Tallulah Shepard

Tallulah Shepard

Climate Action Wrapped 2023

What were your 2023 environmental milestones? Did you forge a deeper connection to a conservation or housing movement, or explore new outdoor spaces or the nature in your own backyard?

Greenbelt Alliance’s Climate Action Wrapped is all about celebrating the ways that the Bay Area—and California—is emerging as a global climate and housing advocacy leader. We’re connecting you with just a snapshot of state legislation and local actions that have moved the needle on conservation, climate change, and housing wins to benefit our natural lands and communities.

We know the future of our ecosystems and neighborhoods can sometimes look bleak, but we have so many wins to celebrate this year. These are the statewide and regional wins that will enable Greenbelt Alliance to build a more climate resilient future!

Read below for a snapshot of what our region and state has accomplished so far.

Accelerating Mixed-Use Housing

 

Authored by Senator Scott Wiener, SB 423 encourages mix-used housing developments in California. SB 423 is an extension of SB 35, which passed in 2017 to streamline affordable housing and is scheduled to sunset in 2026. Now the extension of SB 423 authorizes the streamlined approval process for multifamily housing by allowing projects to move forward without a conditional use permit—making it faster and easier to build multi-use affordable housing across California.

Planning for Sea Level Rise

 

For the first time in California history, all coastal cities must plan for sea-level rise with the passing of SB 272. The new law requires all cities to develop strategies and recommend projects to address future sea-level rise by 2034, with plans mandated and guided by local governance. SB 272 will authorize coastal regulators like the Bay Conservation Development Commission, or BCDC, to have the power to approve or deny plans for adaptation projects and development along the shoreline.

Yes in God's Backyard

 

Scott Wiener’s “Yes in God’s Backyard” legislation, or SB4, opens over 170,000 acres for affordable housing in California by allowing faith institutions (such as churches, synagogues, and mosques) along with nonprofit colleges to build affordable housing on their property by-right, even if local zoning prevents this housing. The legislation applies to 100% affordable housing.

North Richmond Living Levee


Last year, the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority awarded the North Richmond living levee project a grant for nearly $650,000, funding technical studies and public involvement. In 2023, a $50,000 augmentation was added for a tribal engagement storytelling component!

This grant moves forward plans to build a “living” levee will be built along the upland edge of the shoreline (outboard of the Richmond Parkway). This will provide upland transition zone habitat, high tide refugia, and migration space for flora and fauna as sea level rises. The planning effort will also investigate opportunities for offshore habitat restoration activities and the potential to provide flood risk reduction for the critical infrastructure, as well as for surrounding residential communities. There’s still quite a bit of work and funds necessary to make this living levee a reality, but significant groundwork has been advanced in 2023!

Equity in Open Space Conservation

 

SB1425 requires all California cities to have an open space plan by Jan 1, 2026 with an action plan to climate resilience, a rewilding of space, and increasing equitable access of open spaces to consider environmental justice. Authored by Senator Henry Stern, SB1425 aims to provide access to open space for all California residents in a way that factors social, economic, and racial equity.

Climate Resilience on Farms and Ranches

 

One of the economic barriers for farmers and ranchers is the high cost of equipment. AB552 establishes a program to support equipment sharing for farmers and ranchers who have limited access to the tools needed to build climate resilience and regional food and fiber systems. This program will provide funds to resource conservation districts, County agricultural commissioners, University of California Cooperative Extension offices, tribal entities, farmer cooperatives, and nonprofits to develop and maintain equipment sharing programs for their constituencies. Authored by Assemblymember Bennett, AB552 prioritizes underserved farmers and ranchers who have limited resources.

Read about more 2023 legislative housing and climate wins here

Stopping Sprawl in Coyote Valley
Coyote Valley is 7,400 acres of greenbelt lands between San Jose and Morgan Hill. It is home to lush farmland and a vast open space preserve, providing an awe-inspiring landscape to explore. For decades, Greenbelt Alliance and our partners have protected Coyote Valley from inappropriate development—from technology campuses to sprawling subdivisions. In 2019, San Jose passed a $93 million deal to preserve 300 acres of Coyote Valley in a monumental move to halt sprawl development on these lands.

But some threats, smaller, though significant, remain—this year, Greenbelt Alliance has supported the Open Space Authority’s efforts to acquire several acres of land at risk of smaller scale sprawl development.

Sea Level rise in Contra Costa County

 

After years of community advocacy for sea level rise measures, the Board of Supervisors cemented Contra Costa County as a local leader in sea level rise adaptation and resilience efforts with the establishment of the Contra Costa Resilient Shoreline Ad Hoc Committee on Sea Level Rise (“Committee on Sea Level Rise”).

Sea level rise is projected to become more intense under changing climate conditions in Contra Costa County, with an estimated sea-level rise of 36” in the next 100 years that will result in the flooding of low-lying areas. The County has been actively involved in sea level rise planning and vulnerability assessments since 2015 through regional planning efforts coordinated by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) and Delta Stewardship Council.

Now, the Committee on Sea Level Rise’s work will focus on developing Contra Costa County sea level rise adaptation and resilience project recommendations for the full Board’s consideration. The Committee’s work will also consider how local sea level rise adaptation and resilience efforts can complement multiregional climate resilience work across the Bay Area.

Stopping Sprawl on Newark's Baylands

 

Greenbelt Alliance, our partners and Newark residents have advocated for decades to protect and restore the historic baylands along the South San Francisco shoreline known as Newark Area 4. This open space has been sought after by developers and the City of Newark for development that would pave over wetlands with 469 luxury housing units, putting current and new residents in a FEMA flood zone anticipated to be completely inundated by sea level rise.

Fortunately, these baylands are one step closer to being protected. This past October, the City of Newark released a new draft of their Housing Element that does not have Area 4 listed as a site for development. Removing the project from the Housing Element does not halt the project altogether, but it does demonstrate Newark’s consideration to building on baylands and open spaces that are rich in biodiversity and prone to future flooding. Read more at greenbelt.org/newark.

 

After years of coalition advocacy, the Sunnyvale City Council unanimously adopted the Moffett Park Specific Plan and Environmental Impact Report this past July, which supports the redevelopment of current industrial areas into climate resilient, transit-oriented, mixed-use housing. Doing so promotes infill as a strategy to reduce sprawl and improve affordability, while using nature as a climate adaptation strategy.

In Fall 2020, Greenbelt Alliance joined a coalition of organizations to endorse the Sunnyvale Moffett Park redevelopment, and in 2022 we led a series of outings to share our vision of a place that can offer solutions to the affordable housing crisis while fostering a climate-resilient future. Learn more about this win here.

Are there any Bay Area or California climate wins you’re celebrating this year? Comment below! 

 

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