History

Over nearly 60 years, our organization has grown and evolved through three names—Citizens for Regional Recreation and Parks, People for Open Space, and Greenbelt Alliance. Throughout this historical account, the organization is referred to as “we” for continuity.

Dorothy Erskine, founder

Dorothy Erskine, founder

In 1958, Dorothy Erskine, Jack Kent, and colleagues founded Citizens for Regional Recreation and Parks (CRRP) comprised of environmentally concerned people and groups that would later become Greenbelt Alliance. Our original mission was to protect parks and recreational areas in the Bay Area. One of the first campaigns we focused on was saving the San Francisco Bay from landfill and development.

During the 1960s, we helped save iconic Bay Area places including Fort Funston and Point Reyes, while raising awareness of land-use issues through a publication called Regional Exchange.

In 1969, we changed our name to People for Open Space to reflect our commitment to preserving more than just parks and recreation spaces—including farms, ranches, and wildlife preserves. We continued to campaign for open space throughout the 1970s, helping to establish the Mid-Peninsula Open Space District (1972) and Suisun Marsh (1974). In 1976, we began leading the fight to create a permanently protected greenbelt in the Bay Area. To build support, we created Greenbelt Congress in 1984—a parallel group that fought for open space through activism and grassroots organizing.

After three years of working together, we merged Greenbelt Congress and People for Open Space to become Greenbelt Alliance—bringing together the best parts of grassroots activism and science-based policy expertise. During the 1980s, Greenbelt Alliance began publishing unique research reports linking land-use to the importance of Bay Area farming and affordable housing issues. In the mid 1980s, after years of researching the effects of affordable housing on preserving open space, Greenbelt Alliance began endorsing smart growth projects—becoming the first Bay Area environmental group to shift the focus to not just preventing bad development, but also encouraging the right development in the right places.

This expansion in scope also meant expanding our regional staff. We opened our second office, located in the South Bay, in 1988. Then we expanded to a third and fourth office in the East Bay and North Bay in 1995.

Greenbelt Alliance remains instrumental in preserving open space and protecting the quality of life through smart growth in the Bay Area.

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