In the early 1940s, Richmond, California, was one of the most productive ship building centers of the nation. More recently, a lack of employment opportunities, diminishing affordable housing stock, and a high crime rate experienced by segments of the city’s population have seriously impacted the entire city. Realizing that innovative approaches are needed to address these problems, the city looked to green economic development for a way to concurrently revitalize itseconomy and clean up its environment.
In November 2003, a collaborative made up of Urban Habitat, Contra Costa Faith Works, and the Richmond Improvement Association, among others, began to look at economic development issues as one component of a larger equitable development initiative. Two years later, the city was presented with a unique opportunity to take advantage of the Green Waves Initiative, an investment program offered by the California State Treasurer’s Office, for industries in the emerging green technology sector.
Today, as Richmond approaches a new wave of development, it is faced with a truly unique opportunity to employ equitable green policies that can address the deep-rooted social ills that have impeded the city’s economic growth. And some recent government-led actions seem to signal that Richmond is on its way to becoming a greener city.'
In October 2005, Mayor Irma Anderson joined 187 mayors, representing nearly 40 million Americans, to sign the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which seeks to meet or surpass the Kyoto Protocol in local municipalities through various strategies. More recently, city council members have initiated efforts to adopt a green building ordinance that the Richmond Planning Department is charged with spearheading.
In February 2006, Richmond crafted a resolution (No.11-06) in collaboration with Urban Habitat, formally establishing the position that “economic opportunity, environmental integrity and societal equity are the foundation upon which sustainable cities can build a better quality of life for their residents.” The resolution detailed the elements of a sustainable community as:
Economic Security: including local reinvestment; meaningful employment opportunities; local business ownership; job training and education.
Empowerment and Responsibility: including respect and tolerance for diverse views and values; a viable non-government sector; equal opportunity to participate in decision-making; access to government.
Social Well-Being: including a reliable local food supply; quality health housing, and educational services; creative expression through the arts; safety from crime and aggression; respect for public spaces and historic resources
Currently, Richmond is home to a number of businesses and services, which promote green practices. MBA Polymers, Inc., a plastics recycling company, won the World Economic Forum’s 2006 Technology Pioneers Award for its innovative recycling process, which can produce plastics with 95% less energy than required when using petrochemicals. CytoCulture International, Inc., an environmental biotechnology firm, specializes in bioremediation services, as well as bio-fuels manufacturing. The West Contra Costa Landfill is also employing a methane conversion process to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Clearly, these businesses have realized the benefits of locating in Richmond—abundant industrial land, a strong Bay Area market, and access to transportation infrastructure. A coordinated effort to market Richmond as a green business-friendly city would undoubtedly encourage many other businesses.
Getting Ready for Change: Green Economics and Climate Justice | Vol. 13 No. 1 | Summer 2006 | Credits