Suggestions: Environmental Justice Policy Models for Riverside County, California

Suggestions: Environmental Justice Policy Models for Riverside County, California

Luis González (Luis’s full Note was published in the University of La Verne Law Review)

“It is our hope that the lessons learned in the communities we profile, and the analysis offered here, can be translated into, and replicated within, other struggles for justice.”[1]

Rolling green hills aside peaceful and pristine blue rivers and streams, colorful red and pink flowers sprinkling the lush countryside, and picturesque medieval-era castles—this is Riverside, California. Or so a recent satirical trend on TikTok would lead you to believe.[2] Those who live in Riverside know a different reality: streets with food deserts, heavily segregated school districts, and air thick with the dry rugged scent of gasoline and exhaust emissions.[3] And yet, this place is home for so many people: it is where people go to school, where people’s families are, where people’s minds go when they are asked the question: “where is your hometown?” This Note dares to imagine Riverside County as a place that serves the community through strong and equitable environmental justice policies. This critique comes from a place of love and the belief that one should expect more from local governments. To quote the revolutionary Black and Queer American Author, James Baldwin, “I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually,”[4] This Note now applies this mindset to Riverside.

This Note discusses environmental justice legislation passed by municipalities and county governments. Through a comparative analysis this Note attempts to find ways in which these policies could be implemented into Riverside County and its fifty-one cities and towns. This Note begins with discussing the historical context of environmentalism and environmental justice in California. Part I looks at environmental justice review boards, and the ways in which such boards have increased community participation in other cities. Part II shows the usefulness of Green Zones, an attempt to bridge the gap between Riverside’s business interest and the community’s needs for stronger environmental regulations. And lastly, Part III discusses public health legislation more broadly, looking at bans, amortization ordinances, and enhanced air filtration policies as solutions to Riverside’s ever-growing industrial pollution. These policies look to better safeguard frontline communities against decades of increased pollution, and remedy centuries of environmental racism and targeted institutional racism against California’s low-income communities and communities of color.

[1] Luke W. Cole & Sheila R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement 18 (2001).

[2] Andrew Garcia (@andrew9g), TikTok (Jan. 29, 2022),

[3] Infra Part III.

[4] James Baldwin, Autobiographical Notes, New York Times, (last visited Mar. 3, 2022).

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