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City of Santa Ana moves to protect oldest neighborhoods from industrial pollution under historic environmental justice initiative

Posted on June 10, 2024

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The Santa Ana City Council approved a moratorium on new industrial uses in affected areas.

SANTA ANA, Calif. – The City of Santa Ana has suspended the permitting of new or expanded industrial activity near two of the City’s most historical neighborhoods that were built before zoning was a common practice. These historically disadvantaged neighborhoods face health risks from pollution, which the City is addressing as part of a groundbreaking environmental justice initiative in its new General Plan.

The moratorium on new, expanded or relocated industrial uses affects over 130 industrial businesses located in and around the densely populated and largely Latino neighborhoods of Logan and Lacy, as well as Downtown. During the moratorium, City staff will continue to track and report data, research appropriate regulations, and coordinate with outside regulatory agencies and City departments to provide a complete analysis and thorough evaluation of environmental impacts of the businesses. Staff will determine whether further, permanent action is needed and will provide recommendations to the Santa Ana City Council and Planning Commission.

Past land-use planning practices, such as mixing residential, industrial and commercial areas in close proximity to each other, have placed an unequitable environmental and health burden on the affected neighborhoods. The General Plan, which the City Council adopted in 2022, aims to address these inequities and includes 77 environmental justice implementation actions that address air quality, noxious uses, water safety, residential lead exposure in the soil, and other environmental public health conditions.

Under the General Plan, the City created the Neighborhood Initiatives and Environmental Services (NIES) section in the Planning and Building Agency to oversee these efforts. NIES also recently formed the community-based Environmental Justice Action Committee, whose purpose is to collaborate and provide guidance on the implementation of the General Plan environmental justice policies and actions. No other Orange County city has taken this unique approach, nor invested as many staff resources, to addressing environmental justice issues.

Moratorium on Industrial Uses

The City Council approved an urgency ordinance on May 21, 2024, extending a 45-day moratorium for another 10 months and 15 days to suspend the approval, commencement, establishment, relocation, or expansion of industrial uses within certain areas in central Santa Ana. The area affected by the moratorium, known as the Transit Zoning Code (TZC), is located in the central core of Santa Ana, comprises approximately 450 acres, and encompasses the Logan, Lacy, and Downtown neighborhoods.

Lacy and Logan are more densely populated than Santa Ana as a whole, with a combined population density of 15,531.7 persons per square mile. Logan is the oldest Mexican and Mexican-American neighborhood in Santa Ana, dating to as early as 1886.

The initial moratorium was adopted to address concerns regarding the adverse impacts of industrial activities on public health, safety, and welfare in the affected neighborhoods. City staff have received repeated code enforcement and air emission complaints about industrial facilities, including recurring unpermitted work and land use violations that involve large commercial vehicles blocking street access and impacting nearby residents, and a fire at an industrial facility on Aug. 29, 2023, that caused significant concern.

Data from Orange County Fire Authority show 62 calls for service in 2022 and 66 calls for service for advanced life support-related emergencies. Specifically, 29 of the service calls responded to by OCFA in 2022 were related to health stemming from respiratory concerns including chest pain and cardiac arrest, along with long-term diabetic issues and chest pains. In 2023, the number of such health-related calls increased by nearly 7%.

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