if the local government already has environmental justice goals, policies, and objectives) must happen upon the adoption or next revision of two or more elements concurrently beginning in 2018.

All jurisdictions are now required to identify lower-income communities that are disproportionately affected by pollution and other environmental justice issues. Once these communities have been identified, jurisdictions are now required to create goals, policies, and objectives to address a minimum of seven EJ-related issues:

  • Pollution exposure (including air quality)
  • Food access
  • Public facilities
  • Safe and sanitary homes
  • Physical activity
  • “Civil” engagement (“community engagement”)
  • Prioritization of improvements and programs addressing the needs of disadvantaged communities.

These new legislative requirements are consistent with principles of good planning and the obligation that planners seek equity and equality and ensure greater inclusion of all people in public decision-making.

Planning for environmental justice is embedded in the AICP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. The environmental justice planning framework is intended not just to redress past inequitable environmental impacts on disadvantaged communities; it also leads to significant positive planning approaches to achieve improved health and equity outcomes for the community.

* For purposes of SB 1000, “disadvantaged communities” means an area identified by the California Environmental Protection Agency Pursuant to Section 39711 of the Health and Safety Code OR a low-income area that is disproportionately affected by environmental pollution and other hazards that can lead to negative health effects, exposure, or environmental degradation (Gov. Code § 65302(h)(4)(A)). The statute further defines “low-income area” to mean “an area with household incomes at or below 80 percent of the statewide median income OR with household incomes at or below the threshold designated as low income by the Department of Housing and Community Developments list of state income limits adopted pursuant to Section 50093” (Gov. Code § 65302(h)(4)(C)).  

Other Related State Legislation

  • AB 1628 (2019) – Meaningful Engagement in Environmental Justice Actions
  • SB 379 (2015) – Climate Adaptation in Local Hazard Mitigation Plans/Safety Elements

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Last Updated: 7/24/2023