From Shade Trees To Resiliency: Why We’re Broadening Our Work

Updated: Feb 16

Since our founding, Climate Action Campaign has fought to expand our region’s urban shade tree canopy. Now, we are expanding our fight for Shade Trees into a campaign for Resiliency. Keep reading to learn why!


Safeguarding Our Communities While We Work To Slash Emissions


Since 2015, we’ve been fighting for 100% Clean Energy, All-Electric Homes, Walkable, Bikeable Neighborhoods, and World-Class Transit to stop our region’s most significant sources of emissions at their source. While we work to do this, we must also ensure that everyone can prepare, adapt, respond, and thrive despite external stressors caused by climate change. That’s why we’re expanding to focus on Resiliency.


As our overview of local climate impacts demonstrates, families in Southern California are already feeling the impact of the climate emergency through wildfires, heat waves, drought, sea-level rise, coastal erosion, flooding, and more. At CAC, we advocate for policies and programs that help cities adapt to the climate emergency in an equitable and just way.


From Redlining to Red-Hot: How Racist Housing Policies Are Boiling Our Cities


Working-class communities of color are experiencing the impacts of the climate emergency first and worst. This is no accident. Instead, it’s the result of racist policies at the federal, state, and local level that have left communities with fewer resources to prepare for and respond to climate impacts like brutal heat waves. Discriminatory zoning, uneven taxation, federal subsidies for white homeowners, formal policies of disinvestment in working-class communities of color, and redlining have created deeply inequitable and segregated cities.


"Today’s residential segregation in the North, South, Midwest, and West is not the unintended consequence of individual choices and of otherwise well-meaning law or regulation but of unhidden public policy that explicitly segregated every metropolitan area in the United States.”

- Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government


Severe weather events caused by climate change, like heat waves, show how these disparities play out in our communities. A study of 108 metropolitan areas in the United States showed that “redlined communities were today, on average, about seven degrees hotter than their non redlined counterparts."


This is partly because disinvested, redlined urban neighborhoods in San Diego and beyond are “urban heat islands” with more heat-absorbing concrete and buildings than cooling green space and trees. Groundwork San Diego’s Climate Safe Neighborhoods data and mapping show what this looks like on the local level.



This threat is compounded by the fact that many residents in San Diego’s Communities of Concern lack air conditioning and live in older, poorly ventilated housing. It doesn’t have to be this way.


Building Resilient, Thriving Communities


At CAC, we’re fighting to ensure that every family can prepare for, survive, adapt, and even thrive in a hotter, drier world. Expanding our shade tree canopy is part of this equation because trees are nature’s air conditioning and air filter, cooling down our neighborhoods while absorbing pollution.


Last year, our advocacy resulted in commitments to make our region more resilient by expanding our region’s shade tree canopy, including:

  • A commitment to developing a Street Tree Master Plan that aims to plant 100,000 trees by 2035, with a focus on planting in Communities of Concern;

  • A commitment to adapting San Diego’s existing tree planting program management and planning practices to reflect our changing climate;

  • A commitment to expand and protect Escondido’s tree canopy through a landscape tree requirement for new developments, a municipal Urban Forestry Program, and an Open Space Conservation program.

Of course, we can’t build resilient communities without infrastructure that can weather the impacts of the climate crisis. One of the most important results of our advocacy in 2021 was a commitment by SANDAG to finally move the LOSSAN corridor tracks off of the dangerous Del Mar Bluffs, which are already experiencing the impacts of sea-level rise and coastal erosion.


This major rail line is precariously situated on top of the bluffs in Del Mar and carries over 7 million passengers and $1 billion in goods annually. In 2022, we’ll be working to secure funding to move these lines and advance other transportation projects that make our region more resilient and sustainable by passing the Let’s Go! San Diego ballot measure.


Above: Del Mar Bluffs Failure near LOSSAN Lines (Jarrod Valliere / The San Diego Union-Tribune)


In 2022, we’ll be working to ensure that the City of San Diego’s Climate Resilient SD plan passes with a funding and implementation plan, so our city’s most vulnerable communities can benefit from these investments ASAP. We’ve partnered with the City of San Diego and the Institute for Local Government to do education and outreach on this plan to local communities.


We recently hosted a presentation on the draft resiliency plan with Casa Familiar for San Ysidro residents. When surveyed, more than 72% of participants shared that they think it is VERY URGENT to implement resiliency projects in their community.


Above: Survey Results For Our Presentation With Casa Familiar


Time and time again, our communities have called upon local governments to take climate action and climate resiliency seriously. Moving forward, we’ll work closely with community members to demand healthy, safe, and resilient neighborhoods where our families can thrive.


Above: Community members gathering at our Climate Resilient SD presentation


Of course, we know that, without detailed funding and implementation plans, climate action and resilience commitments often fall short. As California and the federal government prepare to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into climate resilience, we are pushing cities in our region to pursue this funding and financing to implement equitable adaptation and resilience planning and projects.


We won’t stop until we ensure that every family can prepare for, survive, adapt, and even thrive in a hotter, drier world.

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