Policy Advocate Belen Speaks at SANDAG Meeting

Belen Hernandez

Mid-City CAN Policy Advocate Belen spoke at the SANDAG’s November Board of Directors meeting and shared feedback gathered from community members in underserved populations. More frequent public transportation with expanded routes, safety improvements, discounted or free fares, and amenities such as shading, benches, and bathrooms are some of the improvements that community members are seeking. Belen stated that City Heights is one of the hottest places in San Diego because of climate change and it is urgent that programs that reduce pollution and other greenhouse gas emissions are funded as soon as possible. Below is the transcript of her speech:

"Good morning everybody, my name is Belen Hernandez, I am the Policy Advocate at Mid-City CAN and a member of the Social Equity Working Group. The Working Group is composed of 12 organizations that help SANDAG engage with historically under resourced populations and provide policy level input on the agency's projects and programs. We are located throughout the region from San Ysidro all the way to Vista. And over the last several months the community partners that make up the working group hosted meetings and pop-ups at community events across the region to gather feedback from our region's most underserved populations.

Personally, our organization is based in City Heights, so we conducted outreach and City Heights but also other areas like Encanto and even reaching populations like the Preuss School in La Jolla through tabling events and different community meetings.

The majority of the feedback we received from our social equity communities was related to public transit because transit is for many their lifeline to access the places they need to go such as school, employment, places of worship, doctor’s appointments, recreation, and so many other daily life activities. Our community members aren't asking for anything new … they still need faster and more frequent public transportation with expanded routes to get to more places, safety improvements, regular maintenance and cleaning, discounted or free fares, improved accessibility for seniors and disabled people, and amenities like shading benches and bathrooms.

Many of our communities report that they also need better infrastructure so they and their families can also feel safe biking and walking around their neighborhoods. These transportation struggles are compounded with the rising costs of living and lack of affordability and quality housing which leads to displacement. This is an issue in many of our communities and it's something we've been discussing at the Social Equity Working Group.

Beyond historic under investment in quality transportation infrastructure in our communities our neighborhoods have also been unfairly impacted by some of the worst air quality in the state while also suffering the most as the climate continues to warm. City Heights is one of the hottest places in San Diego because it's an urban heat island. And this is why it is so urgent that projects and programs that reduce pollution and other greenhouse gas emissions are funded as soon as possible and are prioritized in our communities first to rectify this historic inequities.

Thank you all for the opportunity to share this with you this morning."

The video can be seen by clicking here (Belen speaks at the 46 minute mark).