Environmental Justice Framework and General Plan Policies
A part of the General Plan Updates
Advancing Healthy, Sustainable, and Equitable Communities
San Francisco is working to ensure all residents and workers live in and enjoy healthy, clean environments. The City’s environmental justice work will set clear goals and actions to advance health in communities of color and low-income communities that face higher pollution and other health risks. These City commitments will be developed in collaboration with communities and spelled out in an Environmental Justice Framework and related General Plan policies.
What Is Environmental Justice (EJ)?
Communities and governments have defined environmental justice in many ways. The Planning Department developed the following definition, which may be further refined during the community engagement process:
The equitable distribution of environmental benefits and the elimination of environmental burdens to promote healthy communities where all San Franciscans can thrive. Government can foster environmental justice through processes that amend past injustices while enabling proactive, community-led solutions for the future.
The term “environmental racism” recognizes that American Indian, Black, and other communities of color have historically borne the brunt of environmental burdens and poor health through intentional and systemically racist actions. These same communities have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as the social, economic, and health impacts of the disease have disproportionately impacted communities of color. Our environmental justice work is being coordinated with the Planning Department’s Racial and Social Equity Action Plan.
California Senate Bill 1000 requires that cities and counties adopt policies in their General Plan to address environmental justice. In response, the City is developing an Environmental Justice Framework to identify key goals and priorities and related General Plan Policies.
San Francisco is developing environmental justice policies in these areas:
- Clean and Healthy Environments (Pollution Reduction)
- Healthy Food Access
- Physical Activity
- Safe, Healthy and Affordable Housing
- Equitable and Green Jobs
- Healthy Public Facilities
- Climate Resilience and Justice
- Empowered Neighborhoods (Civic Engagement and Prioritizing EJ Communities)
Framework and General Plan Policies
The Environmental Justice Framework will outline a vision and goals to be incorporated into the City’s General Plan. It will also include guidance to City agencies and other stakeholders on how they can address environmental justice in their work.
In addition, the Planning Department is working to develop environmental justice policies that will be adopted in the San Francisco General Plan. The first such policies will be found in the Housing, Transportation, and Safety elements, which are currently undergoing updates.
This project timeline below is subject to change. Please see the “Engagement” tab for up-to-date information on public events.
|Winter 2021||Spring 2021||Summer 2021||Fall 2021|
|Key Project Milestones||EJ Communities Map & Story Map|
|EJ Framework & Policies|
|Community Engagement||Environmental Justice Working Group (EJWG)|
|Youth Engagement: Balboa HS|
|Listening sessions & surveys|
- Overview Presentation
- Fact sheet
- Environmental Justice Working Group Recruitment Flyer (deadline April 9, 2021)
- Recording of the Q&A Informational Session held on March 31, 2021
- SF Office of Racial Equity (ORE) – SF Racial Equity Legislative Mandates
- SF Department of Public Health (DPH) – Environmental Health Division
- SF Public Utilities Commission (PUC) – Environmental Justice & Land Use Program
- SF Environment – Environmental Justice Overview
- San Francisco Bay Conservation & Development Commission (BCDC) – Environmental Justice and Social Equity Bay Plan Amendment
- Bay Area Air Quality Management District – Planning for Environmental Justice
The draft Environmental Justice Communities Map describes areas of San Francisco that have higher pollution and are predominately low-income. This map is based on CalEnviroScreen, a tool created by CalEPA& OEHHA that maps California communities that are most affected by pollution and other health risks. This map includes additional local data on pollution and demographics, and will be refined during the community engagement process based on public feedback.
Environmental Justice Working Group
Watch our recording of the Q&A informational session held on March 31, 2021.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the San Francisco General Plan?
The General Plan provides a comprehensive set of objectives and policies that influence how we live, work, and move about, as well as the quality and character of the City. The General Plan reflects community values and priorities through its public adoption process, ensuring both private development and public action conform to this vision. The General Plan helps shape our daily lives, respond to today’s big challenges, and lead us to a more equitable, sustainable, and healthy future that enables all San Franciscans to thrive.
What is the Environmental Justice Framework?
The Environmental Justice (EJ) Framework will provide an overarching vision and a set of policies to be incorporated into the City’s General Plan. The first such policies will be found in the Housing, Transportation, and Safety elements, which are currently undergoing updates. It will also include guidance to City agencies and other stakeholders on how they can address environmental justice in their work. City agencies are developing the EJ Framework to meet several City and State requirements:
- California Senate Bill 1000 (2016) requires cities and counties to:
- Designate a map of Environmental Justice Communities (aka “Disadvantaged Communities”)
- Adopt policies in the General Plan to address “unique or compounded health risks” these communities face
- The Planning and Historic Preservation Commission directed the Planning Department to amend the General Plan to address racial and social equity in accordance with the Racial & Social Equity Action Plan.
What is Environmental Justice? How is Environmental Justice related to racial and social equity?
We define environmental justice as the equitable distribution of environmental benefits (such as clean air and water, parks, affordable housing, transportation, and other public services) and environmental burdens (such as pollution, heavy traffic, and crime) to promote healthy communities where all San Franciscans can thrive. Government can foster environmental justice through processes that amend past injustices while creating proactive, community-led solutions for the future.
Similarly, the concept of environmental racism recognizes that the burdens of environmental justice are often felt most keenly in American Indian, Black, and other communities of color. This is due in part to a long history of policies and actions that have resulted in segregated neighborhoods. Studies have shown that people of color are more likely to face higher exposure to environmental hazards – for example, at the national level, the US EPA found that Black residents are exposed to 50% more air pollution than white residents. Many people of color and low-income communities also have less access to resources that can support their health and wellbeing, such as healthy food, affordable housing, good schools, and parks. These conditions may contribute to wide disparities in health outcomes by race, neighborhood, and income. For example, life expectancy for Black San Francisco residents is 10 years less than for white residents (72 years vs. 82 years). Similarly, amongst San Francisco high schoolers, Latinx students are 1.6x more likely and Black students are 2x more likely to have asthma than white students. COVID-19 has also magnified these racial inequities, with Latinx, Pacific Islander, and American Indian residents facing the city’s highest rates of COVID-19 infections.1
1DataSF.org: COVID-19 Data and Reports. Last accessed on 3/4/21.
What will the Environmental Justice Framework do – and not do?
The Environmental Justice Framework will develop policy strategies and identify implementation measures that will influence how the City advances health in communities of color and low-income communities that face higher pollution and other health risks. These strategies will be developed in collaboration with leaders from the communities most impacted by environmental injustices, targeting neighborhoods identified in the draft EJ Communities Map (see next question for more details).
While the Framework does not directly create new programming or funding resources, it guides and promotes the development of action plans that will advance our Environmental Justice goals, such as City agencies’ Racial Equity Action Plans and related programs (such as the environmental justice programs at San Francisco Department of Public Health, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, and SF Department of the Environment, among others).
What is the draft Environmental Justice (EJ) Communities Map?
The draft Environmental Justice Communities Map identifies areas of San Francisco that have higher pollution and are predominately low-income, such as (but not limited to): Bayview Hunters Point, South of Market, Tenderloin, Chinatown, Visitacion Valley, Potrero Hill, Treasure Island, and Mission neighborhoods.
This map is based on CalEnviroScreen 3.0, a tool created by CalEPA and OEHHA that maps California communities that are most affected by pollution and other health risks. The draft EJ Communities Map includes additional local data on pollution and demographics. The map will be refined during the community engagement process based on public feedback.
The map will be used to identify neighborhoods that the City should prioritize for policies and programs to address environmental justice and health. The City is working to create an interactive version of the map that will include more data and information on other related topics (such as housing, transportation, parks and recreation facilities, and other public services).
Why is it important that I participate in the Environmental Justice Framework?
Your input will help shape San Francisco’s environmental justice priorities. To make sure these policies and programs are inclusive and represent the values and ideas of our city’s diverse population, we want to hear from as many San Francisco residents and community members as possible, and particularly from the communities that have been most impacted by environmental justice. Your input will guide the development of key ideas, policies, and implementation programs to ensure an equitable, resilient, and sustainable future for San Francisco.
How can I participate in developing the Environmental Justice Framework? How are you taking public safety into consideration during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic is magnifying the city’s longstanding inequalities and is hitting communities of color and low-income communities the hardest – often the same neighborhoods that have been impacted by environmental justice. The Environmental Justice Framework presents an opportunity to ensure that discussions about our City’s long-term recovery focus on racial and social equity.
Though in-person community engagement would be ideal, we are currently focusing on virtual outreach methods to minimize the risks to public health. Here are some key opportunities to get involved:
- You can contact the project team to ask questions or schedule a virtual meeting
- You can provide input during the General Plan Virtual Events on March 15-26
- You can sign up for our newsletter to receive email updates
- You can submit a letter of interest to join our Environmental Justice Working Group or apply for a Community Engagement Grant (starting in Spring 2021; interest form due on April 9th)
- You can participate in upcoming activities, such as listening sessions, surveys, and interviews (dates to be announced)
We may be able to resume in-person outreach events in late 2021, if conditions in the community improve and if allowed by public health guidance.
We want to hear from you! For more information on how to get involved in this project, or to share feedback and information, please get in touch with our team:
Lisa Chen, Senior Community Development Specialist
Shelley Caltagirone, Cultural Heritage Planner
Celina Chan, Transportation Planner
Danielle Ngo, Resilience + Sustainability Planner