Ever since the north bay fires killed many residents, ravaged thousands of structures and trees we have become more aware of the value of fresh air. We still see many wearing masks to help cope with their breathing. Those fires reminded us of our history of bad air quality and high asthma rates
Therefore it is important that the work in the region be redoubled to improve the air quality and strengthen the clean air efforts to protect the public health of our hardest hit neighborhoods.
Oakland has struggled with air pollution issues for years with West Oakland recording patients with high asthma rates. Bad air quality and emissions have also affected and damaged the disproportionately impacted African American and low-income neighborhoods in East Oakland, Richmond and more.
Last year, Oakland’s Citywide Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, successfully won a seat on the Board of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), and has been taking successful actions to clean the air and winning funding for important projects.
Kaplan’s work is helping to bring attention, and funding for real solutions, to the region’s hardest hit communities. This includes winning money to replace an old diesel locomotive engine with a new cleaner one, on the train that moves freight around the army base in West Oakland, to reduce the health dangers.
The BAAQMD Board has approved Kaplan’s proposal to launch a new program to buy out older heavily-polluting diesel trucks, and is expanding support for cleaner vehicles.
Kaplan won new Air District funding for the Broadway shuttle, a free transit service connecting downtown Oakland, Uptown, Jack London Square and more, along with connecting BART, Amtrak, and key destinations. This service helps people get around the core of Oakland for free, and reduces traffic and pollution.
Currently, Kaplan is working to launch a program of community-based mitigations, including installing better filtration systems in buildings in sensitive communities, to help protect people from the health impacts of air pollution. Most recently, when the air quality was very bad due to the smoke from the north bay fires, Kaplan was able to work with BAAQMD to get air filtration masks to key communities in Oakland, including for senior centers and for the homeless.