Philomena Marino: Commitment to Community

Created: 19 July, 2018
Last update: 27 July, 2022
Photo by Ann Landstrom

By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña

Just minutes after attending the monthly Barrio Logan Community Planning Group meeting, planning group member Philomena Marino pulls out a large white folder with the group’s bylaws from her backpack.

“I know I’m a nerd,” she laughs while helping identify the correct term for the planning group members for this story.

Marino takes her role as a resident representative for the group seriously, which is obvious, when watching her interact during the meetings — she asks questions and emphasizes how decisions affect the day to day lives of the residents in Barrio Logan.

“I just definitely want to always keep the reason I’m there, to represent my residents,” Marino said.

Marino has been a resident of Barrio Logan, a community located just south of downtown with strong Chicano roots, for over 30 years.

Marino’s interest and dedication to improving her community grew from the concern for her parents’ and fellow neighbors’ health because of the surrounding recycling facilities and the constant semitrailer traffic that goes through their street – Boston Avenue.

More than 50 years ago, Marino’s parents settled in Barrio Logan because her father, a member of the Navy, wanted his children to grow up in a predominantly hispanic neighborhood where they would feel comfortable.

Marino grew up in the same home she lives in now on Boston Avenue with four siblings and she recalls that her parents protected her growing up from not only gang violence, which was strongly present during those times, but also from pollution.

She said her parents would make the conscious effort to take her and her siblings to the beach or out of the community to breath clean air – knowing that there were many sources of pollution in their community.

“Indirectly I never got asthma, it was their actions, their efforts that prevented that,” Marino said.

Twelve years ago, Marino moved back home with her parents to care for them.

When Marino moved back to Barrio Logan, she began to see the effect that the recycling company down the street and truck traffic was having on the residents and her parents.

“I feel like I became the protective mom, just like they protected me when I was growing up I wanted to do the same for them now,” Marino said.

Boston Avenue is the only exclusively residential area in Barrio Logan, according to the community’s 1978 plan.

However, it is an area that faces Interstate 5 and sees an influx of truck traffic from the recycling company at the end of the street and semitrailers from other surrounding industries.

Marino said when she first tried to communicate with the recycling company about the effect the trucks were having on residents, there was no effort on their side, so she began to involve the city.

“First it felt like I was by myself because I was only concerned about my folks, not realizing my neighbors felt the same way,” Marino said.

Marino then became involved with the Environmental Health Coalition, which she said helped empower her to speak to her neighbors and speak up for her community.

Last year, Marino co-authored an opinion piece in the Voice of San Diego, about the need for the City of San Diego to update the current Barrio Logan community plan in “Barrio Logan Residents Want Clean Air – So Stop Asking and Make it Happen.”

Marino explained residents felt strongly that during a meeting to update the community plan, the city was not listening to what the residents wanted.

And although she was nervous to voice her stance in such a large way, she had to be a part of the story.

“There’s a lot at stake, my mom’s health and my little neighbors’ health,” she said.

Aside from having a seat on the Barrio Logan Community Planning Group and being an active member with EHC, Marino continues to learn how to better serve and help her community.

Marino recently completed the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute program with the nonprofit institute Center on Policy Initiatives to become more acquainted with the rules and basic skills needed to serve on a local board.

Marino’s motivation is to protect her parents, neighbors, and residents, and encourages those young ones who are currently live in Barrio Logan to get their education but come back to the community.

“You don’t necessarily have to come back and live here, but come back with the richness of your education, with the richness of your job and help enrich those that you left behind,” she said.