Do you ever think about the families behind our cities’ public works projects? What are their stories and histories? There’s one Bay Area family who started in construction long ago but has since evolved to give back to the community and the environment.
In 1947, the Arntz brothers founded a construction company that has developed countless public works projects across Northern California. Over the last sixty-plus years, Arntz Builders has constructed schools, community centers, parks, libraries, and many other community spaces throughout the Bay Area.
The Arntz family supports community development and has a long history of philanthropy through the creation of the Arntz Family Foundation in 1994, a family-run Foundation that supports environmental organizations with an emphasis on systemic change to drive climate resilience and sustainability.
The Arntz Family Foundation has supported Greenbelt Alliance’s work across the Bay Area for over twenty years. I sat down with Julie Arntz, the foundation’s current Executive Director, who represents the third generation working for the Arntz Family Foundation, to learn more about her family’s legacy.
She shared childhood memories about spending quality time with her grandma as a teenager, and going onsite to visit the nonprofits they were funding. “At that time, I couldn’t believe that working in philanthropy could be someone’s actual job,” she remembers.
Yet, after decades of work in the environmental sector and with the family business, she now has this dream job and is proud to continue her family’s legacy of giving back and investing in communities across the world.
“We fund organizations that work on climate globally, but we live here, so it feels particularly important to fund this work in our communities,” Julie shares. ”Many of us have lived through the wildfires in Sonoma County, and some have had to be evacuated.”
In recent years, the Foundation has made a strategic shift toward funding climate resiliency as they have seen firsthand how worsening climate events impact local communities. They have also shaped their mission around a long-term vision due to a belief in systemic reform and policy change being the most influential drivers of change in the fight against climate change.
This ethos has enabled Greenbelt Alliance and other partners to advance critical land-use changes to Sonoma County and other Bay Area communities, from protecting Sonoma County’s open space and farmland through urban growth boundaries to championing new ground-breaking projects like implementing greenbelt buffer zones to increase community resilience to wildfire. Without the Arntz Foundation’s continued, patient support, these wins may not have been possible.
As our conversation came to a close, I asked Julie about her hope for the next 65 years. “Everything that Greenbelt Alliance is working on is what I hope for: better city planning, mitigating what we know is coming in terms of increased natural disasters, and doing all that we can do to make people’s lives healthier and safer while preserving our precious natural habitats.”
Learn more about the Arntz Family Foundation at arntzfamilyfoundation.org.