Kaid Benfield Archive


Sustainable Oakland

Kaid Benfield

Posted January 12, 2011 at 1:36PM

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  downtown Oakland (by: satanslaundromat, creative commons license)

Next month, NRDC’s sustainable communities team will be having a strategic planning retreat in Oakland, California.  Oakland presents some logistical advantages for such a meeting, including its proximity to our office across the bay in San Francisco, saving travel and hotel expenses for some of our staff.  But it also is a great place to think about environmental challenges and issues in a complex American city.

In fact, Oakland has been busy addressing these issues for over a decade.  I'm impressed with the city’s Sustainability Program, for example, which includes a detailed energy and climate action plan; a “green map” highlighting local green buildings, green businesses, and resources; pedestrian and bicycle master plans; a green roof at the Oakland Museum (via US EPA)a “zero waste” strategic plan; and an environmentally preferable purchasing plan.  The city also has an innovative watershed improvement program that stresses green stormwater infrastructure and has received a national excellence award from the federal EPA. 

Meanwhile, the city's Housing Authority has built one of the country's first LEED-ND-certified mixed-income housing developments (Tassafaronga Village), and a mainly Latino community development corporation, Unity Council, has developed one of the country's very best examples of transit-oriented development (Fruitvale Village), providing affordable housing and impressive economic revitalization of a distressed Oakland neighborhood.

In 2006, the city council adopted a statement of its environmental aspirations:

“Goals of the Mayor and City Council are to develop a sustainable city through objectives to maximize socially and environmentally sustainable economic growth, conserving natural resources, and encourage and support social equity for all Fruitvale Village (by: Carlos Almendarez, creative commons license)Oakland residents and build community and foster livable neighborhoods through objectives to provide clean, well maintained and accessible streets, sidewalks, facilities, amenities, parks, recreation facilities and trees and to encourage and support civic engagement . . .”

(The editor in me wants to fix all that run-on language, but for now let’s just applaud the substance.)  The city has received all sorts of recognition for its sustainability efforts.

Special mention is due to the Oakland Green Jobs Corps, a community support and job-training partnership providing green pathways out of poverty (including in assembly and installation of energy efficiency products) for low-income adults in Oakland.  The Corps’ website includes a very good section on best practices in green job training that includes profiles of seven successful programs in California.  The Job Corps is among the initiatives highlighted in the excellent video below on green efforts in Oakland.  Enjoy:


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