Environmental Justice Element
What’s in an Environmental Justice Element?
In September 2016, Senate Bill 1000 was adopted to require jurisdictions with “disadvantaged communities” to incorporate environmental justice policies into their general plans. Disadvantaged communities are neighborhoods with low-income households that are exposed to pollution (e.g., freeways, landfills). State law requires environmental justice policies to be incorporated into the general plan upon the adoption of two or more general elements. The City of Hayward is in the process of updating both the Housing Element and the Safety Element, which also requires the City to include environmental justice policies in the General Plan.
What is Environmental Justice?
Environmental justice provides an important opportunity to identify and address problems that previous governmental actions haven’t addressed, such as fair and equitable access to healthy food, affordable housing, and meaningful participation in actions and decisions made by governments. Environmental degradation and pollution impact all communities; however, low-income and communities of color experience those impacts at a higher rate. For example, in the United States, low-income and minority communities tend to be located closer to environmentally hazardous or degraded environments including hazard and toxic waste-producing facilities, landfills, and energy production facilities resulting in lifelong heath impacts on those communities. The Environmental Justice movement emerged as a political movement to fight abuses and discriminatory practices against historically impacted communities.
What is the multi-cultural history of Hayward?
The City of Hayward is an exceptionally diverse city located at the center of the dynamic San Francisco Bay Area. Hayward’s history can be traced back more than 3,000 years, when it was first occupied by the Ohlone and Yrgin tribes.
The Ohlone are the predominant Indigenous group of the Bay Area, including the Chochenyo and the Karkin in East Bay, the Ramaytush in San Francisco, the Yokuts in South Bay and Central Valley, and the Muwekma tribe throughout the region. The arrival of Spanish explorers and missionaries in the late 1700s was the first major threat to Ohlone existence and culture as a result of forced cultural and religious assimilation, exposure to European diseases, and harsh and unsanitary living conditions. When California became part of the Union in 1850, after the Mexican-American War, the state government sanctioned the mass genocide of Indigenous populations by local militia in the wake of the Gold Rush. By 1852, there were less than 1,000 Ohlone remaining, a 90 percent loss in their pre-colonial era population. By the 1880s, the Bay Area Ohlone population was dramatically reduced.
In 1843, the Mexican government granted soldier and surveyor Guillermo Castro almost 27,000 acres of land stretching from the Bay to beyond the hills, including present-day Castro Valley, Hayward, and San Lorenzo. Castro named the area Rancho San Lorenzo and settled on the site of historic City Hall on Mission Boulevard. Castro’s personal corral still exists today as the City’s Heritage Plaza and Arboretum.
In 1851, a failed prospector named William Hayward, passed through Castro’s land on his way from gold country to San Francisco. Hayward purchased several acres of land from Castro in what is now downtown Hayward. In 1852, Hayward set up a small general store at the corner of A Street and Mission Boulevard. The store became a major stop on the road from Oakland to San Jose, due in no small part to Hayward’s position as Road Commissioner of Alameda County. Hayward expanded his business, erecting a lodging house that grew to become the famous Haywards Hotel.
On the morning of October 21, 1868, the Southern segment of the Hayward Fault ruptured, triggering a Magnitude 7.0 earthquake. Nearly every building in the Hayward area was destroyed or significantly damaged in the earthquake. The 1868 Hayward Quake was known as the “great San Francisco earthquake” until 1906.
When the town was incorporated on March 11, 1876, it was officially named “Haywards” after the landmark hotel. The “s” was dropped several years later. Hayward’s climate, soil, and perfect location in the heart of the Bay Area have spurred tremendous growth for decades. Following World War II, housing developments began replacing farms and ranches. Between 1950 and 1960, the population increased fivefold from 14,000 to 72,000, and has continued to grow ever since.
With 160,000 residents, today the City of Hayward is the sixth-largest city in the Bay Area and a thriving regional center of commerce, manufacturing activity and trade. Known as the “Heart of the Bay,” Hayward has capitalized on its unparalleled location to become one of the most desirable business locations for companies in advanced industries.
Today, Hayward is home to an extremely diverse community, hosted one of the nation’s first annual gay proms, established one of the state’s first Japanese garden, and holds the longest-running Battle of the Bands in America.
Is Hayward exposed to pollution?
Hayward is vulnerable to impacts of urban development, particularly air and water pollution.
- Air quality has improved significantly in the last 30 years, but transportation emissions still result in ozone and particulate levels that exceed state and federal standards. Burning of fossil fuels—whether through motor vehicles, industry, or energy generation—also generates greenhouse gases, which contribute to global climate change. Motor vehicles are the primary source of air pollution in Hayward and the Bay Area. Industrial and commercial activities such as electronics manufacturing, auto repair, dry cleaning, and the use of solvents are also contributors. Additionally, particulate matter is emitted into the air during construction, grading, and wood burning, which can compound air quality problems. On warm summer days, these sources result in high levels of ozone, carbon monoxide, and particulates throughout the region.
- On the topic of water quality, the creeks and channels that flow through Hayward are prone to pollution from a variety of sources. In general, non-point source pollutants such as runoff from lawns and parking lots are harder to control than point sources. Runoff can contain oil, grease, litter, animal waste, household chemicals, pesticides, and other substances that are washed into storm drains and local creeks. This results in high levels of nutrients and depletion of oxygen in these water bodies, which harms aquatic life and causes other environmental problems. In Hayward, all stormwater runoff eventually discharges to San Francisco Bay. The Bay is considered impaired by a number of pollutants, such as mercury and PCBs.
What are the challenges that face Hayward community members?
Hayward’s community faces a number of challenges that are felt on a region-wide basis. There is not enough affordable housing, commutes are long and wages are stagnating. In addition, there are environmental challenges related to climate change, sea level rise, drought, and the threat of earthquakes, floods, wildfires.
How is the City of Hayward addressing Environmental Justice?
In spring 2020, City Council reviewed the City’s Racial Equity Action Plan. The Racial Equity Action Plan is an aspirational roadmap for effecting organizational change and improving service to the community in the City of Hayward. This plan is an early step toward intentionally working to address racial inequities in the City and realize the City of Hayward’s ideal of being a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community.
On September 15, 2021, the Community Services Commission recommended the following actions:
- A resolution apologizing to BIPOC on behalf of the City of Hayward for its implicit and explicit role in perpetuating historical institutional racism in the City of Hayward; and
- That the Council adopt a workplan to address the City’s historical wrongdoings
These requests may be adopted by Council on October 19.
What types of policies will be included in the new Environmental Justice Element?
In light of the history of Hayward and existing community characteristics, the City of Hayward will prepare a new Environmental Justice Element that will contain goals and policies:
- Reducing pollution exposure and improving air quality, particularly for disadvantaged communities
- Promoting access to public facilities
- Promoting access to healthy foods
- Promoting safe and sanitary homes
- Promoting physical activity
- Promoting civic engagement
Your participation will be fundamental for shaping the goals and policies of the Environmental Justice Element. We encourage all Hayward stakeholders and residents to participate in all upcoming community meetings. Please join our e-mail list to receive updates on the Environmental Justice Element progress, including information on upcoming workshops.