The City Project believes that all people should have access to healthy, livable communities. Our multicultural, Latino-led team works with diverse allies to ensure equal access to (1) healthy green land use through planning by and for the community; (2) climate justice; (3) physical education and schools of hope as centers of their communities; (4) health equity and wellness; and (5) economic vitality for all, including jobs and avoiding displacement as communities become greener and more desirable. The mission of The City Project is to achieve equal justice, democracy, and livability for all.
As the next generation civil rights advocates, we pursue myriad strategies. We are problem solvers who use many of the same strategies that corporate or transactional lawyers use on behalf of their clients: planning, data collection and analysis, media, negotiation, policy advocacy, and coalition building are all part of a comprehensive problem-solving strategy. We join forces with clients, experts, and broader coalitions to seek equity and overcome structural barriers to a more equitable society. Our work can be framed as promoting new partners for smart growth, equitable development, ecosystem services, and compliance with civil rights and environmental justice policies and laws.
1. Healthy Green Land Use, Equitable Development, and Civic Engagement through Planning by and for the Community
We promote active living and healthy eating in communities that are park poor, income poor, or of color. We engage, educate, and empower diverse allies to plan, create, and preserve multi-benefit healthy green land use and infrastructure projects for active living, climate justice, and clean air, water, land, and habitat protection. This includes joint use of parks, pools, and schools; complete green streets with transit, biking, walking, and safe routes to school; and new partners for smart growth.
We provide multidisciplinary consulting, research, and analyses to inform healthy, sustainable planning by and for the community for generations to come. Our major publication, which reflects community based participatory research, has been influential in planning reports and studies by the federal government and others: Healthy Parks, Schools and Communities: Mapping Green Access and Equity for Southern California (The City Project Policy Report 2011), available at http://www.mapjustice.org. The National Park Service cites our work in recognizing that there is not enough green space for all, there are disparities in park access and health based on race and ethnicity, and park agencies need to address these concerns.
Healthy green land use projects underway with diverse allies and agencies include:
- Greening the Los Angeles River
- Creating the San Gabriel Mountains National Recreation Area
- Greening the San Gabriel River
- National Parks Service Work Group on Healthy People,
Healthy Parks Community Engagement Resource Guide
- California State Parks Forward Initiative
- Expanding the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
We implement lessons learned from our successful projects, which include creating or preserving over 1,000 acres of urban green space in:
- Los Angeles State Historic Park – “a heroic monument” and “a symbol of hope,” according to the L.A. Times
- Rio de Los Angeles State Park, the starting point for greening the L.A. River
- Baldwin Hills Park in the historic heart of African American L.A., the largest urban park designed in the US in over a century
- Ascot Hills Park. Before that park, the largest green space in Northeast L.A. was Evergreen Cemetery, which sent a message to children that if they wanted green space, they had to die first.
- Vista Hermosa Nature Park, an “L.A. park like no other,” according to the L.A. Times, and a best practice for joint use of schools, pools, and parks.
- Clean water and park multibenefit projects at North Atwater Park, South L.A. Wetlands Park, and Garvanza Park
- Kellogg Park in Ventura.
We work to ensure everyone has equal access to active living where they live, learn, work, play, and pray. Best practices include:
- Transit to Trails to take inner city children on fun, educational, and healthy trips to mountains, beaches, and rivers
- Ensuring public beach access up and down the coast
- Keeping public trails open including Millard Canyon in the San Gabriels and Canyon Back trail in the Santa Monica Mountains.
We ensure parks reflect the culture, history, and diversity of the community through public monuments and art. Best practices include:
- Restoring and expanding the Great Wall of Los Angeles along the L.A. River
- Saving the sacred Native American site of Panhe and San Onofre State Beach
- Restoring Chicano Park in San Diego
- Commemorating Bruce’s Beach, the historic African American resort.
We bring nontraditional partners to the table. We help build diverse support for statewide park and water bond measures, with over $10 billion in state park and water bonds passed over the past decade. Voters of color and low-income voters can make the difference in passing properly framed resource measures, and must receive their fair share of the benefits.
We ensure compliance with clean water and environmental justice laws. Through a $2 billion agreement under the Clean Water Act between grassroots groups, US EPA, and the City of Los Angeles, we are improving the sewer system city wide, eliminating offensive sewer odors that plagued African-American Los Angeles for decades, and investing in multi-benefit park and water infrastructure projects.
2. Physical Education and Schools of Hope
We work on compliance with physical education and civil rights laws with public officials statewide. Dr. Robert Ross, President of The California Endowment, has called this work “a best practice example for districts across the state to provide a quality education for the children of California.” Half the school districts audited by the state in 2005-2009 were not in compliance with physical education requirements.
We are implementing the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations to provide physical education minutes, monitor compliance, alleviate disparities, improve teacher education, make physical education a core subject, and improve physical activity in the whole school environment.
We work to make schools the centers of their communities. LAUSD has raised $27 billion to build and modernize public schools. The City Project’s Robert García served as Chair of the Citizens’ School Bond Oversight Committee from 2000 to 2005, overseeing planning and implementation, and signing ballot measures to raise local, state, and federal funds. The district has built 130 new schools and modernized hundreds more since 1998. Hundreds of acres of land were cleaned up. The future became brighter for generations of students. Joint use of schools, pools, and parks makes optimal use of scarce land and resources.
3. Health Equity and Wellness in All Policies
We work on health equity and wellness in all policies, alleviating health disparities, and addressing the social determinants of health. The Affordable Care Act’s section 1557 guards against health discrimination based on race, color, national origin, limited English proficiency, sex, disability, and age. The Act protects health and life itself through wellness, prevention, physical activity, and healthy land use, as well as health care. We work with academics and diverse allies in the planning process to develop regulations, guidance, and best practices for the US Department of Health and Human Services to implement these principles. Concretely, we are working with USC to improve the wellness element in the forthcoming general plan for the City of Los Angeles. We are working on eliminating Latino disparities in food stamp programs. We build healthy, active communities through healthy green land use, physical education, and other policies above.
4. Job and Wealth Creation
We seek triple bottom line infrastructure solutions that promote equity, economics, and the environment. The park, water, and school bond measures above provide billions of dollars for jobs and wealth creation. Each $50 million of the $27 billion in school bonds has created 935 annual jobs, $43 million in wages, and $130 million in local business revenue. Park jobs can help get the nation back to work, and build people’s feelings of self-worth. We support a 21st Century Conservation Corps to provide jobs, contracts for small, women, minority, and veteran- owned enterprises, careers, and environmental benefits.
5. Strategic Communications
- President’s Award, American Public Health Association, for helping make human health a social justice imperative
- KCETLink/Union Bank Local Hero Award
- PODER Magazine, Top 100 Green Latino Leaders in the Nation
- Hispanic Business Magazine, 100 Most Influential Latino Leaders, “men and women who are changing the nation”
- City of Los Angeles, L.A. River Award “for extensively publishing research and findings on urban parks and their benefits for the River, receiving national recognition in your efforts to revitalize the River, and for your contribution to the greening of the River.”
- Public Stewardship Award, American Society of Landscape Architects, SoCal chapter
- As reported in the New York Times, “The City Project [is] working to broaden access to parks and open space for inner city children, and . . . to fight childhood obesity by guaranteeing that . . . students get enough physical education.”
Major recent publications include:
- Robert García and Ariel Collins, Celebrate The Civil Rights Revolution: The Struggle Continues Policy Report (The City Project 2014)
- Michael Rodriguez, MD, MPH, et al., Using Civil Rights Tools to Address Health Disparities Policy Report (The City Project 2014)
- Robert García, The George Butler Lecture: Social Justice and Leisure 45(1), Journal of Leisure Research 7-22 (Winter 2013)
- Mariah Lafleur et al., Physical Education and Student Activity: Evaluating Implementation of a New Policy in Los Angeles Public Schools, 45(1) Annals of Behavioral Medicine 122-130 (2013)
- Robert García and Ramya Sivasubramanian, Environmental Justice for All: Struggle in Baldwin Hills and South Central Los Angeles, Clearinghouse Review: Journal of Poverty Law and Policy (Nov/Dec 2012)
- Robert García, Physical Activity as a Civil Rights Issue, in Institute of Medicine, Legal Strategies in Childhood Obesity Prevention (Lynn Parker et al., eds. 2011)
Recent videos are available on our web site.
We publish the Green Justice Blog at KCET Departures online. KCET is the public television station for Los Angeles.
The values at stake. People are coming together to support healthy, safe parks and green space to support the diverse values at stake. These values include the simple joys of playing in the park and school field; improved physical, psychological, and social health; the full development of the child, including improved academics and positive alternatives to crime; economic vitality and local green jobs; conservation values of climate justice, clean air, water, and land, and habitat protection; cultural, art, and spiritual values; and smart, sustainable communities. Equal justice and democracy underlie these other values.