Our Green Zones Across California report documents the efforts of diverse communities across the state that are developing new solutions to long-standing environmental health and justice issues in their neighborhoods to transform toxic hotspots into Healthy Hoods. The report profiles the work of 13 different organizations in 11 communities across California that are using the transformative Green Zone approach to realize community visions for sustainability and economic opportunity.
Each Green Zone has developed from decades of organizing by groups working directly in low-income communities and communities of color to address the over-concentration of pollution sources and the cumulative impacts of toxic emissions. They have emerged from community efforts to re-configure the unhealthy, often discriminatory, land use patterns that have shaped how our communities look today.
Green Zones lift up the voices and visions of residents first and foremost and all share core principles and common roots – comprehensive, community-led, solution-oriented, and collaborative.
The Green Zone campaigns in this report demonstrate how land use planning can be an empowering tool for communities to re-imagine how their neighborhoods can look. Land use planning can help address old problems and counter the pressures of gentrification, while creating a path forward to implement new solutions. From working with city officials to introduce Environmental Justice Elements in the General Plan or leading community-based coalition efforts like Clean Up Green Up to develop specific plans for an entire region, the organizations featured in this report show how everyday people can be the planners of their neighborhoods creating equitable development opportunities that directly benefit local residents.
Green Zones efforts are lifting up new frameworks for community control over key public resources such as land, housing, and energy. In building a Just Transition from an extractive and exploitative economy to a local living economy that supports the well-being of families, empowers people, cleans the environment, and creates safe and healthy neighborhoods, the organizations in this report demonstrate how we can shift our reliance on a market-based economy to a people-powered cooperative economy that puts residents back to work with sustainable, living wage jobs. A just transition ensures investment in community innovation and governance that fosters local resiliency.
Green Zone communities should be models for what community-led transformation can look like and the campaigns represented in this report advance multiple solutions to reducing pollution while protecting our health and the environment. Some of the organizations in this report are working to advance local amortization ordinances that phase out unhealthy land uses and creating a Green Industrial Auto Park or establishing ordinances to reduce truck idling through No Idling Signs. These ensure that local residents do not lose the vital economic base while promoting cleaner air and health benefits.
Green Zones Across California profiles a wide range of solutions to transform neighborhoods, including pollution reduction, transitioning off fossil fuels, affordable housing, local jobs and training, open green space and recreation areas, access to healthy food, infrastructure equity, and preservation of community culture. Ultimately, Green Zones are not just an opportunity for low-income communities and communities of color to live in healthy, thriving neighborhoods, but an opportunity for all of California and our country to begin implementing just, sustainable policies that are needed to face the changing climate and changing world. Green Zones can become a model for strengthening local economies, environments, and democracies across California and the country.