The Bay Conservation & Development Commission (BCDC) recently proposed new environmental justice policies to make access to the San Francisco Bay accessible and equitable for all. Green Foothills weighed in on the draft policies, advocating for guidelines that encourage development that works with nature. We’re pleased to say that BCDC incorporated our input into its new Guiding Principles.
BCDC is a state planning and regulatory agency with authority over the San Francisco Bay, its shoreline, salt ponds, and managed wetlands. Its mission is “to protect and enhance the San Francisco Bay and encourage the Bay’s responsible and productive use for this and future generations.” As a state agency, BCDC must abide by the State of California’s definition of environmental justice: “The fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” (Cal Gov’t Code §65040.12(e)).
BCDC proposed environmental justice policies as an attempt to address historic inequities resulting from discriminatory public policies, including racially-based zoning, restrictive covenants, and exclusionary lending practices. These policies led to an unequal allocation of resources and created unequal public access and environmental degradation in disadvantaged communities, increasing poor public health outcomes, inadequate public services, and disproportionate exposure to pollutants. If these policies continue, we can expect that existing inequities will be exacerbated by the destruction caused by sea level rise, which will disproportionately impact lower income communities.
New Guiding Principles Include Our Feedback
Green Foothills supported BCDC’s proposal to improve public access to the Bay, including development along the Bay that works with nature. We spoke to staff about the lack of public access in many new proposals which substantially change the use or character of a site. We partnered with Nuestra Casa, an organization focused on building equitable communities, to create the sound environmental justice policies. We also advocated for all access to be culturally relevant by including signs in languages of different ethnicities. BCDC heard our concerns, incorporating our input on improving public access and visual access in an environmentally friendly manner as a principle for equity into its new Guiding Principles.
BCDC’s new guiding principles include social equity in the planning process as early as possible, meaningful community involvement, and fair treatment of all participants. Communities have the opportunity to participate in decisions about activities that may affect their environment and/or health from the earliest stages of the permitting process. Community concerns will be considered in the decision-making process and decision makers are now required to seek out and facilitate the involvement of those potentially affected.
These changes in policy assist with creating a more just and equitable resource allocation of the Bay. As societal pressures continue to impact our natural resources, ensuring access to these treasures are of paramount importance. Green Foothills will continue to stand up for everyone’s access to our natural treasures.