Juliana Gonzalez’s passion for protecting watersheds and working with low-income communities started early in her career. Originally from Columbia, Juliana worked on watershed planning policy development in the Andes before moving to the United States. For the last 16 years, first as The Watershed Project’s (TWP) Community Program Manager and then as their Executive Director, Juliana Gonzalez has led multiple community-based climate adaptation and mitigation restoration and planning efforts in Richmond and its neighboring communities.
Under Juliana’s leadership, TWP has forged a longstanding connection to North Richmond’s community, where she works closely with community leaders. She works to connect the local community to their watershed through education, restoration, and community planning projects.
Juliana believes that nature-based solutions are the only way we can effectively mitigate and innovate against climate change impacts. “Every tree planted in our neighborhood helps not only improve the air, but also to store the water and cool the land,” she says. “Natural landscapes provide many benefits to all the people and wildlife that inhabit them.”
Juliana’s work has brought communities to the decision-making table, providing an opportunity for people impacted by environmental injustice to take action and improve their neighborhoods.
She started working in the North Richmond Shoreline area in 2010, supporting the process to create a new park south of Point Pinole. This effort was the beginning of a multibenefit approach to making North Richmond an example of climate resilience and community participatory planning.
“As a very impacted and socially and economically disadvantaged community that lies just a few feet above the current sea level, North Richmond could be a great case study of how a poor community of mostly BIPOC residents can help transform their neighborhoods and landscape to be greener and more resilient to the changing climate,” she says.
In 2017 during the Resilient by Design Challenge, Juliana was tasked with serving as the community liaison for the design team that imagined North Richmond in the year 2100, and she led the Community Advisory Board.
In the last few years, Juliana has been a key leader in the North Richmond Shoreline Adaptation participatory planning process. Her vision has centered on community education and engagement—ensuring that this large-scale, green infrastructure project benefits people’s health while protecting residents from sea level rise.
Additionally, Juliana and TWP have been leaders in K-12 watershed education at places like Verde Elementary School, and in restoring the three creeks that drain the San Pablo Bay Watersheds. Juliana also works to promote urban greening and tree planting, increasing community walkability and overall environmental health.
From the moment she joined TWP, Juliana has led many initiatives to transform North Richmond to a promising area for protecting and integrating the watersheds into community health.