Depending on where residents live in San Leandro, they experience two different cities. In some of our most vulnerable neighborhoods, residents’ average income is only a third of that of others. They also have twice the level of asthma, are three times more likely to struggle paying for housing, and have only a tenth of the number of street trees, compared to wealthier neighborhoods.
How can these disparities between neighborhoods be so striking? It is not a coincidence. Like so many American cities, San Leandro has a history of discrimination going back to its founding that has kept largely non-white communities disproportionately poor and exposed to more health hazards than their white counterparts.
In historically disadvantaged neighborhoods people are more vulnerable to health issues, because there tends to be more pollution from industry and traffic (think truck exhaust on 880) while there are fewer street trees and parks to mitigate bad air and keep streets cooler. Meanwhile, insufficient and lower quality housing exposes people to more health hazards . These are just a few of the systemic reasons for the disparity in San Leandro’s neighborhoods. The bottom line is that the same power and monied interests that have sustained inequity and injustice in our communities, are the same forces that now fuel our climate catastrophe.
How can we make San Leandro more livable for all and reduce greenhouse gas emissions? We need an action plan—one that addresses real-life issues our community has right now like housing, inadequate transit, and a lack of community connectedness. Developing more dense, sustainable and affordable housing, more public and active transit options like biking and walking, and better local services for those who need it most will not only start to address inequities but also improve our air quality and lower GHG emissions. We must come together to prioritize people and the planet over profits and to build a more sustainable and livable San Leandro.
Over the past year, San Leandro 2050 has held outreach meetings with a focus on disadvantaged neighborhoods and created a Neighborhood Action Plan, based on what we learned. To see the meeting results and Plan click here. We also invite you to contribute your own opinions here.