Robert García, Founding Director and Counsel
Robert García is a civil rights advocate who engages, educates, and empowers communities for equal access to public resources. He is the Founding Director and Counsel of The City Project, a non-profit legal and policy advocacy team in Los Angeles, California. The City Project works with diverse allies on equal access to (1) healthy green land use through community planning; (2) climate justice; (3) quality education including physical education; (4) health equity; and (5) economic vitality for all, including creating jobs and avoiding displacement. Robert received the President’s Award from the American Public Health Association. PODER Magazine named him one of the Top 100 Latino Green Leaders. Hispanic Business Magazine has recognized him as one of the 100 most influential Latinos in the United States. Robert graduated from Stanford University and Stanford Law School, where he served on the Board of Editors of the Stanford Law Review. He is an Assistant Professor at Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science.
President Barack Obama and federal agencies are catapulting The City Project’s work on green access to the national level. As the President recognized in dedicating the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, “Too many children, . . . especially children of color, don’t have access to parks where they can run free, breathe fresh air, experience nature, and learn about their environment. This is an issue of social justice.” Conservation isn’t about locking away our natural treasures. “It’s about working with communities to open up our glorious heritage to everybody — young and old, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American — to make sure everybody can experience these incredible gifts.”
The National Park Service and the US Army Corps of Engineers agree. Their studies on green access and the Santa Monica Mountains, the San Gabriel Mountains, and the Los Angeles River rely on The City Project’s analyses to document that there are disparities in access to green space for people of color and low-income people in Los Angeles, that these disparities contribute to health disparities, and that environmental justice requires agencies to address these disparities. The City Project worked with Ranking Member Raul Grijalva and the House Natural Resources Committee to organize the historic forum on environmental justice, climate, and health. The forum included seven Members of Congress and community advocates at the L.A. River Center in 2015.
Robert has extensive experience in public policy, legal advocacy, mediation, and litigation involving complex social justice, civil rights, human health, environmental, education, and criminal justice matters. He has influenced the investment of over $43 billion in underserved communities, working at the intersection of equal justice, public health, and the built environment. He served as chairman of the Citizens’ School Bond Oversight Committee for five years, helping raise over $27 billion to build new, and modernize existing, public schools as centers of their communities in Los Angeles. He has helped communities create and preserve great urban parks and preserve access to beaches and trails. He has helped diversify support for and access to state resource bonds, with unprecedented levels of support among communities of color and low-income communities, and billions of dollars for urban parks. He served on the Development Team for the National Park Service Healthy Parks, Healthy People Community Engagement eGuide.
Robert served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund. He received the President’s Award from the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice for helping release Geronimo Pratt, the former Black Panther leader, from prison after 27 years for a crime he did not commit. He represented people on Death Row in Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi. Stanford Law School called him a “civil rights giant” and Stanford Magazine “an inspiration.” Robert served on the Justice and Peace Commission for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles under Cardinal Roger Mahony. He is an immigrant who came to the U.S. from Guatemala at age four.
Robert has lectured widely on the vision for healthy parks, schools, and communities. Recent keynote speeches include conferences at the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency New Partners for Smart Growth, and Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum. Other presentations include Stanford, Yale, Duke, Harvard Law School, Howard, UCLA, USC, Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, FLAC in Dublin, Ireland, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and National Council of La Raza (NCLR). The City Project [is] working to broaden access to parks and open space for inner-city residents and . . . to fight childhood obesity by guaranteeing that . . . students get enough physical education.” — New York Times.