Winter 2021/2022 Capstone: Integrating Environmental Justice Principles into the El Rio/Del Norte Area Plan


By: Debbie Canas, Jessica Diaz, Nathan Hatia, Tina Secrease, and Lisa Vaiman

Faculty Advisor: Jacqueline Phelps

Article Written By: Nathan Hatia

Environmental justice is an essential factor to consider when creating land-use plans for communities. In short, Environmental Justice is a course of action or research focused on reducing or eliminating the disproportional environmental burden placed on communities of color, low income, etc. (Chakraborty, 2016). While environmental justice initiatives were not a part of the land use planning process until recently, it is pertinent that future land use plans, such as General and Area Plans and Area Plans seek to mitigate the burdens placed on these communities by previous planning decisions (Wilson, 2008).

The General Plan was created by the County of Ventura Resource Management Agency using analyses, data, and input from the community through surveys, informational sessions, and Workshops (VC-RMA, General Plan, 2020). A General Plan is the collection of goals, policies, and programs in which the County lays out its plans for land use over a specific timeframe. Within this General Plan are smaller Area Plans focused on unique communities and specific geographic areas. The County of Ventura has created a comprehensive General Plan in which environmental justice considerations are integrated throughout. Our project focused on integrating these Environmental Justice principles into the El Rio/Del Norte Area Plan. The original El Rio/Del Norte Area Plan was created in 1980 and subsequently amended in 2011; however, a comprehensive update has not been completed since 1996 (VC-RMA Area Plan, 2020). As such, the El Rio/Del Norte has a significant need in several areas to bring it up to the standards of the surrounding communities and the goals outlined in the General Plan, particularly those related to environmental justice.

Environmental justice, or rather injustice, can occur in ways that may not traditionally be considered “environmental” issues. While our project incorporates traditional Environmental Justice topics such as water safety, we have also included uncommon or non-traditional topics such as Transportation and Housing. 

Specifically, our Capstone Project examined portions of the El Rio/Del Norte Area Plan related to Housing, Transportation, Public Facilities and Recreation, Water Hazards and Quality, and Community Outreach, and provided recommendations to implement environmental justice principles relating to each topic. Through research conducted using area mapping and visits to the community, existing data provided by the County/State, comparable Area Plans, and existing research conducted on the specified topics, we created recommendations in the form of goals, policies, and programs, that either bolster existing topics or add missing elements within the El Rio/Del Norte Area Plan. 

While many recommendations were provided, the following are few of the key recommendations: 

  • Community Outreach: Partner with local non-profits and community-based organizations in order to increase civic engagement and representation within the community.
  • Housing: Adapt Ventura County General plan policies into the El Rio/Del Norte Area Plan in order to effectively allow for affordable housing. 
  • Transportation: Promote development of sidewalks and other pedestrian friendly infrastructure.
  • Recreation: Plan for parks and other similar recreation open areas to be constructed in the community. 
  • Water Safety: Evaluate the creation of a program to analyze and mitigate flood risks to the community. 

The community of El Rio is one of the most  vulnerable areas in our County, and one that has not had the land use planning advantages that the surrounding areas have benefited from. Therefore, as the County looks to implement a new General Plan and update the existing El Rio/Del Norte Area Plan, which will serve as a guideline for several years, consideration of environmental justice within this overburdened community is crucial. It is important that under-resourced communities such as El Rio have plans created for their future growth. Environmental Justice in planning is an important consideration for planning agencies in order to build  prosperous communities. 


Chakraborty, J., Collins, T., & Grineski, S. (2016). Environmental Justice Research: Contemporary Issues and Emerging Topics. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13(11), 1072.  


Wilson, S., Hutson, M., & Mujahid, M. (2008). How planning and zoning contribute to inequitable development, Neighborhood Health, and environmental injustice. Environmental Justice, 1(4), 211–216.  


Ventura County General Plan, 2020


Fall 2021 Capstone: City of San Buenaventura

Music Program Breakdown for the Westview Family Development

music capstone

~Leslie Madrigal, Stephanie Rendon & Laura Vasquez

Faculty Advisor: Christopher Beck

Music is an integrated part of people’s lives that can spark a wide range of emotions and memories that last a lifetime. Studies show how music education introduced to young children “heightens children’s auditory acuity, thus increasing their ability to process language” (Etopio, et al., 2012). Aside from that, there are also improvements in children’s self-identity that improve their confidence and also give them a place they have ownership of (Barber, Eccles, & Stone, 2001). Hence, this capstone will focus on developing a low-income music program for the properties owned or managed by Westview Family Development, a low-income housing unit in the City of San Buenaventura.

As studies show, music enhances children’s learning abilities and can help them with social interaction and language skills. Recorded music and rhythm instruments, as well as songs, chants, and fingerplays are staples in the early childhood classroom. Singing, improvising (banging around on the rhythm instruments), and appropriate background music provide a foundation for future music awareness (McDonald, 1979). Also, like other extracurricular programs, music programs are an essential part of a child’s core experiences as they grow up. In a study conducted through the Department of Psychology at the University of Cordova, it was found that “the group involved in activities outside the school day yielded better academic performance.” Being involved in outside activities helps students interpersonally and can lead to a better attention level. Aside from the developmental aspect that a music program can have on children, the community effects it brings are also just as valuable. For instance, having a well-tailored music program “can welcome children of a wide range of abilities into a group” (Wolf, 2021). The program’s welcoming atmosphere then allows the individual to work on social and communication skills with other children building a community space.

With that said, this music program will build off of and provide the varying benefits that can be instilled in children when exposed to music in a controlled environment. That is why the program will have a variety of instruments and volunteers for the children enrolled in the program to have as much exposure to music theory. For one, this program will allow children to gain interest and hobby in music, allowing the forming of a community amongst other children who also have sparked interest. It will also give them a sense of belonging and allow them to excel in an activity that carries growth and beauty. Secondly, the community will also have a place where the families can come together and see their children grow and further develop themselves. It will also bring different families into a shared space where they can create new relationships. Overall, the objective of the music program is to help provide a musical outlet for children to learn new skills, further develop a self-identity and gain confidence in who they are and what they are learning.

Summer 2021 Capstone: Ventura County Planning Division

Analysis of Sea Level Rise Survey Distributed by Ventura County Planning

County of Ventura water rise image (1)

~Matthew Burdette, Leo Casiple, Deborah Gow

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Loredana Carson

“Sea level rise as the result of “climate change is one of the most complex issues (,) … involves many dimensions – science, economics, society, politics and moral and ethical questions” (NASA, 2020).  Uncoordinated actions can negatively affect the trajectory of communities along the Ventura County coastline, alter the fiscal sustainability of the state of California, complicate the US defense strategy, and disturb the rhythm of the global economy. [From the opening remarks of the Capstone narrative.]

This team was assigned to a project brought to the department by the Ventura County Planning Division as part of their Ventura County Resilient Coastal Adaptation Project that is an ongoing effort to prepare the county for issues pertaining to sea level rise predicted to impact the county over the next century. Although some of the predictions may not occur until the end of the century, others may take place by or before the year 2030. Therefore, the county is actively working on planning that would mitigate the impact of rising waters on coastal communities throughout the county.

As part of the process, the county distributed a survey in December 2020 with the intent to gather information about community preferences pertaining to sea level rise planning activities and adaptation strategies designed to mitigate the impact of sea level rise. The 10-question survey asked respondents to detail their beach usage, as well as their preferences and opinions of various planning strategies currently under consideration.

The Capstone team was asked to prepare an analysis of the date, which included both qualitative and quantitative responses and to summarize the data in both a narrative and a graphic format for ease of sharing the analysis.

The objectives of the project were as follows:

  1. Organize the date, combining digital and paper responses and translating the Spanish versions to English. To ensure that all the data was entered into a single database for processing.
  2. Use Excel to analyze the quantitative responses and prepare visual charts and graphs to illustrate the responses to these questions utilizing descriptive statistics.
  3. Examine all qualitative responses to open-ended questions and code responses into thematic elements to present the findings in a meaningful synthesis of the responses.
  4. Provide conclusions and recommendations based on the analyzed data.
  5. Prepare a narrative report of the findings suitable for use by Ventura County Planning.
  6. Design a PowerPoint presentation slide deck to share with the Ventura County Planning Division at a department meeting. The same presentation can be modified to share with the MPPA and Cal Lutheran communities.

The Capstone team was able to complete all the goals set out for them and looks forward to sharing the results in the near future.

Spring 2021 Capstone: Whittier Police Department

whittier PD

 ~Nicolai Andersen, Rachel Medina, Hannah Ontiveros, K’Yanna Wesley, Julie Zendejas 

Faculty Advisor: Dr. David Gonzalez, Jr.

Our capstone group evaluated the potential benefits of implementing restorative nap policies for the Whittier Police Department in Los Angeles County. Through our research, we conducted a literature review of the prevalence of sleep disorders in law enforcement, the impacts of napping, and how sleep relates to mental health among police officers. We administered a survey to police and fire departments with similar policies in place and analyzed their responses in order to develop recommendations for the Whittier Police Department.

We found this to be an interesting topic, as police work comprises one of the largest groups of shift workers in the U.S. Police performance has also been under increased scrutiny in recent years due to increased media attention and adverse publicity. Innovations in communications and information technology have made it easier than ever to detect and report instances of police brutality through cell phone video-recording and social media sharing. Movements such as Black Lives Matter have also helped bring increased scrutiny on inadequate police performance in recent years. When researching existing data on sleep disorders in America’s police forces, we found as many as 40% of officers identified as having at least one sleep disorder. The 2011 Harvard Work Hours and Safety Group Police Study found one-third of North American police officers screening positive for obstructive sleep apnea (Rajaratnam, 2011). This is 44% higher than the general population (Conn, 2018). 

This study accompanied by other existing data from our literature review found officers with sleep disorders to be more likely to report negative safety events, such as falling asleep while driving or poorer work performance. In the Harvard study, more than one in four officers also reported having fallen asleep while driving at least once a month. Exhibiting uncontrollable anger towards suspects was also reported as more likely among officers with sleep disorders (Kitaeff, 2019). 

To investigate whether restorative naps had any benefits for police officers and public safety, we were able to recruit four public safety agencies with existing restorative nap programs to participate in a survey. Results showed that sleep-deprived officers were more likely to fall asleep while driving, had a higher incidence of citizen complaints, and were more prone to making administrative and/or safety errors. Survey participants also noted a variety of benefits since the implementation of restorative nap policies. Reno Police Department noted that their policies had led to better attitudes, sharper focus, and increased problem-solving capabilities, along with increased safety, happier employees, and a decline in chronic sleep problems. Overall, across all survey participants, we found all agencies positively accepting their restorative nap programs. Since the implementation of these pioneering policies in the Henderson Police Department, Hampton Police Department, and Reno Police Department, a number of positive effects have been reported, including increased public safety and improved work performance. 

With many police officers resting during their short lunch breaks or at inappropriate times, often considered misconduct, developing a program with a formal policy for napping would not only benefit public safety but also officer’s overall well-being, health, and work performance. Therefore, based on the existing data and our survey results, it was our recommendation that the Whittier Police Department would be wise in implementing a similar program. 



Conn, Stephanie M. (2018). Increasing Resilience in Police and

          Emergency Personnel: Strengthening Your Mental Armor.

          Routledge. ISBN 9781317193753.

Kitaeff, Jack (2019). Handbook of Police Psychology. Routledge. p. 551.

          ISBN 9780429554667.

Rajaratnam, S.W., Brager, L.K., Lockley, S.W., Shea, S.A., Wang, W.,

          Landrigan, C.P. Czeisler, C.A. (2011). Sleep disorders, health and

          safety in police officersJournal of the American Medical

          Association, 306, pp. 2567-2578.