SD350 Builds Power with Community Budget Alliance

By: Joe Wainio, member of SD350’s Coalition Team.

SanDiego350 has been a member of the Community Budget Alliance (CBA) for four years. CBA is a coalition of local organizations advocating for the interests of immigrants, low-income workers and communities of color. It mainly becomes active during the period when the mayor and city council consider the annual city budget (March-June), lobbying for more funding for its member organizations’ priorities.

Participating in multiracial, cross class coalitions such as CBA is a strategic way to build the power we need to challenge the 1%. Without a fundamental realignment of political forces in our country, away from those who put profits before people, we won’t be able to create a more just society, including taking action to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

Currently, levels of economic inequality are near historic highs. Americans in the top 0.1% of income earners capture over 196 times the income of the bottom 90%. Racial disparities exacerbate the unfairness even further.

Our country was built on and still reflects the legacy of white supremacy. In 2016, median wealth of white families was about 10 times that of Black families and 8 times that of Latino families.

COVID-19 has demonstrated health and employment disparities, as well.  Black people are dying at rates almost 3 times those of whites. A study by SANDAG showed that unemployment in Logan Heights had reached 37.5% in early May, while in Rancho Bernardo it was “only” 20%.

Political inequality follows as a logical consequence of this economic inequality. According to research by Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, “the preferences of the average American [on federal government policy] appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon policy.” Meanwhile, big corporate lobbyists have no problem getting their agenda enacted.

By engaging in the fight for equality with our allies, we build relationships and trust and expand the progressive movement for change. Fighting side by side with the Community Budget Alliance, and in other cross-class and multiracial coalitions, is the only way to build a movement strong enough to challenge the status quo.

Interview with SD350 Member of the Month: Maria Rivera

Maria Rivera is a volunteer leader with SD350 and a member of the JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) training effort.
SD350: How did you get involved with SD350 and when was that?
Maria Rivera: I joined the actions of 350.org activists during college and then found SanDiego350 when looking for a local chapter of the organization. My first action was volunteering for the People’s Climate March in 2014, where I saw over 1,000 San Diegans march to call for climate justice. We all seek a connection to the world around us. As a kid, I learned the importance of our connection to nature by living in places like Mexico City. It’s the right thing to do, to ensure equitable access to the bounty of nature. I’m lucky to be surrounded by family and friends who agree, I do the work for them.
SD350: What are three words that your friends would use to describe you?
MR: Sincere, good-humored and laid-back.
SD350: What drives your activism? 
MR: Experiencing scarcity. And knowing that nature will provide if we can act with a generosity of spirit.
SD350: How does SD350 stay focused on justice within policy work?MR: SD350 volunteers understand that reducing GHG emissions and improving renewable energy technologies is not enough to resolve climate change impacts. SD350 offers a service by researching policy changes that affect working folks and advocating for the interests of those who want a resilient governance prepared for current and future ecological changes. SD350 advocates for ambitious policies that match the level of the problems related to climate change especially for those who lack representative platforms.
SD350: How is justice related to this for you?
MR: A healthy environment is a human right. But it’s not enough to see this on paper. I think most people want equitable access to nature’s resources, but that won’t happen unless we account for the disparities that exist within and between our neighborhoods. During the ongoing pandemic, we’re experiencing what happens when the environment impacts our livelihoods; some households can overcome better than others. Justice means recognizing that consumption rates and economic structures can change and must change to ensure our human rights for a habitable planet.
SD350: What action were you involved with that made you the most excited?
MR: I got the chance to meet the other 350 organizations around California. The State is wonderfully diverse and each county has a personality, the 350 groups were no different. I was encouraged and overjoyed to meet other people around Cali who are part of a community of activists. I also met Rebecca and Caro and we all became members of the San Diego 350 JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) training group. To be honest, I get to hang out with friends and do exciting work in every SD350 action that I get to do.
SD350: What else would you like people to know about you?
MR: Meditating on and taking action for our beautiful Earth fills me with joy. I’m a first-generation immigrant and I have two nephews in the armed forces. At one point, most of my extended family lived in Barrio Logan but I have lived in North Park most of my life (think, before the breweries). After college, I did fieldwork around coasts in Mexico and research in Mexico City. I’m positive that anyone, no matter what position they have in life, can help and be helped by treasuring earth and its resources.

Reflections on the Intersection of Climate Change, Justice, and Equity

By: Toshi Ishihara, SD350 board member and member of the Transportation Committee.

Climate Change is real, and we know that the world needs to come together to reduce and eventually eliminate greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the worst impacts of Climate Change. The challenge from shifting from our fossil fuel-based economy to one powered by renewable energy is a huge challenge in our political environment both domestically and globally. Unfortunately, the above was my entire limited understanding of the climate change problem when I started volunteering with SD350 in the fall of 2018. The  equation was simply “GHG Emissions = Climate Change”.

But, then things changed. About a year ago, upon a request from SD350, I started working with the San Diego Transportation Equity Working Group. SDTEWG is a coalition composed of the Environmental Health Coalition, City Heights Community Development Corporation, Mid-City Community Advocacy Network, the Center on Policy Initiatives, and San Diego 350. Each of these organizations, except SD350, are deeply rooted in environmental justice communities, communities of color, and other communities of concern. The coalition works to influence local governments and public agencies to provide convenient, affordable, and equitable solutions to their communities’ needs of transportation while addressing climate injustice. 

Since “Justice” and “Equity” were not commonly used words at the companies I worked for except as in “pay equity”, my learning curve as a new member of the SDTEWG planning group was extremely steep. However, as I learned little by little the environmental injustices that those communities had been struggling with for generations, it became clear to me that as a climate change advocate I needed to study and work on the intersection of climate change, justice, and equity and also to look at the climate change actions and solutions from a different perspective. Climate solutions that only reduce GHG emissions are no longer acceptable to me today.

Pushing for 100% renewable energy, emission-free transportation systems, and fightingthe fossil industry are good goals that will uproot the major cause of climate change and help the renewables industry flourish. 

But, what then? A superficial transfer of wealth from the fossil fuel industry to the renewable energy industry (especially given how many fossil fuel companies are accruing financial interests in the renewable sector) won’t change systemic economic inequity or environmental justice. 

It would be naive to think that renewable energy companies, once they gain dominant political influence and financial power, won’tl continue to exploit communities of concern as the fossil fuel industry has for decades. 

While some environmental organizations have accepted this tradeoff as a necessary evil to bring atmospheric CO2 levels down to 350ppm, I am proud that SanDiego350 has stood with environmental justice groups to demand solutions that prioritize frontline communities and equity. 

I very much enjoy working with the SDTEWG folks, and I regard them as my teachers on the intersection of climate change, justice, and equity. They may not think they are teaching me, but I am definitely learning some very important life lessons.

It’s Time For a Better Deal

By: Amanda Ruetten, Public Policy Organizer

San Diegans pay higher utility prices than most Californians. The high prices and San Diego’s dangerous air pollution rates are especially hard on vulnerable low-income communities, where family budgets are tight and asthma rates are growing. The utility company rakes in profits while we provide the public land necessary for its business. That’s the way it’s been for 100 years. This year, for the first time in 50 years, we finally have a chance to change our city’s outdated, one-sided deal with San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E). 

SDG&E’s 50-year franchise agreement with the City of San Diego to distribute gas and electricity on the City’s public right of way expires in January 2021. The City is required by its Charter to select the next energy franchisee through a “free and open competition”.  

SanDiego350 and its allies are campaigning for a better deal. We are in a climate crisis and the City of San Diego has one of the most progressive Climate Action Plans in the nation, with a goal of getting to 100% clean electricity by 2035.  To ensure we meet that goal, the City must award the next franchise agreement to a company that supports our clean energy goals. There must be guarantees that the utility — unlike the existing situation — will not undermine these goals by lobbying against clean energy programs at the state level, or imposing higher fees for solar home owners and low income community members. A shorter term and required penalties for violating any agreement provisions would provide increased accountability, and the franchise fees should be paid for by corporate shareholders rather than the customers.  

The franchise agreement is determined in an open bidding process and then it must be adopted by a two-thirds majority vote of the city council. That vote is expected later this year. There is an opportunity for us to have a voice in what happens. 

Join us to learn more about this campaign and how you can get involved. We’ll have an in-depth workshop on Sunday, June 7th. Or email me.

Interview with SD350 Member of the Month: Bill Wellhouse

Bill Wellhouse is Acting Treasurer of the SanDiego350 Board and leader of the Coalition Team.
SD350: How did you get involved with SD350 and when was that?
Bill Wellhouse: I got involved about 6 years ago after I retired from education. I found SD350 by doing a google search. I really got involved in 2015 when I volunteered to help organize the Interfaith Forum on Climate Justice in 2015–that was timed to coincide with the pope’s visit to Wash DC.
SD350: What are three words that your friends would use to describe you?
BW: Reserved, dependable, stubborn (so my wife says).
SD350: What drives your activism? 
BW: A deep understanding of the science; a profound sense of place and the fear that that might be lost; a lifelong interest in wilderness, especially mountain wilderness, gained both from working there (as a backcountry ranger) and backpacking / trekking in many different wildernesses but especially the Sierra.
SD350: What is something you learned about how to be a good partner with organizations?
BW: There has to be give and take; partners need to feel that they are being listened to and that their input matters; when leading up to a big action you need to keep your partners informed and engaged.
SD350: Since you do so much – you’re the treasurer, run the Coalition Team and also help organize big actions, what is your favorite part of doing this?
BW: As a math major I am not afraid of budget analysis that comes with being treasurer, however, I have a lot of respect for accountants because there are many accounting procedures I don’t understand. I enjoy being on the coalition team because I like getting to know other orgs and their leaders and I enjoy recruiting them to be partners when we are planning a big action. I also enjoy putting together parts of the program in a big action and generally playing a supportive role.
SD350: Was your background with charter schools helpful for what you do now? Can you compare and contrast the two?
BW: Yes, as an administrator/director in several charter schools I learned a lot about working with boards, handling budgets, hiring and managing employees, and the legalities of being a non-profit. I also learned, usually the hard way, how to work with people as a team. What’s different is that charter schools are in the public sector, have more legal constraints, and receive a lot more scrutiny and also have many different stakeholders–parents, students, board members, the public, to deal with. I do miss working with students (I finished my career in high schools), their energy, their liveliness, but I do not miss meeting with parents over discipline issues.
SD350: How did your background and culture form you and play into your considerations on environmental justice?
BW: My mother was from Mexico–her name was Graciela–and all of my uncles, aunts, cousins on that side of the family still live in Mexico or along the border in Texas, so, although, I generally grew up as white middle class, I have a lot of understanding and sympathy for the difficulties people of Mexican heritage face here. I also was the principal of a small charter school in an immigrant and low income community (City Heights) and came face to face with the struggles many of our students endured on a daily basis. During the Vietnam War I was fortunate to receive a conscientious objector classification and worked for two years as an orderly in the emergency room of an inner city hospital in Cleveland witnessing the violence and suffering people in a racialized society face.
SD350: What is something that makes you happy about what you do with SD350?
BW: This is important work and I am able to use some of the skills I’ve developed over a lifetime in education such as planning, coordinating, working with a variety of personalities, and meeting the needs of different stakeholders. There are times when I am being stretched unexpectedly that I appreciate, things I might not ordinarily do, like participating in rallies and marches.

Plant-Based Meal Recipe

Looking to incorporate plant based meals into your diet? This quick dish is a great and customizable combination of familiar and yummy foods- ‘no-meat’ balls over pasta and oven-roasted veggies with a balsamic twist. Recipe below:

VEGGIES (serves 4-5):

1 onion, 2 zucchini, 2 red bell pepper, 2 eggplants *any combination of your favorite veggies is possible — (green beans and broccoli would also be great in this), 2 tbsp olive or avocado oil, salt, pepper, fresh or dried herbs (thyme, oregano, celery, basil, etc.), balsamic vinegar


1. Preheat oven to 400F

2. Slice onion and zucchini into half moons, eggplant into sliced quarters, and red bell peppers into strips. Toss with oil and spices.

3. Cook for 20 minutes and take out to flip veggies. Cook another 20 minutes, take out to do the same. 

4. After 40 minutes or when veggies begin to caramelize, bring over to 300F and cook for 10-15 minutes. 

5. Remove from oven and finish with balsamic vinegar. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. 


NO-MEAT BALLS (serves 4-5): 1/2 c cooked and cooled quinoa, 2 tbsp nutritional yeast, 1 can beans of choice (white beans used in this recipe, black beans work too), 1/4 c flour of choice, salt, pepper, 2 tbsp ketchup, tomato paste, or barbecue sauce, 1/2 tbsp sriracha (optional), 1/4 cup sesame, hemp, flax, or chia seeds, 1 tsp garlic powder, herbs (oregano, thyme, basil, parsley, etc.)


1. Preheat oven to 400F

2. Drain beans and use a fork to mash them in a bowl.

3. Mix in all other ingredients well. 

4. Scoop mixture into desired sized balls and place on a baking sheet.

5. Cook in oven for 30-40 minutes, or until crispy.


PASTA: Your choice, but @sprouts and @banza have great protein pasta options that boost the nutritional quality of this dish and keep you fuller for longer. 


Serve and enjoy! This dish is great with pesto, or sub the balsamic for marinara sauce. Let us know in the comments if you tried it and what you think!

By: Maddie McMurray


Interview with SD350 Member of the Month, Elaine Maltz

Elaine Maltz is the co-leader of State Legislation Committee of the Public Policy Team.

SD350: How did you get involved with SD350 and when was that?

Elaine Maltz: I joined SD350 in 2012 when I was working on the Obama campaign and have been pretty active ever since. I’ve volunteered for several activities since joining but finding out about state legislation is the most interesting. I am the original chair of the Legislative Committee. It has only existed for 3 years and has been a constant process of learning and I’m grateful to Joyce and Masada for my on-the-job training. 

SD350: What are three words that your friends would use to describe you?

EM: My friends have told me I’m caring, compassionate and hard-working. They’ve also told me to keep on volunteering for SD350 and they call me to find out what’s happening.

SD350: What success has the legislative team had? 

EM: Anytime one of the bills we have endorsed passes, we consider that a success. This has happened quite often, like SB 100, which commited California to achieving 100% clean energy by 2045. In order to get the results we want, we meet with our state legislators and their staff to promote the bills. We also collaborate with other groups across the state in their efforts to push the legislation.

SD350: What drives your activism? 

EM: I have been an “activist” since I was in high school. I attribute that to my parents. Politics was always part of our family discussion.

SD350: What else would you like people to know about you? EM:  My main interest is my extended family. I visit them as much as I can. My grandchildren are seven, eight, and nine which makes them eternally fascinating. I love gardening: the plants, the birds and bees, the wind, sun and rain. I garden at least an hour every day possible. I also enjoy reading and participating in discussions at the two book groups to which I belong.

Cultivating the Youth Leadership Movement

By: Jennifer Phelps, Youth Climate Leadership Program Leader

On Jan. 25th, SanDiego350 launched its kick-off for the Climate Youth Leaders pilot program 2020. Now more than ever, youth are at the frontlines, taking a powerful stand to ensure a sustainable future. Young people have organized some of the most successful climate strikes and environmental movements in the past year, and their numbers are growing. SanDiego350 has created a program to empower youth and harness this energy. The program is geared to train young people on how to organize actions, advocate, and motivate others to join them! 

Goals include:

  • Empower young people to take action on climate
  • Foster leadership skills
  • Provide education on the intersection of social justice and environmental justice issues
  • Create a community of like-minded youth for support and inspiration

This pilot program pairs students with experienced climate activist “coaches,” who will share their expertise throughout the six month program. Clubs also receive the newly published Fight Like a Climate Activist: Handbook and D.I.Y. Roadmap to Environmental Clubs on Campus (produced by SD350), a customized step-by-step guide to mobilize their club to take meaningful and powerful actions. The Handbook features youth leaders in the movement, as inspiration and guidance (“hot tips!”). Designed to offer flexibility, students are encouraged to personalize their approach, depending upon their specific club agenda. 

Upcoming events include: Climate Youth Leaders Summit on April 4 (full-day training, speakers, and interactive exercises), supporting students to hold effective Climate Strikes (April 22), and a celebration dinner in June to conclude the program. 

Contact Jennifer Phelps to get involved.

Interview with SD350 Member of the Month: Max Lebovitz

Max is a monthly meeting coordinator and part of the Member Engagement Team.

SD350: How did you get involved with SD350 and when was that?

Max Lebovitz: My fiancé was at a women’s march and signed up for the SD350 newsletter. Knowing that I was looking for volunteer opportunities, she forwarded an email to me that referenced a few open positions at the org. I got in touch with Masada and am now volunteering as the monthly meeting coordinator and as part of the Member Engagement Team (MET). I’ve been working with the organization for half a year. 

SD350: What are three words that your friends would use to describe you?

ML: Motivated, Diligent, Fun.

SD350: What drives your activism? 

ML: I’m well aware of the privilege and advantage I’ve had in my life coming from an educated and supportive family. I’ve been fortunate to earn my higher education, build an incredible network of friends and associates, and work for great companies. That said, I’m also well aware of the catastrophic damage our species is engendering on our world, and I feel that it’s my obligation to use my knowledge and resources to do what I can to mitigate the effects of climate change to ensure future generations can experience the world as our generation has, rather than cleaning up our mess.

SD350: What else would you like people to know about you? 

ML: I spend a lot of time outdoors: in the ocean, on a mountain, camping and wherever else I can feel connected to nature. I enjoy yoga and training Aikido. I’m also a sports fanatic from Los Angeles: Go Lakers, Go Dodgers, Go Kings, Go Rams. And I went to Colorado, Boulder, for my bachelor degree (Go Buffs!). Other than that, I’m a big family guy, love to read, and to travel as much as I can; especially down to Mexico.

Interview with SD350 Member of the Month: Toshi Ishihara

Toshi is a SD350 board member and co-chair of the Transportation Committee.
SD350: How did you get involved with SD350 and when was that?

Toshi Ishihara: I participated in the climate march that was organized by SD350 in Sept. 2018. Back then, I just stopped working as a manager at a high tech company because I was so concerned with Climate Change that I could not ignore the inner calling deep in my heart. I became a member of the Public Policy Team in Nov 2018 and since then, I have been an active member of PPT and its transportation committee. I just became a board member this month!

SD350: What are three words that your friends would use to describe you?

TI: Caring, Empowering and Empathetic.

SD350: What drives your activism? 

TI: Since I was a little kid, I was against any sort of discrimination based on race, gender, etc. I became interested in technology when I was in high school, and started studying about renewable energy technologies such as solar, wind, and tidal. I wanted to pursue a PhD in renewable energy because I was concerned with the negative impacts on our environment and future by humans’ unstoppable desire for more  energy and electricity. But, back then, the government did not support research on renewable energy and because I needed financial support to pursue a PhD, I changed my focus from renewable energy to Optics and Lasers. However, I was unable to continue ignoring the desire deep down in my heart and I decided to give up my lucrative high tech manager career and spend the rest of my life to help fight Climate Change.

SD350: What else would you like people to know about you?

TI:  I gave up my own career and financial security to work to help this world remain livable and enjoyable for future generations and all living species.