The Environmental Justice Element of the Hollister draft 2040 General Plan proposes that all areas of the city be within a half-mile radius of a city park. Dunne Park serves residents near the downtown area. Photo by Noe Magaña.
The Environmental Justice Element of the Hollister draft 2040 General Plan proposes that all areas of the city be within a half-mile radius of a city park. Dunne Park serves residents near the downtown area. Photo by Noe Magaña.

This is the sixth in a series of articles on the draft 2040 General Plan. The first article is here, the second here, the third here, the fourth here and the fifth here

The Environmental Justice Element of the Hollister draft General Plan seeks to minimize the impact of environmental hazards on the community, with an emphasis on low-income communities. 

It sets 10 goals aimed at creating and sustaining a healthy environment for all Hollister residents, particularly those living in impacted areas—those disproportionately affected by pollution—and promoting healthier living through access to better city services.

The plan notes that there are no highly impacted communities in Hollister as defined by Health and Safety Code Section 39711. However, there are three census tracts that are scored as rating over 75% in the CalEnviroScreen “population characteristic score,” which takes into account factors like asthma, cardiovascular disease, low birth weight, poverty, housing burden, unemployment, educational attainment and linguistic isolation. 

The three census tracts are:

  • Buena Vista Road Corridor with a score of 84% for low birth weight, cardiovascular disease, education and unemployment. 
  • South of San Juan Hollister Road with a score of 82% for cardiovascular disease, unemployment, education and linguistic isolation.
  • Old Town/Downtown Hollister with a score of 79% for cardiovascular disease and education.

All census tracts in the city ranked at 94% or higher for cardiovascular disease, indicating a concentration of cardiovascular disease that is worse than that found in 94% of the state.

Health hazards in near-impacted communities. Image courtesy of the City of Hollister.
Health hazards in near-impacted communities. Image courtesy of the City of Hollister.

The Environmental Justice Element includes policy goals in the following 10 areas.

Ensure impacted communities are not disproportionately burdened by environmental pollution or other hazards 

The plan suggests creating Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) for any project that could have potential negative impacts on established communities and would work to mitigate the harm through holding the projects to strict terms that potentially could exceed California Environmental Quality Act requirements. All new housing projects over 40 units would have to submit proof that it would provide economic benefits to the community, provide necessary infrastructure, and not displace residents or businesses.

Health hazards in local communities. Map courtesy of the City of Hollister.
Health hazards in local communities. Map courtesy of the City of Hollister.

Provide universal access to safe and sanitary homes

The plan would guarantee no net loss of affordable housing, force the repair of substandard homes in impacted communities, and expand the city’s first-time buyer program.

Create safe, welcoming neighborhoods that support physical activity and a healthy environment for residents of all physical capabilities

The plan would support neighborhood fitness centers, open spaces, health fairs, and parks to encourage residents to become more active and more health-aware. It would review existing project review guidelines to ensure that people of all physical abilities can enjoy the community and would subsidize local recreation program fees.

Expand convenient access to fresh, healthy and affordable food and related resources to reduce food insecurity

The plan would encourage local food production, edible landscapes in public areas, rooftop and community gardens, farmers’ markets, and community kitchens. Support easier access to fresh food by encouraging local corner stores and outdoor markets. Identify “food deserts,” areas where local markets do not exist. 

Create a transportation system that accommodates and encourages active, safe, reliable, comfortable, convenient, affordable, and resilient multi-modal travel options for all city residents, businesses and visitors

The plan would restrict truck traffic and would work with the school districts to improve modes of transportation in impacted areas. It would prioritize traffic calming measures and energy-efficient street lighting. The plan also sets a goal for improved transit for seniors, the disabled, and other vulnerable residents and will actively monitor transit facilities to keep them in better repair.

Build and maintain public facilities, infrastructure and services that meet the needs of, and are accessible to, residents of impacted communities 

The plan would prioritize code enforcement to keep residents of impacted communities safer and better serve their needs. It would improve the safety of residents and their property through community planning and advocate for better delivery of services to impacted communities. It would encourage sustainable green projects and community cleanups while establishing funding for business improvement and green benefit districts.

Provide convenient access to safe and well-maintained recreational activities, programs, parks and open spaces in impacted communities 

The plan proposes that all areas of the city be within a half-mile radius of a city park, with the city creating multi-modal connections to parks, trails, and green spaces. It would support volunteer and community organizations to create things like the Adopt-a-Trail program to improve local parks and recreation. It would seek funding to support the creation and maintenance of parks in impacted areas and remove barriers to outdoor physical activity.

Ensure access to healthy air quality for all communities so that no community bears the disproportionate burden of environmental hazards and health risks

The plan would require a Health Impact Assessment that would look at hazards such as truck traffic or any project that would have a negative impact on health conditions and require appropriate mitigations depending on the findings. It would encourage natural landscaping in impacted areas and require mitigation of any air quality issues.

Provide access for all residents to healthcare facilities and other important community health amenities 

The plan calls for the city to support the development of health care centers and providers, including mental health specialists, spread through the city rather than in any one neighborhood. The city would work with the San Benito County Public Health Department to plan improved programs for preventative health care and nutrition education and work toward a reduction of the concentration of tobacco and liquor stores in any one neighborhood. The plan also calls for transit stops within a quarter mile of all medical facilities. The city would also review and streamline the permitting process for medical facilities. 

Facilitate meaningful and respectful engagement with impacted communities so that residents have strong voices to communicate needs and solutions 

The plan would encourage resident-driven initiatives to better establish a communal vision in impacted areas. It would seek to increase community outreach to encourage participation in any plans for major projects planned for impacted communities including public notices, social media, banners and flyers, community workshops and public meetings. It would establish a city staff member to serve as a liaison for impacted communities as well as create outreach services to support translation services and sign language interpretation. 

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