Dorothy Erskine, founder

In 1958, Dorothy Erskine, Jack Kent and colleagues founded Citizens for Regional Recreation and Parks (CRRP), an organization of environmentally concerned individuals and groups that would later become Greenbelt Alliance. CRRP was created to protect parks and recreational areas in the Bay Area. Two of the first campaigns CRRP focused on were establishing a regional government and saving San Francisco Bay from landfill and development. During the 1960s, CRRP raised awareness of these issues through their publication Regional Exchange and helped save Bay Area spaces such as Fort Funston and Point Reyes.

People for Open Space

In 1969, CRRP was renamed People for Open Space to reflect the group’s new commitment to preserving additional spaces such as ranch lands, agricultural lands, and wildlife preserves. POS continued the campaign for open space throughout the seventies, helping to establish the Mid-Peninsula Open Space District (1972) and Suisun Marsh (1974). POS was also involved in campaigning for a regional government to protect the environmental and economic quality of the Bay Area, taking the campaign to Sacramento to be defeated by one vote. In 1976, POS added the goal of establishing a permanent regional greenbelt to the agenda. POS established Greenbelt Congress in 1984 as a parallel group that fought for open space through activism and grassroots organizing.

Greenbelt Alliance

After three years of parallel work, Greenbelt Congress and POS merged to become Greenbelt Alliance—establishing the organization’s dual focus of grassroots activism and policy research. During this decade, Greenbelt Alliance published reports on Bay Area farming and affordable housing issues. In the 1980s, after years of researching the effects of affordable housing on preserving open space, Greenbelt Alliance began endorsing smart growth projects.

“Greenbelt Alliance has played a pivotal role in the greening of the Bay Area, because of its longevity, its regional scope, and its inspired leadership.”
—Richard Walker, author of The Country in the City: The Greening of the San Francisco Bay Area

Greenbelt Alliance began building its presence in the nine Bay counties, starting with the opening of the first field office in the South Bay in 1988. The East Bay and Sonoma-Marin offices officially opened their doors in 1995. In 2001, the Solano-Napa office was opened in response to growth along the Interstate 80 corridor, and in 2008 a Marin office was opened to promote affordable housing there.

With the help of field representatives, since 1996, Greenbelt Alliance has been successful in securing 26 urban growth boundaries in the nine-county region. Greenbelt Alliance remains instrumental in preserving open space and protecting the quality of life in the Bay Area. In 1993, Pleasanton Ridge was saved after a twenty-year campaign (13,000 acres). The Santa Clara Open Space Authority was created in 1994. 1995 brought a defeat for the Mid-State Toll Road. In 1999 Bear Creek Redwoods was preserved followed by Cowell Ranch in Contra Costa County in 2002.

Today, Greenbelt Alliance continues to protect open spaces and create vibrant places through cutting-edge policy research and local advocacy.

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