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Lake Merritt
Alameda County

Air Quality Fact

The Winter Spare the Air season runs from November 1, 2009, through February 28, 2010. During this period,  wood burning is banned when a Winter Spare the Air Alert is in effect. On days when burning is allowed residents must still burn cleanly using dry, seasoned fire wood and not burn garbage, leaves or other material that would cause excessive smoke.

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The Air District

Since 1955, the Air District has worked to improve air quality

The California Legislature created the Air District in 1955 as the first regional air pollution control agency in the country, recognizing that air emissions overflow political boundaries. The nine counties of the San Francisco Bay Area form a regional air basin, sharing common geographical features and weather patterns, and therefore similar air pollution burdens, which cannot be addressed by counties acting on their own.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is the public agency entrusted with regulating stationary sources of air pollution in the nine counties that surround San Francisco Bay: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, southwestern Solano, and southern Sonoma counties.

The first official meeting of the Air District’s Board of Directors was held on November 16, 1955, in San Francisco. Charged with regulating stationary sources of air emissions, the Air District set to work on its first two regulations, which banned open burning at dumps and wrecking yards, and established controls on dust, liquid droplets, and combustion gases from certain industrial sources.

Since then, the agency has used its expertise to clear the skies and diminish air pollution levels throughout the Bay Area. Its actions, along with the concentrated efforts of public and private organizations and concerned individuals, have dramatically improved air quality, despite significant increases in traffic and population. But much remains to be done, as new challenges arise in the Air District’s second half-century of stewardship of the air we breathe.

Air in the Bay Area is substantially cleaner than it was 50 years ago, when the Air District was first created to address emissions in the region. This progress is due in large part to the Air District’s controls on open burning and industrial sources, as well as state requirements for cleaner automobiles and fuels.

But managing air quality in the region requires constant effort and vigilance, as the agency keeps pace with an ever-increasing population and traffic base, and the continual evolution of industrial technologies. The District must also work to meet health-protective air quality standards that are periodically strengthened by the state and federal governments.

In years to come, the agency will continue to pursue emission reductions through its traditional programs, while developing and expanding newer initiatives to address such issues as climate change and the effects of particulate matter and diesel exhaust in our communities.

The Air District is governed by a 22-member Board of Directors composed of locally elected officials from each of the nine Bay Area counties. The number of board members from each county is proportionate to its population.

The Board oversees policies and adopts regulations for the control of air pollution within the district. The Board also appoints the Air District’s Executive Officer / Air Pollution Control Officer, who implements Board policies and gives direction to staff, as well as the District Counsel, who manages the legal affairs of the agency. The Air District consists of over 350 dedicated staff members, including engineers, inspectors, planners, scientists, and other professionals.

The Air District is assisted by an Advisory Council that provides input to the Board and the Executive Officer on air quality matters. The Council is made up of 20 representatives from community, health, environmental, and other organizations.

An independent, five-member Hearing Board serves to adjudicate regulatory compliance issues that may arise between the Air District and local industries, and also hears appeals of permitting decisions made by the Executive Officer.

Last Updated: 3/2/2011