The legacy of public policy and economic development that separates communities of color from opportunity, while extracting wealth from these communities, is evident in the extreme inequality in wealth, income and opportunity that we see in Richmond, California, and beyond. Building a structure that reverses and repairs this legacy, and moves us toward an economy where everyone belongs is a north star for this project.
Development projects like new buildings and infrastructure consume billions of dollars of public and private funding each year, yet the benefits of these projects often pass by the communities that need them most. When communities organize, they can often negotiate a community benefits agreement with a developer, which secures a portion of the project profits for meeting community needs like job training and affordable housing. As important as this approach is, it is limited because it tacks on community benefits after a private developer has already decided what the development project will be.
A new model for equitable development is needed that has the community’s vision and values as the starting place for designing and implementing projects, and ensures that profits are reinvested in the community. Democratic governance and shared community wealth must be at the heart of this model. It could replace the role of private, corporate developers by having the technical capacity to plan and carry out projects according to community needs and visions. Our project is rooted in a vision to create such an entity that Richmond community leaders have developed over the last two years.
Over the last several years, many Richmond community leaders have coalesced around a vision for community-governed and community-owned development. Initially catalyzed by the campaign to ensure that UC Berkeley's planned Richmond campus reflects this vision, several partners continued to work in collaboration over the last year to design an organization that would be a vehicle for community-governed and owned development. The campus plans have gone dormant, but the vision, momentum, and need for a new structure for development remains.
The model we initially developed was articulated in our report, “Structuring Development for Greater Community Opportunity.” Central to the approach is the creation of a Community-owned Development Enterprise (CDE) that has a community benefits mission, majority community leaders on its board, and the technical, legal, and financial capacity to design and carry out development projects. Most existing non-profit developers work on affordable housing projects, whereas ours would carry out commercial, educational, and public facilities projects. There are a few examples of entities that share attributes of the Richmond model, such as East Baltimore Development, Inc., Push Buffalo, and the NYC Real Estate Investment Cooperative. Creating such entities provides a way for moving money out of the extractive economy and into enterprises rooted in community needs, ecology and economic justice.
In 2017, the Haas Institute supported a planning committee that is majority local residents and majority people of color in developing an initial design of the new enterprise. The institute provided case study research on related enterprises around the country, with analyses of their missions, development activities, and organizational structure. The planning committee finalized a mission statement, operational principles, organizational structure, and board recruitment plan. A broader set of 16 community-based organizations provided feedback on the mission, values, principles and structure through a community briefing and one-on-one meetings.
In 2018, the founding board was elected whose members have deep community ties, are majority local people of color, and have the financial, legal, and technical expertise to design and implement development projects.
Meet the founding board members below:
Kimberly Acevez, Co-founder and Executive Director at RYSE Center, has been uplifting the voices of youth in Richmond for the last two decades. She is passionate about development that centers youth. As RYSE moves through the beginning phases of a land acquisition, expansion and a capital project, Kimberly sees herself as a vital resource for helping the Richmond CDE.
Benjamin Beach, Director at the Community Benefits Law Center in Oakland, is an experienced legal professional who has worked with countless families and community organizations to ensure equitable development. He is currently a Commissioner for the Berkeley Planning Committee, where he sits on the Housing and Community Benefits Subcommittee. Benjamin is excited bring his plethora of experience in providing legal support to secure affordable housing, local hiring, living wages, and other community benefits to the Richmond community.
Lina Buffington, Ph.D. is an experienced Program Officer, Executive Director, and Consultant with over 15 years of experience leading strategic planning and organizational development efforts for mission-centered nonprofits and institutions of higher learning. She hopes to bring her knowledge from serving as the Founding President of the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative, a start-up cooperative organization that seeks to develop affordable real estate alternatives, to the Richmond CDE.
Amanda Elliott, Executive Director of the Richmond Main Street Initiative, holds a Master Degree in Leadership from St. Mary’s College. For the past 10+years, she has been instrumental in managing the activities of the organization, developing strategies for enhancing the downtown economy, and establishing relationships with the community at large. As a recipient of several awards, including the 2014 of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce Community Service award, Amanda will bring her years of expertise to the Richmond CDE.
Donald Gilmore, Executive Director of Community Housing Development Corporation, has managed non-profit organizations for over 25 years. Since 1984, he has been serving Richmond and Alameda communities in identifying, organizing around, and growing development sites to benefit those in need. Donald hopes to bring his broad knowledge of programs, policies and implementation strategies to the Richmond CDE.
Being from a Chinese immigrant family, Vivian Yi Huang has spent her career fighting for justice for immigrant communities. Currently, she is Campaign and Organizing Director for Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), organizing alongside immigrant community members to develop collective power and leadership for social justice. As part of her commitment to leadership development and movement building, she will bring her expertise to the Richmond CDE.
Joel Mackey, Executive Director of the West Contra Costa Public Education Fund, has worked as a legal and policy analyst for more than 20 years. After graduating from the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, he worked with Richmond’s own Making Waves, East Bay Habitat for Humanity, and Oakland’s Harbor House. Joel’s expertise in nonprofit legal issues will make him a great addition to the Richmond CDE.
Eli Moore is Program Manager for the Haas Institute’s strategic partnerships with grassroots community-based organizations. He has more than 10 years experience working with organizers to develop research and strategic capacity. Eli is excited to bring his training and experience with geographic information systems, mixed methods research, conflict mediation and negotiation, and facilitation of participatory processes to the Richmond CDE.
Princess Robinson, Project Coordinator for Urban Tilth, has participated in many transformative projects in Richmond. She currently works with the North Richmond Farm providing fresh locally grown produce to residents for little to no cost. Princess hopes to bring her passion for ensuring community sustainability and leadership development to the Richmond CDE.
Regina Williams is a Richmond native who currently manages housing development projects with First Community Housing in the South Bay. She is passionate about supporting the least affordable housing markets in the country, providing housing to those most in need, including formerly homeless and developmentally disabled households. Regina hopes to use her experience as a economic development professional to spark sustainable growth through the Richmond CDE.
Pam Stello, a passionate community advocate and Richmond resident, has been participating in environmental justice and equitable development advocacy for Pt Molate since 2009. She is one of several co-founders of citizens for a sustainable pt molate, a past member of the pt molate community advisory committee and the pt molate working group (a collaboration with Trust for Public Land). She is currently working with a coalition of citizens and organizations focused on ensuring the Pt Molate community planning meetings are comprehensive and inclusive and the development process is transparent. She received her Master’s Degree from the Social and Cultural Studies program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education and hopes to contribute her skills in community engagement and empowerment through education to the Richmond CDE.
Joe Recchie, Founder of Praxia Partners, incorporates venture investment, innovative finance, and a Neighborhood Stabilization Fund to advance community development. His best practices have been gleaned from collaborations with nonprofit and government partners to overcome exclusionary zoning policies and enhance the quality of life in marginalized communities. Joe will support the Richmond CDE with his business development expertise.
Valerie Jameson, Education Justice Coordinator at RYSE Center, has been advocating for the lives of youth in the Bay Area for more than eight years. Born and raised in Richmond, Valerie is a homegrown leader who sees community ownership as a key for implementing long-term transformative change in the city. Using her deep connections to the residents, youth, and professionals in Richmond, Valerie intends to keep the Richmond CDE grounded in its commitment to serving the needs of populations most in need.