Economic Stimulus, Green Space, and Equal Justice

Posted: April 29th, 2009

The City Project releases the Policy Report Economic Stimulus, Green Space, and Equal Justice with diverse allies including Anahuak Youth Sports Association; Dr. Robert Bullard of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University; Robert Bracamontes of the Acjachemen Nation, Juaneno Tribe; California Center for Public Health Advocacy; Caminando con Fe/Walking with Faith; PolicyLink and SPARC (Social and Public Art Resource Center).

Even in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, people across the United States voted to tax themselves to provide billions of dollars to create green space in November 2008, when they also elected Barack Obama as the first black President of the United States in a wave of hope and change. In the first hundred days, the Obama administration has launched a $787 billion economic stimulus package to get the nation back to work, and additional megafunds have become available for green space from other federal, state and local sources.

The massive amounts of funding available for public infrastructure projects including green space offers an exceptional opportunity to promote economic vitality, environmental quality and equal justice for all, including low income communities and communities of color. These communities disproportionately suffer from disparities in access to green space, including parks and school fields, and related human health problems that stem in part from the lack of places for physical activity and recreation. People of color and low income communities must receive their fair share of public investments in infrastructure projects including green space. Solutions to many social problems – unemployment, environmental degradation, no place to play, little hope for disadvantaged youth, obesity, rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure for generations to come – must be tied to a vision for a new America that includes stimulus projects to improve the lives of all residents.

Green infrastructure projects including green space in parks and schools can help get the nation back to work building healthy, livable communities for all. Drawing on New Deal lessons, green infrastructure projects can provide multiple benefits including places for physical activity in parks and school fields; local green jobs for youth and small and disadvantaged business enterprises; Conservation Corps type programs to open job and career paths and to permanently improve national, state and local parks; public art in public parks; and public transit to parks and trails.

The California experience offers valuable lessons for hope and change. In 2008, the California legislature enacted legislative criteria to invest park funds in communities that are park poor and income poor. Park poor is defined as three acres or less of parks per thousand residents. Income poor is defined as $47,959 median household income or less. This legislation is a best practice example to establish standards to measure progress and equity, and to hold public officials accountable for infrastructure investments in multi-benefit green spaces, including federal, state, regional, county, and local park and school funds.

This Report details resources available for green space, the economic stimulus and other benefits provided by green space projects, and current disparities in access to green space and other safe places for physical activity for low income communities and communities of color. The Report describes the consequences of such disparities, the benefits that could be reaped if resources were allocated fairly, and laws and policies justifying change, including civil rights and environmental justice laws. Much of the Report is based specifically on the urban park movement in California, including information on best practices currently in place in the state, that can be applied across the country. The Report ends with recommendations for equitable investments in green space throughout California and the country.

Click on the following image to download the full report.

Click here to read the recommendations of the California Green Stimulus Coalition on Green Space and Equal Justice here . . .

Haga click aqui par ver el reporte sobre las recomendaciones sobre los espacios verdes y la justicia equitativa en Española . . .