About Masada D

Masada Disenhouse co-founded SanDiego350 in 2011 and serves as its Executive Director. She is passionate about engaging volunteers and growing a powerful climate change movement.

Celebrating SanDiego350’s 10th Anniversary!

By Masada Disenhouse, Cofounder and Executive Director

In December 2011, 15 people got together to celebrate a successful climate action march and decided to create an organization to build the grassroots climate movement in San Diego. 10 years later, we’ve come so far! 

I wanted to take the time to reflect on our 10th anniversary, and thank our volunteers and supporters, who make everything possible:

In 2011 our march had about 350 people participating. In the last few years we’ve been able to turn out thousands of people to demand climate action, including 4,000 students in the Climate Strikes this year. 

In 2012 we raised a few hundred dollars, cash that our treasurer Janina, a grad student at UCSD, kept in a cookie box under her bed. Now we have a fundraising team, the equivalent of 4 full time staff, and head into 2022 with a budget of about $400,000. 

In 2011 we had no teams. The Public Policy Team was our first team, in 2013. Since then, the “PPT” has grown to include about 80 volunteers and 5 committees – working on everything from transportation to state legislation and Building Electrification. 

But some things haven’t changed—at all:

  • We still believe that building an inclusive, people-powered movement is the way to get the policy, economic and societal changes we need to see—and that every person has the ability to make a difference. 
  • We remain committed to centering equity in our work. 
  • We know what we’re up against and we choose to fight the fossil fuel industry and their political allies to achieve a healthier, more sustainable, more just future. 
  • We find joy and resilience in the community we’ve built and we depend on each other. 

There are so many accomplishments to celebrate, that it’s hard to focus on just a few, but I’ll try:

  • My conservative estimate is that we’ve mobilized more than 25,000 San Diegans to take action on climate change since 2011.
  • We have grown to more than 15 volunteer-led teams, many with their own working groups, and engaging hundreds of active volunteers in ongoing campaigns and efforts. 
  • Since our youth4climate program began in 2019, it has empowered, mentored, and engaged hundreds of young people in San Diego County through youth-led programs and campaigns.
  • We’ve built coalitions with diverse partner organizations to advance climate action, including environmental justice, social and economic justice, youth, labor, faith, and other organizations. 

Looking back on 2021 (read about our 2021 accomplishments here), I am amazed at the resiliency and commitment you have all shown. As we continue to navigate the many changes and challenges of the pandemic era, we have all found a new rhythm that allows us to continue our mission to fight for a healthy, equitable, sustainable world while maintaining our deep sense of community. 

While we decided to postpone our “Celebration for a Brighter Future” an in-person fundraiser to celebrate our successes over 10 years and raise funds to support the organization’s campaigns, we hope the evolving pandemic situation will allow us to reschedule it soon for sometime in the spring. Stay tuned!

We could not do any of this without the dedication of our volunteers and the generous contributions of our donors. You make it possible for SD350 to be proactive, organized, effective and BOLD! I am so grateful for every one of you!!!

Please join me in celebrating everything we’ve built together as SanDiego350 continues to lead the way on climate activism and movement building in San Diego. 

Amnesty International Award

On December 11th, the North County Chapter of Amnesty International awarded SanDiego350 their Digna Ochoa award. Below are the comments by SD350 executive director Masada Disenhouse to students and Amnesty members gathered at Buena Vista High School.

Good afternoon Amnesty International friends, and RBV / MV students!

It’s such a pleasure to be here with you today and I’m grateful and honored to receive the Digna Ochoa award on behalf of SanDiego350. 

Climate change is fundamentally a human rights issue. Millions of people are suffering from the devastating effects of the climate crisis now, and this problem will increase exponentially in coming years if we don’t shift to a sustainable economy. 

This is an environmental racism issue, because the people most impacted by climate change are those who did the least to cause it, primarily people of color. 

After a tropical cyclone hit the southeast coast of Mozambique in 2019, 146,000 people were displaced and had to be rehoused, and nearly 2 million people needed assistance. The cyclone damaged 100,000 homes, destroyed a million acres of crops, and demolished a billion dollars worth of infrastructure.  

Entire populations of low-lying Pacific islands are being forced to abandon their homes forever, primarily because they can no longer access clean drinking water due to sea level rise contaminating their aquifers.

This year saw deadly heatwaves in Pakistan, unprecedented wildfires in Greece, and severe flooding in Germany and China. In Madagascar, a prolonged and intense drought drove 1 million people to the brink of famine. In the Pacific Northwest hundreds died during a heat wave that shattered records. 

Here in California, we’re still pumping trillions of gallons of oil a year – and the people living near those wells, who suffer from respiratory illnesses, heart disease, preterm births and other health problems, are primarily people of color. 

People migrate from their homes in big numbers when they can’t access the most basic human needs and rights. Every year more people face hunger, displacement, unemployment, illness and death due to climate change. 

In 2020 the number of people forcibly displaced by weather-related disasters and other climate impacts was 31 million, a sharp increase compared to a few years earlier.

And climate change is just getting started. 

Today, 1% of the world is a barely livable hot zone. By 2070, when you all will be your grandparents’ age, that portion could be up to 19%. Billions of people who live in these areas will be forced to migrate because of unlivable heat, drought, flooding and other impacts. The UN recently estimated that by 2050, 143 million people from South America, Subsaharan Africa, and Southeast Asia will be forced to flee their homes because of climate change. 

And unless these people are able to move to more liveable places, more and more of them will face war – and death. Already, many of the world’s enduring conflicts have been tied to climate related drought, including Syria and Darfur. 

Covid gave us front row seats to how climate change will disproportionately impact more vulnerable groups of people. How it exacerbated existing inequalities related to race, wealth and gender. And how unprepared we are to face a global disaster. 

But climate change will impact far more people. And there is no vaccine for climate change.  

So how do we stop climate change and climate injustice? How do we ensure that vulnerable people are protected from the devastating impacts of climate change? 

First of all it’s important to recognize that climate change is a political problem. We’ve understood the science since before I was born. We know that we need to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, from cars to transit, from extraction to reforestation. 

There’s a reason that our government hasn’t acted on climate. And it’s the same reason there is such a chasm in this county between the haves and the have nots. Why access to clean air and good health is correlated to skin color. Why we’ve been going backwards on reproductive rights for my entire lifetime to the point where Roe v. Wade could be overturned. Why Black people in this country still live in fear of police brutality 58 years after MLK’s I have a Dream speech. Why union membership is at an all time low and workers are forced into a gig economy that denies them a living wage, health insurance and paid time off. Why what should have been a straightforward scientific problem was deliberately turned into a divisive political issue by the fossil fuel industry. 

And that is because our government is not by the people for the people. It is by and for the almighty dollar, which mostly means by and for the corporations. 

I won’t sugar coat it for you. This is a pretty dark time in American history. We’ve seen an increase in hate crimes against Asians and jews. The violence at the US Capitol. Censoring books on race and human rights. People making up their own facts because they don’t want to face reality. 

But that’s not the way it has to be. And I for one, am not ready to despair. Even though we face challenges, people in other generations have risen up and overcome – and we can too. 

Our power starts with the dream of a different world… A world where your skin color or gender or where you were born do not determine your value or potential. Where everyone has the right to clean air and water. To a livable climate. To a safe place to live. To employment that sustains their family. 

You are in a position to bring this dream to fruition. Throughout American history, youth have led some of the biggest shifts towards justice, often bringing a radical edge that the urgency of the problem requires. Young people were at the forefront of the women’s suffrage movement, the Civil Rights movement, ending the Vietnam war, the same sex marriage movement, and the immigration rights movement. Increasingly, youth are leading fights for climate action and climate justice. And in this fight youth have more standing than anyone else. 

This is why SanDiego350 invests a lot of our resources into training, mentoring and empowering youth to take meaningful action to combat climate change and climate injustice. 

What we don’t have is time. Many of these past efforts took decades if not centuries to win. Many continue to this day. But this fight… the outcome of this fight will be decided in the next several years. This is not some day. This is not about gradual change. This is now or never. 

So what should we do? 

Speak Up! Digna Ochoa , who this award is named for, was a courageous human rights lawyer in Mexico who persevered in representing environmental activists and raised human rights abuses by government authorities despite extreme threats to her life, and who was in fact killed for her persistence. We can honor her sacrifice by raising our voices up for human rights, for justice and for science driven solutions. Do what you’re doing today. By being here today to “write for rights” you’re inspiring others to action, and you’re making a difference!  Don’t let your voice be silenced. Don’t let what matters be kept in the dark. Speak truth to power. Educate yourself and your network. Don’t allow what Martin Luther King Jr called “the appalling silence of the good people” to stand in the way of the just, sustainable future we all dream of.

Educate, organize, and vote.

While young people have the most to lose from climate change, they’re also least likely to vote. And that’s partially intentional – understanding that young people tend to lean progressive, conservative forces have made it harder for college students to vote where they go to school and to get acceptable IDs. But that’s shifting. In the 2020 presidential election, over 50% of people ages 18-29 voted – higher than any prior election. So that’s good. But you know what? Almost 80% of people over 60 voted. I know most of you can’t vote just yet, but all of you will be able to very soon. And your mission is not just to vote, but to educate, organize and turn out everyone you know. Because we will not succeed if we are not able to replace government officials with those who will prioritize a livable future. 

To quote former President Obama “So I’m going to need all of you to educate your classmates, your colleagues, your parents, your friends. Tell them what’s at stake. Speak up at town halls, church groups, PTA meetings. Push back on misinformation. Speak up for the facts. Broaden the circle of those who are willing to stand up for our future. 

“Convince those in power to reduce our carbon pollution. [ ] Remind everyone who represents you at every level of government that sheltering future generations against the ravages of climate change is a prerequisite for your vote.” (I urge you to watch that 2013 speech)

Together, we have the power to rise up, to overturn the shackles of injustice and corporate power and to fight for our future. Fight for our right to live healthy, happy lives. For the rights of those who come after us. And I for one am all in. Are you with me?

Farewell from our Board President, Kim Kishon

As you may have heard by now, I’ll be stepping down from my role as Board President this month, to prepare for becoming a new parent! Before I go, I want to reflect on all that I’ve done with SanDiego350 and all that SanDiego350 has given me during my 8 years as a volunteer. (Photo – 2015 Campaign for a strong Climate Action Plan)

For starters, here’s a short list of what SanDiego350 has given me:

  • Lasting friendships
  • Hope and inspiration
  • Movement-building education
  • A part-time job, paid in meaning and fulfillment
  • Hundreds of Google Docs
  • A network of kind, caring, dedicated people
  • Meeting one of my climate heroes, Bill McKibben, twice!
  • Invaluable experience building a grassroots nonprofit organization
  • A greater understanding of the climate crisis and how to advocate effectively for policy solutions
  • Volunteer leadership experience
  • Teamwork, collaboration, community and a sense of belonging (which is woefully undervalued & under-prioritized in our society)

The list could go on for days, but I’ll stop there.

So, what did I do to earn all of that?

In my time as a volunteer, I have tried many things that were new to me, growing and learning with others along the way. Most of the time, I worked behind the scenes to develop our leadership structure and guide our strategy. I led efforts to hire our first staff members, develop a larger and more active board, create internal policies, support conflict resolution and delicately guide difficult conversations that helped us stay on track. One of my most rewarding recent experiences involved laying the foundation for our JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) Team, by hiring and supervising our first Justice & Equity intern and supporting volunteer leaders. Most of the time, I handled odds and ends that needed to be done, to care for the health and growth of SanDiego350: planning fundraising parties, interviewing candidates, onboarding volunteers, plus writing email blasts and speeches. I did none of this alone: it’s true that collaboration and teamwork are essential to moving anything forward.  (Photo – Garden Party Fundraiser 2017)

After 8 years of movement building with SanDiego350, I’m thankful to each of you who have given me inspiration and hope for the future. In this organization, I have met some of the most genuine, kind, driven and passionate people. Together, we have marched, assembled last minute rallies, facilitated workshops, created countless Google Docs, painted an office space we barely used (thanks, pandemic), and everything in between.

Our marches and rallies have brought me to tears: overwhelmed with sorrow by the crisis we face and overjoyed and empowered by the sight of so many people who care enough to do something about it.  (Photo – 2017 People’s Climate March)

Our meetings and events have given me tangible actions to make an impact locally, helping me feel part of the solution.

Our press coverage has filled me with pride: every time I see SD350 on the news (or the front page of the Union Tribune, which has happened at least four times!), I am in awe that I have the privilege of being part of such an impactful group.

I’ve witnessed SanDiego350 grow from a handful of 10 committed volunteers who met in a church basement and kept our funds in a jar under Janina’s bed, into an organization with hundreds of volunteers, well over ten teams, paid staff (green jobs!), solid funding, an active board, and frequent impact on local policy.

I am in awe of the people who dedicate themselves to this organization– you give me hope, which I need as I prepare to bring another human into the world. I’ll miss my day-to-day involvement and I can shift my focus, knowing that SD350 is devoted to a brighter future.  (Photo – receiving award from our Treasurer Bill Wellhouse at the Dec 2021 Party for the Planet)

I want to especially thank Masada and Joyce:

Masada has been throwing opportunities and ideas at me since 2013, helping me grow right alongside SanDiego350. Masada’s devotion, creativity and bravery keep taking the organization to bold new heights. Masada is the primary driver for SanDiego350’s grassroots power.  And thank you to Joyce, whose steady, compassionate leadership led the Public Policy Team, putting it on the path to being the powerhouse it is today and who has served tirelessly on the organization’s Executive Committee. Joyce will guide the organization as she fills the role of Board President.

Youth4Climate’s Level Up Summer Camp Brings Climate Justice Programming to Morse and Hoover High

By Chris Kracha

This July and August, SanDiego350 launched an in-person Youth4Climate (Y4C) summer camp at two San Diego High Schools for the first time, as part of the Level Up program – with support from the SD Foundation and the San Diego Unified School District. This program was created to provide summer learning and enrichment opportunities for students who have less access to these types of programs. The camp was held four days per week, for five weeks at Morse and Hoover High Schools.

At the beginning of camp, we were all still emerging from our COVID bubbles. After over a year of isolation and zoom class, it gets hard to break out of one’s shell! 

But by the second week, we were making jokes, playing games, and doing projects together. The field trips were especially helpful with getting everyone used to being around each other again. On our hike in Manzanita Canyon, I got to know each of the campers much better, and showed them some native plant names and traditional uses. Joel was one student who was really interested in plants, and by the end of the hike, we had gathered handfuls of fragrant fennel buds to take home.

Early on, campers started to realize that living “green”, supporting environmental causes, and getting involved in their communities was easier than they had previously thought. When we played a game of “personal action BINGO”, one camper, Jiyaulei, said she had no idea that so many of the actions she and her sister took at home were good for the environment: They were already using public transit, reusing old food containers for storage, air drying clothes, and more! Another student named Michael had a similar realization, and started to question why so much advertising and corporate messaging focuses on changing the individual actions we take, when everyone in the room was already taking many actions themselves.

In the middle of the camp, we focused on building personal resilience and developing support networks for ourselves among our friends, family, peers, role models, and community groups. This was my favorite part of the camp, because I got to share many of the methods I use to keep myself calm and resilient. Some students benefited from this as well. My co-facilitator Alyssa Nguyen – a high school student at Mt. Carmel High School and active in the Youth4Climate Program – was able to use some of the personal resilience methods to help out a student who came to camp visibly distressed. By the end of the day, we were all playing charades together and there were no tears to be seen.

Later on, we began to explore the common roots between economic and racial injustices and environmental injustices. Ronald and Nafeesa were two students already involved in social justice groups who were able to connect their current efforts to environmental change. Many other students became even more interested after learning that environmental injustices disproportionately impact their communities and communities around them. Once we learned about environmental injustices, we focused on how organizing our communities can combat injustices of any kind. 

By the end of the camp, everyone had made new friends. Melaina, Jiyaulei, Jiyaunah, and Nafeesa were all relieved that they had met fellow students at Hoover High, before they entered high school for the first time in-person! Alyssa and I were a camp counselor dream team by the end of the camp, and we had both become much more confident leading and teaching groups around our own ages. On the last Wednesday of camp at Hoover, we spread out in the grass, munched on vegan banh mi from a local Vietnamese cafe, and played a few rounds of Uno.

The last day of camp was also the last field trip. We traveled to Mission Bay where we had a picnic of vegan burritos and played games, like egg and spoon races in the sand. The campers also noticed all the trash littering the beaches around the bay and we took this opportunity to take action together. We used our trash grabber to clean up the litter around the area. It was inspiring to see the campers so concerned for the wellbeing of wildlife and the oceans. They were so eager to spring into action! We discussed the interconnectedness of the San Diego waterways and the importance of keeping the roads, as well as nature spaces, free from trash. Spending time in nature on a beautiful sunny day at the bay was an amazing way to finish off our camp!

“Code Red for Humanity”: a dire warning from the IPCC and our climate action

By Kathryn Link-Oberstar (fundraising team co-leader), Toshi Ishihara (board member), and Masada Disenhouse (executive director). 

This week, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its most grim and decisive climate assessment to date.

In its starkest conclusions yet, the IPCC attributes a definitive causal relationship between human-induced climate change, and intensifying weather and climate events. 

For those of us in the trenches, this is not a surprise, but an affirmation of our worst fears – that inaction and false promises by global leaders and politicians have pushed our climate to its limit. That some changes, like sea-level rise and ocean acidification, are irreversible, and others will take centuries or millennia to reverse. We are on track to exceed 2°C of warming in this century, and unless we take immediate and decisive action now, the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Accords will be out of reach. 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres characterized the IPCC report as “nothing less than a Code Red for Humanity.” He said “The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.”

While the report does not discuss the role of the fossil fuel industry in the crisis, the UN Secretary-General didn’t mince words, saying “This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet.” Despite this, fossil fuel companies – and utilities like SDG&E / Sempra in San Diego – are doubling down on fossil fuel extraction at the exact time we should be ending. 

It is clear that there is no future scenario in which we turn back the clock. However, the report indicates the climate can be stabilized by “strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and reaching net zero CO2 emissions.” We know that only powerful citizen action around the world can stop the fossil fuel industry and stem the tide of devastating climate impacts. 

Now, more than ever, we must push harder and mobilize more people to enact bold climate policy in our region, the country and the world. 

Preventing the worst impacts of climate change relies on mobilizing our communities to stand up and take action. SanDiego350 has been doing this for nearly a decade. We have over 15 volunteer lead teams and hundreds of volunteers. And, as Masada shared on CBS8 earlier this week, in our ten years fighting for climate justice in San Diego, we’ve seen that bold action by individuals, here and around the world, is the driving force for change. 

However, we need to step up our efforts. We must aggressively demand climate action and to hold elected officials and business leaders accountable for taking those actions necessary to securing a livable planet for us, our children and grandchildren. And, we must raise public awareness of the urgency of the climate crisis, climate justice, and what they can do to demand action and prepare for the worst impacts.

We feel that climate change is disrupting the world in our bones. To save civilization we need to fight like hell right now. Together we can create change and stand up for what’s right. We’re grateful to be standing with all of you. 

Celebrating Juneteenth

By Lorenzo Nericcio

Juneteenth is the oldest celebration of the ending of slavery in the United States. It commemorates the day, June 19th, 1865, that Union soldiers arrived in Galveston Texas to inform the city that the war had ended, and that slaves could no longer legally be held by their enslavers. Though President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation two years before, the Union could not enforce it in the South until the war was won. 

In the century and a half that followed, the celebration has grown from a local tradition to a national holiday, one that is celebrated annually with feasts, parades, festivals, and prayer.

While the celebration remains an important reminder that a large portion of Americans remained unfree until very recently (and, to be sure, many still remain unfree to this day), and a joyous celebration of the end of legal enslavement, the holiday has seen renewed vitality in recent years. 

The uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement especially brought attention to Juneteenth’s importance. The murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless others have underscored the fact that the fight for justice for the Black community is ongoing, and systemic racism continues to be an active and destructive force in the lives of millions of Americans. Juneteenth, while always a day of celebration, also serves as a call to continue the emancipatory efforts that began centuries ago.

SD350 would like to wish all celebrating members of the Black community a happy Juneteenth, and invite our non-Black members to consider the ways in which they can be better allies in the continuing fight for justice. Our commitment to a just and equitable solution to climate change is inseparable from our commitment to racial justice. To support the empowerment of Black communities, consider donating to the San Diego ACLU chapter, or one of the charities in this list.

Member of the Month: Susan Duerksen

This month, we are featuring Susan Duerksen of the Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (JEDI) Team, to find out what she prioritizes in her environmental advocacy. 

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

I don’t remember when I first became a SD350 member, but I got actively involved as a volunteer after I retired from the Center on Policy Initiatives in early 2019.

What drives your activism?

As a secular humanist, I believe we humans are responsible for taking care of each other and the planet. I believe in science, so I’m terrified of the destruction ahead if we don’t change how we treat the earth. I’m also outraged at the destruction already happening to the people around the world who are least to blame for the problem and have the least resources. We have to stop letting corporate capitalism call the shots, always putting profit ahead of human life.

What do you recommend to people who want to have a larger impact through the environmental movement? What do you prioritize in your own activism?

I recommend everybody read as much as you can on the intersection of racial/economic justice with climate – and the importance of unifying efforts. And join the SD350 JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion) team!  The climate crisis is overwhelming, obviously, so just pick one part of it to work on and dive in!  Maybe try something that stretches you beyond your usual realm, for the excitement of learning. I started out helping with SD350 communications, because that’s what I know from my career, but switched to focusing on the JEDI work.  I also have deep respect for everyone working on public policy, which is essential for major change.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about you?

I love fuyu persimmons and have a ton of kumquats and lemons to trade. 

I’m a brutal editor, so please accept my apologies if I ever work with you on writing something, or have in the past. I mean well.

Update: Last Call for the Franchise Agreements

By Heather Hofshi, leader of SanDiego350’s Franchise Committee

By now many of you have heard that Mayor Gloria’s flawed franchise agreements with SDG&E have passed the first round of voting at the City Council. The second and final vote is slated for Tuesday, June 8th, and we urge everyone to turn out and let the mayor and council know that San Diego deserves better. 

So how did we get here? And where are we going next? 

The last energy franchise agreements, which give a utility company the right to use city streets and other property for their infrastructure, and give it a monopoly on providing gas and electricity, were signed in 1970 and expired in 2020. Mayor Faulconer had issued an ITB, an invitation for any qualified energy company to bid, for the new franchise agreements. When the bidding process ran up against the elections last year, then-Council President Gomez put off opening the bids until the new council could be sworn in.

The only bid was from San Diego Gas & Electric, subsidiary of fossil fuel giant Sempra Energy. As our franchisee for the last century, SDG&E has consistently fought any attempts to transition to renewable energy and deal with climate change, charged the highest rates in the state, and repeatedly broken faith with the city in pursuit of their profits. 

The bid was immediately deemed non-responsive by the new mayor, due to the massive changes the corporation demanded. Mayor Gloria instead initiated his own process, which included an early public feedback effort. Many members of SanDiego350, our allies, and the community showed up and consistently demanded:

  • A short term, preferably five years
  • Lower rates for ratepayers and families, especially in communities of concern
  • A strong Right to Purchase clause or “off-ramp”
  • Stronger accountability measures, including penalties
  • Strong commitments to partnering with the City to achieve 100% renewable energy
  • A Climate Equity Fund to invest in communities of concern
  • A serious commitment from the City to explore public power

The terms of Gloria’s new ITB, unfortunately, did not reflect the views of the community. And SDG&E submitted, not a contract with clear terms, but a memo pledging to work with the mayor’s office to negotiate one. Off into the backroom they went. They emerged with a deal broadly similar to Faulconer’s, despite Gloria’s insistence that it was vastly superior.

Of course, as in any business deal, the devil’s in the details, and these devils were particularly wicked:

  • A twenty year deal: ten years with an automatic ten-year extension, complete with a requirement that the City repay millions of dollars if it voted against the extension
  • A supermajority required to vote down the extension
  • No commitment to abide by the city’s Climate Action Plan
  • A payment structure that allows SDG&E to stretch the payments for their ten-year bid over twenty years– and if we leave, they never have to pay the full amount
  • No resolution to the ongoing litigation between the City and SDG&E
  • No payments into the City’s Climate Equity Fund until 2037
  • Climate Equity Fund payments of a mere $20 million over four years, a pittance compared to what SDG&E makes off of city residents

It came to the City Council for the first vote on May 25th. Unfortunately, despite nearly every councilmember and the mayor admitting in their comments that the deal was not a good one for San Diego, it did pass the first vote. Councilmember Elo-Rivera (D9), who had previously cast himself as a champion for both disadvantaged communities and the environment, broke with the other progressive councilmembers to vote in favor of the deal. However, we were excited and grateful to see Councilmembers LaCava, Montgomery Steppe, and Moreno stand up for their constituents and vote no.

Thanks to sustained efforts by our amazing volunteers and everyone who wrote or called in to the council meeting, we were able to move a few Councilmembers to demand some amendments:

  • Climate Equity Fund payments moved up to the first years of the agreements
  • A public power feasibility study in 2022
  • A fund to hold the necessary penalty fees aside in case the City opts to leave
  • A solar access fund, overseen by the City’s Environment Committee, revised to ‘at least’ (instead of ‘up to’) $10M

None of these provisions will happen by themselves. It will be up to us to help keep SDG&E and the City Council accountable for the promises they’ve made. Contact me (Heather) to get involved.

So what’s next? The final vote for this bad deal is slated for June 8th, 2021. Right now is our chance to stand up and let the council, the mayor, and this dirty fossil fuel corporation know exactly where we stand! 

  • If you live in Districts 1, 4, or 8, contact your councilmember and thank them for doing the right thing for San Diegans, and urge them to stand strong
  • If you live in Districts 5, 7, or 9, call and remind your councilmember of the promises they made when we voted for them– all ran on environmental and justice values that they are not living out
  • If you live anywhere in San Diego, make your voice heard! Write or call in to the council meeting, write a letter to the editor of your favorite newspaper, and spread the word on social media. 
  • Find your council district and how to contact your councilmember here.

Find our toolkit with call-in instructions and talking points here!

Thanks to everyone in our amazing community who have carried us this far. Let’s keep going and get San Diego the green future it deserves.

Can San Diego County Reach Zero Carbon by 2035?

By Lorenzo Nericcio, Newsletter Editor

With a progressive-leaning, newly-elected San Diego County Board of Supervisors, there is hope for an ambitious new plan: a zero-carbon San Diego County by 2035. The County will work with UCSD’s School of Global Policy and Strategy to get the plan moving, which involves transitioning the County toward more sustainable sources of transportation, sustainable housing, and a general push for environmental justice. 

SanDiego350 is helping to craft the policies and proposals that will make this effort possible—and, importantly, equitable for all San Diegans. 

David Harris of the Policy Team had this to say, “We applaud the Board for its commitment to bold climate action and encourage the supervisors to adopt a new Climate Action Plan to demonstrate how they plan to meet this ambitious target of zero carbon by 2035 […] To reduce San Diego County’s carbon footprint to zero by 2035, our elected leaders must focus on decarbonizing on-road transportation, electricity, and natural gas in buildings. These three sectors account for 78% of the County’s carbon emissions. This plan must center climate and equity, what we call a ‘just transition’, while also establishing aggressive targets to reduce emissions.”

SanDiego350’s priorities, thoroughly outlined in a letter to the County Planning & Development Services department, include the following areas of importance:

  • Sustainable built environment and transportation, including improved land use, expanded public transit, and incentives for telecommuting
  • Renewable energy, including microgrids with battery storage, and expanding electrification of new building projects
  • Sustainable food supply that incentivizes purchasing and producing less carbon-intensive foods
  • Consumption-based GHG inventory to assess the lifecycle of carbon and other greenhouse gasses originating from within the County. 
  • Social equity plans, including a Climate Equity Index built to advocate for a just distribution of renewable energy and other green advancements

As the County’s ambitious plans continue to take shape, SanDiego350 will continue to advocate for sustainable, equitable, and just development.

Celebrating Black History Month: Statements from Black Environmental Leaders

In order to honor Black History Month, SanDiego350 reached out to leading Black environmentalists we work with. We asked for statements on their work, what they find important, and asked for their perspective on what environmental movements can do to better prioritize racial justice. 

Clockwise from upper left: Maria Muhammad, San Diego Urban Sustainability Coalition; Tianna Arredondo, 350.org  California/Hawaii Regional Organizer; Marcus Bush, City Council Member, National City; Rachal Hamilton, Justice & Equity Intern, SanDiego350 .

As San Diego strives to grow in sustainable ways, what efforts should policymakers prioritize to ensure growth is inclusive? 

Maria Muhammad, SD Urban Sustainability Coalition

My father has a saying, folks pay for what they want and beg for what they need

I have observed nothing greater in my lifetime than the lengths people will go for what they want. 

What do this city and its policymakers truly want? Do they desire inclusivity? Are they actually prepared to do the incredible work necessary for inclusivity? Inclusivity requires true grit. It requires getting beyond the rhetoric and hashtags and getting to the root cause of exclusion, a white supremacist ideology.  

If policymakers are committed to striving toward a more sustainable future, the deconstruction of white supremacy has to be at the forefront of their agendas.  That laborious task will surely bring about resistance, misunderstandings, mistakes, human frailty, and excruciatingly uncomfortable conversations.  

The process of deconstructing white supremacy will also require long hours.  This will, of course, lead to bigger budgets, but the benefits of inclusion will ultimately have a positive impact on our collective prosperity. Inclusivity will allow our city to be more competitive regionally, nationally, and globally.  There can be no sustainable growth when a city suffers from social, economic, and political desertification.  

When policymakers prioritize their efforts with collaboration, listening deeply, transparency, accountability, funding, and popular education; we all have the chance to get what we want, leaving none of us having to beg for what we need.  

As a National City councilmember, what environmentally-focused changes would you prioritize for the county? What plans are currently underway? 

Marcus Bush, National City City Council Member

National City is one of the most environmentally-challenged cities in the county, particularly when it comes to air pollution, as we suffer some of the highest rates of asthma. This past week I was appointed by Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis and the County officials to represent the South Bay region on the newly-expanded Air Pollution Control District of San Diego County. One of my priorities will be addressing air pollution and emissions by reducing vehicle-miles traveled and supporting alternatives to driving, including walking, biking, and public transit. This is also critical to addressing the climate crisis and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. That’s why I strongly support SANDAG’s new efforts to overhaul the Regional Transportation Plan with bold investments to expand regional transit. 

We as regional leaders also need to support infill housing and job growth around transit stations, while opposing new sprawl development projects in our backcountry and sensitive habitat. More resources are needed for habitat preservation and restoration projects throughout the County.

What drives you to contribute to the environmental movement? What changes would you like to see in it?

Rachal Hamilton, Justice & Equity Intern, SanDiego350 

My experience as a young Black girl who grew up in the midwest really pushed me to understand the impact that environmental racism has on lower-income Black communities. I believe that one’s environment is the biggest factor in their overall mental and physical wellness and that free access to clean resources and basic needs is undoubtedly a human right. I am driven to do my part in the fight for environmental justice because I know that there are so many low-income, Black populations across the globe and the United States that are facing climate injustice due to systems of racism. I believe that in order for the environmental movement to truly begin breaking down these systems, they must unlearn the anti-blackness that has been taught throughout the history of this work, and use an intersectional lens for their activism.

Are there currently any ways that environmental activists in general—or 350 in particular—could improve our work in racial justice? What would you suggest people do to prioritize justice more in their activism? 

Tianna Arredondo, 350.org  California/Hawaii Regional Organizer

To improve racial justice, 350 local groups can prioritize listening and connecting as humans first. We will always have a strategy to create or a plan to adjust. What we won’t have unless we make time for it – is space to listen to one another and connect with one another. The more that we listen to each other and take time to be accountable to one another’s needs –  the more we can get into a practice of reciprocity and begin to cultivate integrity based relationships that allow for trust building. We need to learn to prove our reliability to one another so that we can trust one another’s commitment to racial justice.