The ASLA Environmental Justice PPN provides a forum for ASLA members involved in, inspired by, and interested in pursuing environmental justice through education, research, and practice. Throughout 2018, the Environmental Justice PPN has hosted virtual presentations with live Q&A, focused on issues most important to its members. All Environmental Justice PPN members are invited to participate in these monthly events, allowing members to expand their networks, and hear from design professionals who are playing an important role in addressing environmental justice. On November 8, Christian Rodriguez, Community Associate at Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI), joined the conversation on KDI’s work in the Eastern Coachella Valley of southern California.
KDI is a non-profit design and community development organization with teams in Los Angeles, CA, and Nairobi, Kenya. KDI partners with under-resourced communities to advance equity and activate the unrealized potential in their neighborhoods and cities through advocacy, research, planning, and built works. KDI realizes this mission through advocacy, research, planning, and built works.
The Eastern Coachella Valley (ECV), located 2.5 hours east of Los Angeles, CA, is a cluster of unincorporated communities just minutes away from Palm Springs and some of the most expensive zip codes in the country. The ECV is a historically under resourced region and its communities, composed of agricultural workers and a migrant population, face environmental injustices such as poor air quality, substandard housing, lack of clean water, and basic infrastructure. The residents of these communities live along the shoreline of the rapidly drying Salton Sea, California’s largest lake.
For over a century, the Salton Sea water levels were maintained through surrounding agricultural runoff. In 2003, the primary water source for the surrounding agricultural lands was affected by the Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA), created to reduce California’s over-dependence on Colorado River water while also making more water available for urban use in San Diego County. This diversion of water and reduction of agricultural runoff has caused the Salton Sea waterline to recede. In the coming decades, more of the contaminated lake bed will become exposed, spreading harmful dust and fine particles, and exacerbating the already poor air quality in the region. KDI, in partnership with a larger NGO network, is part of an Environmental Justice Campaign that seeks to inform the government efforts to mitigate these environmental and health impacts with the voices and needs of the immediate community.