Urban Greening Program: Richmond, California’s “Greening the Yellow Brick Road” Project

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In 2009, in response to the high levels of violence and the dangers of the streets, youth from the Iron Triangle community in Richmond imagined a project that would create a safe, green, walkable route connecting community assets. Their original vision evolved into the Greening the Yellow Brick Road project.

With $4.1 million from California Natural Resources Agency’s Urban Greening program, this project is helping bring the community’s vision to fruition and will benefit thousands of community residents. Rather than seeing empty cement streets and sidewalks outside their windows, people will be outside in a safe environment, breathing fresh air, and walking and biking to and from schools, shops, and transportation. They will be on the street under the shade of over 100 trees or sitting comfortably by a lush green bio-swale, meeting and mingling with their neighbors. This project will also produce jobs that pay a living wage for those who establish the plantings, giving them valuable work experience in an emerging green economy. The street, once dead, will come alive and transform into a symbol of activity, hope, and promise.

“We’ve been waiting for a project like this for a long time,” says Doris Mason, President of the Iron Triangle Neighborhood Council. “It will benefit our community in so many ways. It will create a safe and green public space where neighbors can come together. It will create a designated route for residents to bike and walk in a safe environment. It will provide workforce development opportunities for local youth to get hands-on, real-life experience. But most of all, it will create a new DNA for our entire community — and for Richmond. We cannot wait for this project to happen.