San Francisco Air Pollution IMG: via Shutterstock.

Neighborhoods on the eastern side of San Francisco that are adjacent to the freeway are known for being the most polluted in San Francisco—and are now also seeing the most new construction, only adding to the problem.

Neighborhoods such as Bayview and South of Market are seeing air pollution become even more of an issue, leading to the need to ensure that new facilities in the areas are being constructed with technology that protects residents from asthma, heart disease, and other illnesses associated with fine particulate matter. District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen will soon introduce legislation that would require developers constructing or retrofitting buildings in those areas to install ventilation systems that reduce the amount of particulate matter that can get inside.

A companion measure, also by Cohen, will require city contractors to use lower-emission diesel equipment and reduce other exhaust emissions while they work on public projects. These measures will hopefully lower the air pollution outside, which will be especially beneficial for those in the area who live in older houses—namely those built before 2008, which lack sufficient ventilation systems. The new filtration requirements will update and modernize a 2008 law that required developers of new housing projects larger than 10 units in polluted areas to assess potential air-quality issues. If dust and pollution levels reached a certain threshold, the law required the developer to install high-quality ventilation systems.

A newly mapped “air pollution exposure zone” was also created using modeling that factored in fine particulate matter pollution, excess cancer risk from all sources, and proximity to freeways. Under the proposed legislation, virtually all construction projects within this zone will have to install a ventilation system that meets specific criteria.

As Cohen said, “When we talk about environmental issues, it’s not just about cleaning up Superfund sites – it’s about residents being able to protect themselves every day.”