Deirel Marquez

Program Manager for Climate Resilience

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At the beginning of 2024, the Community Resilience Working Group embarked on a mission to spotlight the issues facing communities on the frontlines of climate change, and the innovative solutions they are leading to build resilience. Community resilience is the ability of communities to withstand, recover, and learn from past disasters, and to learn from past disasters to strengthen future response and recovery efforts. The CRWG, founded by Greenlining and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network and composed of grassroots organizations, aims to showcase neighborhood projects to state decision-makers, leveraging local expertise to build ongoing support for their work. 

One standout project we highlighted was funded through the Transformative Climate Communities Program in Barrio Logan, San Diego, led by the Environmental Health Coalition. Established in 1980, EHC has worked to reduce pollution and improve health and well-being for thousands of people in underserved, low-income communities in San Diego.

Greenlining and Transformative Climate Communities in Barrio Logan (San Diego, CA)

The Strategic Growth Council’s TCC program funds communities that are most impacted by climate change to develop and implement holistic, community-led climate resilience projects in their neighborhoods. In 2023, a coalition of 11 applicants from the San Diego community submitted a community-driven proposal for a TCC grant that included eight projects and three plans for housing, green space, building upgrades and transportation improvements, securing $22.6M to bring their visions to life. In light of California’s ballooning budget deficit which has put essential climate equity programs–including TCC–at risk of being under- or un-funded, securing this grant award was a massive win for San Diego’s Historic Barrio Logan community. 

The CRWG chose to uplift EHC’s efforts because of the critical role of the community in developing a robust vision for climate resilience in San Diego’s Historic Barrio Logan. State legislators need to understand the value of TCC and urge them to make the investments needed to achieve healthier, more vibrant, resilient communities. In order to shine a spotlight on this successful program, EHC designed and led a tour to connect state political leaders with the realities faced by Barrio Logan residents. 

The tour led by EHC began at Boston Ave Linear Park. The park was originally an empty plot of land owned by Caltrans. When residents became aware that the site would be going up for sale, community members mobilized to halt the sale and instead convert the land into a park that would benefit the community. EHC shared that they were able to use $3 million from the TCC grant for the design of the park and leveraged another $2 million in funding from the City of San Diego to support planning for the park’s development. 

As we walked through the neighborhood we also learned about the Tierras Indígenas Community Land Trust (TICLT), a non-profit of residents and organizers working to purchase land in Historic Barrios to keep it out of the hands of greedy developers and back into the hands of the community to fight displacement and gentrification. 

The tour also highlighted the community’s proactive efforts to reduce pollution in the neighborhood. As we walked by a factory that was the source of significant pollution, community members explained how they organized once again to hold the company that owned the factory accountable and responsible for implementing measures to reduce pollution and support cleaner air.

Finally, we learned about the Holistic Healthy Homes Initiative which invests in home improvements such as solar, xeriscaping, appliance replacement, air filters, and lead remediation for healthier, more climate-resilient homes. As well as the shared partnership with Urban Corps, to employ people from the community to launch their tree planting project. 

After dedicating considerable effort to shaping the community’s vision for a climate-resilient future, navigating the TCC grant application process, and presenting our findings to legislators, we’re excited to highlight four key learnings from our tour:

1. Elevate Community Advocacy to Ensure Equitable Policy

The CRWG uplifts frontline community expertise in shaping policy. Our direct engagement with legislators and community-based organizations highlighted the gaps between the local realities on the ground and policymakers’ perceptions, showcasing innovative community-driven solutions crucial for informed policy decisions.  Through the tour, we engaged elected officials in critical dialogue with leaders in their commitment who are championing policies benefiting their constituents. As advocates and community based organizations, we know the importance of holding elected officials accountable, promoting transparency, and ensuring that policies serve community interests.

2. Invest in Community Capacity for Resilient Development

We know that communities of color and low-income communities have been historically underfunded due to a history of redlining and racist policies. This has left our communities with limited capacity to manage and implement large-scale projects. During the tour, our partners at the Environmental Health Coalition shared that it took about half a million dollars, about a sixth of EHC’s budget, in resources to apply for the TCC grant. Therefore, it’s not only important to give communities direct funds to execute their projects, it’s also important to fund their capacity to continue to build their expertise on climate resilience projects, relationships with community members, and staffing to handle complex grant applications effectively and in a sustainable way. As we walked through the neighborhood and saw the much needed improvements that are going to be executed we couldn’t help but think that strengthening capacity for funding applications and project implementation is vital for fostering creative and innovative ways for community informed processes to inform resiliency projects despite resource constraints.

3. Strong Community Driven Partnerships Can Improve Funding Potential for Community Resilience Projects 

Throughout the tour, it was evident that strong partnerships between community-based organizations, city officials, and community residents are crucial for realizing the project’s vision. EHC was able to build upon already established relationships with community members and partner community-based organizations through the TCC planning grant. This grant helped EHC have a broader connection to community members through surveys and canvassing efforts to better understand what projects were a priority to the community. Additionally, EHC was working with various community leaders and advocates to create a TCC Community Advisory Board known as the CAB to ensure that community voice was centered during the TCC application and implementation process. But building strong relationships with the community was one of two steps in creating a strong and ultimately successful TCC application.

EHC has been working with 12 partners including the local metropolitan transit system or MTS, the City of San Diego and multiple grassroot lead organizations, some of which have never received state funding to support their projects. Prior to this grant, the first Community Land Trust in Barrio Logan, Tierras Indigenas CLT, wouldn’t have the resources they needed to acquire their first parcel of land to help fight displacement given that they are a new organization with little to no capital. 

These collaborations are essential for pooling resources, sharing knowledge, and fostering community trust. Despite this strong foundation, there remains a need to enhance and discover opportunities to connect smaller, community-based organizations with local and state governments. Strengthening these relationships will ensure a more comprehensive and inclusive approach, allowing for a diverse range of voices and ideas to shape future initiatives effectively.

4. Taking Action to Engage Decision-Makers Matters

Advocacy doesn’t end with a tour. If you are a part of a community that is interested in taking action to build a more climate resilient future and combat the lasting legacy of redlining in your neighborhoods, contact your legislators, city officials, and community leaders. Invite them to experience firsthand the projects shaping your community’s future. If your community has received funding, this is an advocacy strategy that your community can take and emphasize the need for continued investment and collaboration to realize its vision. Your actions can make a difference in driving transformative change.

Deirel Marquez

Program Manager for Climate Resilience

Read Bio