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Making a Visible Difference in Communities: California

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Gilroy, CA

The state of California has begun construction of a statewide high-speed rail (HSR) system to connect major metropolitan areas, which has the potential to transform future growth patterns throughout the state. The Gilroy HSR station, one of 24 anticipated stations in the system, will be 30 miles from San Jose and 80 miles from San Francisco, the third and fourth highest population centers in California.

Proximity to major urban centers via HSR could induce significant growth in Gilroy, and the form and location of that growth has tremendous implications for air quality, water resources, climate, and the health and economic well-being of current and future residents.

Gilroy has a population of just under 50,000 and is nearly 60% Hispanic, with a downtown poverty rate of 20-30%.

EPA partnered with Gilroy so it benefits from HSR while minimizing the HSR project’s potentially adverse impacts, such as unsustainable growth patterns. EPA, with help from federal and state partners, provided assistance to Gilroy in assessing brownfield sites, confronting equity and community engagement concerns, and finding ways to address homelessness. Lessons learned in Gilroy will be transferred to other HSR station areas in the state.

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Imperial Valley, CA

Imperial Valley is located in Imperial County, CA, where the predominantly Hispanic population (over 80%) has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation (21%). Compared to the rest of the state, Imperial County’s children are three times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma, and have the highest obesity rate (47%).

The county is also among the top five counties for non-attainment for PM2.5. Community environmental health concerns encompass a wide range of exposures from energy, transportation, large-scale agriculture, and trans-national pollution from Mexico.

EPA worked with local organizations to:

  • reduce childhood asthma
  • support citizen science
  • facilitate greater interagency collaboration
  • promote environmental health education

EPA identified sustainable financing strategies for in-home asthma services in the county, identified ways to disseminate community air monitoring data, and made the Air Quality Flag Program available in Spanish for a pilot project for senior citizens.