Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Public Policy Analysis

Second Department

Environmental Analysis

Reader 1

Richard Worthington

Reader 2

David Menefee-Libey

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Rights Information

© 2015 Meagan M. Tokunaga


This thesis evaluates the equity performance of a recent state environmental justice policy, California’s Senate Bill 535 (S.B. 535). “Environmental justice” refers to the disproportionate environmental harm imposed on low-income and minority communities. S.B. 535 uses competitive grants to provide funding to these communities. The research is centered around two questions: (1) to what extent has S.B. 535 experienced successful implementation in its first year of operation, and (2) how can policy actors improve implementation while balancing performance and equity goals? In regards to the first question, I utilize a case study of the policy’s implementation within 17 local governments in Riverside County. I find that the number of actors involved and the alignment of their interests prevent the policy from more successful implementation. Local government officials identify staff capacity as a primary concern in the program’s implementation. I then evaluate the policy’s balance of program performance and equity with an econometric analysis that characterizes the decisions of local governments to implement the policy. I find impressive equity performance, as low-income and minority populations are more likely to participate. The implementing governments have sufficient capacity to achieve program goals, as larger cities and cities with more staff per capita are more likely to participate. My findings support the use of competitive grants in environmental justice policies. The S.B. 535 grant program demonstrates the ability to distribute funding to governments with both socioeconomic disadvantage and the capacity for successful implementation. The analysis concludes with policy recommendations.