Equinox Project's Quality of Life Dashboard

San Diego Regional Quality of Life Dashboard

Is San Diego’s quality of life improving?

The Quality of Life Dashboard measures and benchmarks several environmental and economic trends throughout the region to ensure San Diego County is on a path to greater health, wealth, comfort and sustainability for current and future generations.

Overview About the Data Dashboard

Air Quality

Improved more than 1 percent from 2017 to 2018

Beach Water Quality

Neutral from 2017 to 2018

Climate Change

New Indicator 2019

Electric Vehicles

Improved more than 1 percent from 2017 to 2018


Electricity Use

Improved more than 1 percent from 2017 to 2018


Improved more than 1 percent from 2017 to 2018


Improved more than 1 percent from 2017 to 2018


Worsened more than 1 percent from 2017 to 2018

Park Access

Neutral from 2017 to 2018

Regional Leadership & Planning

New Indicator 2019

Renewable Energy & Storage

Improved more than 1 percent from 2017 to 2018

Traffic & Congestion

Worsened more than 1 percent from 2017 to 2018

Transportation Choices

Neutral from 2016 to 2017


Worsened more than 1 percent from 2017 to 2018

Water Use

Worsened more than 1 percent from 2017 to 2018



About the Dashboard

Boxed in by the nation’s second largest urban area, the world’s busiest international border and the vastness of the Pacific Ocean and Sonoran Desert, the San Diego region faces considerable stress in its efforts to maintain a high quality of life. Environmentally, we have tremendous biodiversity, climate zones varying from beaches to mountain tops and settings ranging from compact, inner city parks to open farmland. Economically, we cover the full range of the American experience and struggle to maintain our prosperity and share in our wealth. Only by measuring, tracking and benchmarking where our region’s been, where it is now and where it needs to go in the future can we hope to successfully manage, improve and balance our future quality of life – for all.

About the Region

A healthy environment and strong economy are essential to a better life here in San Diego. Why? San Diego is the fifth largest county in the nation and the second largest county in California. Our current population is around 3.3 million people and estimates predict we will grow to more than 4 million residents by 2050. It is expected, most of this growth will be driven by natural increase, meaning our children and grandchildren. Beyond our residents, we host 35 million visitors per year who spend $10.8 billion and come for San Diego's beautiful weather, beaches and fun!

The San Diego region also is among the most biologically rich counties in the nation, according to The Nature Conservancy. It is culturally diverse as well, sitting on the US border with Mexico, no single race or ethnic group comprises more than 50 percent of San Diego's total population. With a rising population, the question is asked: what kind of San Diego do we want to leave for future generations? Of course, one that maintains both a healthy environment and strong economy for all.

About the Border Region

The U.S.-Mexico Border spans 2000 miles connecting San Diego to Brownsville and Tijuana to Matamoros. The border region is a unique place that connects families, communities and economies. It is bi-lingual and bi-cultural, and according to the U.S.-Mexico Border Philanthropy Partnership, the border region is projected to increase its population by more than 25 million people in the coming decades. The political line that divides the State of California and Baja California creates unique opportunities and challenges for our region and its citizen’s quality of life. The two regions are inextricably connected when it comes to the environment and economy. For example, the San Ysidro Port of Entry is the busiest land port of entry in the western hemisphere with over 14.5 million northbound vehicles processed in 2018. With high traffic comes increased vehicle idling times and as a result increased air pollution.

Over the past 10 years, the Quality of Life Dashboard has focused primarily on the San Diego region and presented a few data indicators under the Border Region indicator. In 2019, we have integrated the border data into more indicator sections such as unemployment, traffic and water quality to provide a binational context.

History of the Dashboard

The first San Diego Regional Quality of Life Dashboard was released in 2010 to shine a spotlight on questions that truly matter to San Diegans. Using environmental and economic indicators, the dashboard measures and benchmarks trends throughout the region tracking a central theme: Is the quality of life improving?

Drawing on strong relationships with nonprofit organizations, government agencies and the business community, we can provide a balanced snapshot of the region’s well-being using credible data, clear metrics and ongoing benchmarks. The dashboard tracks our region's progress on critical, interlinking quality-of-life issues and provides examples of where things are working and ideas for how we can improve.

Why is it Important?

Quality-of-life issues are vitally important to our residents and businesses. Some 77% of San Diego County voters believe that we can have a clean environment and a strong economy at the same time without having to choose one over the other. In addition, 72% of voters believe that the San Diego region should take a leadership position in setting goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Equinox Project’s set of indicators is intended to be a quick and easily digestible snapshot, not unlike the set of gauges on a car’s dashboard that tell you how well your vehicle is running and when there is a problem. These indicators support the region’s leaders, including policymakers, community groups and businesses, in identifying challenges and addressing solutions to ensure long-term improvement in our quality of life.

Focus on Equity

Equity is both the fair and just distribution of societal benefits and burdens and the ability of marginalized communities to influence decisions in a way that addresses their needs and concerns. This year's Dashboard aims to call attention to equity as a part of the story, as we can't fully discuss quality of life if we aren't thinking about our region's population holistically.

We recognize there are many terms that have been used to identify and describe various communities who face unequal societal burdens and have historically been excluded from decision-making processes that affect them. We have tried our best to be specific and consistent in our use of terms related to the various communities, the context, and the impacts. We would like to share the most common terms, including the ones we use on this year's Dashboard.

Disadvantaged communities -This term is used by CalEnviroScreen, referring to the top 25% most environmentally impacted census tracts/communities in the state. The census tracts included in CalEnvironscreen’s list experience higher burdens of pollution exposure and environmental effects, and contain sensitive populations and socioeconomic factors that make people more vulnerable to the impacts.

Marginalized communities - This term captures people who, for whatever reason, are denied involvement in mainstream economic, political, cultural and social activities and thus they exist on the margins of society. Common reasons include age, physical or mental abilities, economic status, race or ethnicity, and access to education.

Underserved communities - This term is used as an alternative to "marginalized" or "disadvantaged" communities because it specifically calls attention to the reality that many communities have been systematically neglected. By referring to these populations as underserved, it shifts responsibility to the historical and structural lack of support, resources, and infrastructure these communities have been afforded as a result of decisions made on their behalf.

Low-income communities (of color) -This term is used with and without "of color" as communities with lower incomes are not always communities of color, however they often overlap. According to California Assembly Bill (AB) 1550, low-income communities are defined as census tracts with median household incomes at or below 80 percent of the statewide median income or with median household incomes at or below the threshold designated as low income by the Department of Housing and Community Development. Advocacy groups and community-based organizations tend to focus their efforts on people who live in low-income communities in San Diego because these areas experience harsh environmental impacts and have less resources to address them.

Communities of concern - This term has been used and popularized specifically in the San Diego region. It is intended to represent a diverse cross-section of populations and communities that could be considered disadvantaged or vulnerable to economic, environmental, and social impacts.

Priority populations - Local and state agencies, such as the California Air Resources Board, are starting to use this terminology as it highlights the populations that need the most support. The term is inclusive of disadvantaged communities, low-income communities, and low-income households.

Vulnerable populations - This term is more broadly used to discuss populations that are vulnerable to climate impacts. This includes low-income communities, but also expands to cover elderly, children, and immunocompromised individuals of any race or socioeconomic status. Due to lack of resources or presence of biological sensitivities (such as age or health conditions), these populations have a harder time adapting to climate impacts and are more at risk of experiencing adverse effects.

Thank you to Our Sponsors & Partners

We especially thank the following Equinox Project Sponsors and Partners for underwriting the Dashboard and making this project possible.

sdge logo

union bank logo
center of sustainability logo
san diego foundation logo
SD regional airport logo
port of san diego logo
SD County Water Authority logo