Black Lives and the San Diego Redline

Makello is developing GIS services and creating maps useful to the solar power, electric vehicle and energy storage industries, as well as for our teaming companies, including several non-profit organizations.  Maps are an important method for analyzing and presenting data on Black lives in San Diego. One of the first issues our dive into the data for mapping Black lives and social and environmental equity revealed is the public data regarding race most often lists people with African Roots as African-American. Here in San Diego there are a significant number of African Immigrants who have not yet obtained US Citizenship but are counted in the Census because the Census counts residents, not citizens. Many of our neighbors are African but not yet African-American. The terminology in the public data isn’t inclusive of our immigrant neighbors and renders invisible the contributions those residents have to our community. There has been debate over the Black/ POC/ African-American terminology in the African-American community and individuals of color have a diversity of preferences. For Makello’s analysis and attempt to be more inclusive and reflective of the diversity of our community, we chose the term San Diegans with African Roots.

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The First question to answer is where are the communities with 10% or more of the residents having African Roots? A map of the data is the simplest method of discovery and our map shows the population is largely concentrated in the area to the east of Downtown San Diego which will be the area we focus on for the purpose of this study.

People with African roots mostly in southwest San Diego.
San Diegans with African roots are concentrated in southwestern San Diego County.

Why is the population so heavily concentrated in this area?  With a special thanks to University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, we can take a look at the 1930s New Deal Era Home Owners’ Loan Corporation Redline Maps helps to answer this question. The Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (H.O.L.C.) was created during the Great Depression New Deal Era and the program trained many home appraisers in the 1930s. The H.O.L.C. created a neighborhood ranking system known today as redlining. Grades were assigned to residential neighborhoods by local real estate developers and appraisers in over 200 cities. These maps and neighborhood ratings set the rules for decades of real estate practices. The grades ranged from A to D.

The Green Area- Grade A = Best: Always upper-middle-class to upper class White neighborhoods defined as posing minimal risk for banks and other mortgage lenders, as they were “ethnically homogeneous” and had room to be further developed.

The Blue Area- Grade B= Still Desirable:  Neighborhoods with all or mostly White, U.S. born residents were defined as sound investments for mortgage lenders.

The Yellow Area- Grade C =Declining: Residential neighborhoods with working class and/or first or second generation immigrants from Europe. The housing stock was typically older and often lacking the current utilities of the day. 

The Red Area- Grade D= Hazardous: These neighborhoods were considered to be “infiltrated” with “undesirable populations” such as Jewish, Asian, Mexican, and Black families. The neighborhoods were more likely to be located near industrial areas and the housing stock consisted of older, less well maintained buildings.

These grades formed the basis for federally backed mortgages. Many banks refused to lend to areas with the lowest grade, making it impossible for people in these neighborhoods to become homeowners and preventing them from building generational wealth.

Makello works with non profits and other agencies to create maps for Environmental Justice initiatives.

As you can see from the map, many of the areas that were undesirable in the 1930s because of the concentration of Minority Populations are still the areas where those populations live today. The practice of redlining has had a long term impact on minorities that has yet to be resolved.

1930s redlining impacts African roots communities today.
1930s redlining still impacts communities with African roots 90 years later.

Makello is an advocate of green transportation options, providing FREE Energy Analysis services including an analysis of potential electric vehicles to fit your needs, so it was only natural we take a look at what kind of access to public charging stations the communities with African Roots have. The results were………….. well, see for yourself.

Few public EV charger are in communities with African roots.
Less than 10 public electric vehicle charging stations are located within the communities with African roots.

The neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of residents with African Roots  do not have easy access to public electric vehicle charging stations. One consequence is this discourages San Diegans with electric vehicles from driving to businesses in these neighborhoods and spending money. The lack of access to public charging stations also discourages the residents of these neighborhoods from purchasing electric vehicles because they don’t have the ability to charge their vehicle. This is especially true for multi-unit dwellers where there are structural and parking challenges to overcome when installing EV charging stations. This creates barriers to EV ownership, keeping the community from reducing pollution, developing business opportunities, and creating jobs in their neighborhoods.

If you can’t find a conveniently located public EV Charger, then click on “Request A Public EV Charger” to suggest a location for future consideration.

What about transportation alternatives such as bus or bicycle? We looked at that and found something we thought was interesting.

Poor access to parks and fields from bus stops. 1/2+ miles
Main entrance to Chollas Lake Park, Little League Baseball Fields and Chollas RC Flyers fields more than 1/2 mile from bus stop.

The map on the left shows  public transit access data from the San Diego 2019 Climate Equity Report. The data is classified so it shows the entire census tract coded within a half mile or less of public transit. If you look at the map on the right which has a ½ mile buffer around the transit stops, there is a gap in the middle of the tract. The gap is part of Chollas Lake Park, baseball fields. and RC Flyers field. The map on the left showing the entire tract within ½ mile of public transit may not seem like a big deal, but if you are a parent trying to bring your young children with their toys, food and drinks to the park by bus, it can become quite a challenge when you unexpectedly end up having to walk almost a mile to your destination. 

The map on the left was calculated to actually show residential units within ½ mile of transit stops, but the classification can easily be mistaken to mean an important community asset is within ½ mile of a transit stop. It overstates the community access via public transit to the park and recreation facilities and can have a negative impact on the communities health, well being, and camaraderie. 

The map on the right also shows a neighborhood with poor access to public transit and poor park access due to the freeway. There is potential for the community to develop solutions for these issues and improve the quality of life for these residents.

We’re shifting gears now and will be examining the energy cost burden in the City of San Diego. The white outlined areas in the map posted below have the lowest energy cost as a percentage of Median Household Income and the dark green areas have the highest energy cost burden. Most of the residents with African Roots are in the minty green areas and have an energy cost burden of 1.3%- 2.7%. There is one area with 18-28% of the population having African Roots and a 4-5.4% energy cost burden. 

This cost puts an additional financial strain on those residents with more modest incomes and often prevents the residents from using air conditioning or heaters in bad weather, increasing some health risks especially for elderly and health challenged individuals. Or the residents may use older, less energy efficient equipment, increasing energy cost and pollution. 

Energy cost impacting communities with African roots.
Energy cost impacting communities with African roots.

One potential solution for reducing the energy cost burden and pollution is solar energy and battery storage. We mapped solar adoption rates using the data from the San Diego 2019 Climate Equity Index report. The areas outlined in white have the least access to solar energy. At best,  per capita, 0.05 San Diegans with African Roots have access to solar energy. 

African roots communities have low access to solar energy.
Communities with African roots have low access to solar energy systems.

This also means that these residents currently have a low ability to decrease pollution due to electricity production and consumption in their homes. Pollution is known to have health impacts so we next looked at a couple health indicators for this community.

There are no hospitals in communities with African roots.
There are not any hospitals within communities with African roots.

The first health issue we looked at is hospital access. We modified a map created for the Makello Community Pages. It shows the Chollas Creek Watershed, communities with African Roots and hospital access. As you can see there are not any hospitals within the Chollas Creek Watershed and only near the perimeter of any census tracts with a significant percentage of San Diegans with African Roots. What happens in an emergency? To answer this question, we took a look at the emergency room visits due to asthma from the San Diego 2019 Climate Equity Index report. 

Asthma and related costs highly affect these communities.
Communities with African roots are disproportionately impacted by asthma related emergency room visits and accompanying medical costs.

The areas outlined in white have the highest rates of emergency room visits due to asthma adjusted per 10,000 individuals. The area in black, in the San Diego Bay, is the Port of San Diego, and the general wind direction is west to east, blowing in, off the ocean. Medical Studies have shown pollution to be a factor in asthma and the map shows the San Diegans with African Roots are highly impacted by asthma and potentially, pollution from the port.

Additional sources of pollution in these neighborhoods are the freeways and air traffic en route to San Diego International Airport. 

Regarding the rates of asthma and lack of emergency room access,  longer drive times to access emergency care at a hospital can cause poorer outcomes and as we are learning from the current COVID-19 pandemic, lower blood oxygen levels have other health implications for vital organs. These neighborhoods bear a greater health burden relative to surrounding neighborhoods.

As more data becomes publicly available and put into the hands of the community stakeholders, actionable change will occur, allowing residents in these communities to join the New Green Deal and adopt pollution reducing technologies.

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