Hidden Heroes of the Greenbelt


Celebrate The Bay Area’s Climate and Land Use Hidden Heroes!

Hidden Heroes of the Greenbelt is an annual benefit for Greenbelt Alliance that honors the often unseen yet dedicated government staff who have been advancing extraordinary work at the intersection of land use and climate change here in the Bay Area.

This year, Hidden Heroes will be bigger and better than ever as we host a community block party at Oakland’s historic Preservation Park, on August 28!

Explore Preservation’s Park’s gorgeous urban oasis as we welcome our community to enjoy activities that celebrate our region’s climate resilience work while honoring our 2024 Hidden Heroes and their partners. Together, we’ll activate Oakland’s treasured Victorian neighborhood with networking games, guest speeches, and special pop-ups that will inspire us all to help build a more vibrant and resilient Bay area.

Grab a drink and some food, vibe out to a local band on a picnic blanket, and learn how our government staff is making a difference in our communities this August.

We hope you join us for this exciting occasion, as we raise a toast in support of our work to create a more climate-resilient region!


Become an Event Sponsor

Nominate a Hidden Hero


By sponsoring Hidden Heroes of the Greenbelt this year, your organization will have the opportunity to connect with the Bay Area community and uplift the stories of critical Hidden Heroes who are making our region more sustainable and equitable.


Do you know a local hero working at the intersection of land use and climate change in the Bay Area? Nominate them by May 19 for the Hidden Heroes of the Greenbelt Awards 2024!


This year’s Hidden Heroes of the Greenbelt awards are being given to three extraordinary leaders from across the Bay Area whose stories are inspiring and contribution to climate and land-use policies will leave a legacy of positive impact in the region. Watch their films below:

Hidden Hero of the Greenbelt recognized for fostering nature-based climate adaptation

Watershed Planner, Contra Costa County Watershed Program

John Steere is an environmental planner who resides in Berkeley, CA. His career spans public, private, and non-profit sectors of conservation and planning. His work as an environmental planner, activist and alchemist over the past 40 years demonstrate his commitment to the importance of connecting people to nature in the Bay Area as a way of cultivating a sense of place and well-being and to create tangible community.

Throughout his career, John has advocated for protecting special open spaces, innovating and leading collaborative habitat restoration projects, and has used his multidisciplinary skills for reimagining communities’ relationships to their surrounding environment.

John's ecological outlook informs his career as an Environmental Planner—of environmental analyses and resource management plans, trail and open space planning, and the development of green infrastructure and LID around the East Bay) is coupled with his avocation as an environmental “alchemist” to foster collaborative “placemaking”– to creatively engender community through several mediums: 1) park making and stewardship, 2) urban creek restoration, and 3) supporting and leading community sustainability and climate resiliency projects. He is also an expert in public involvement facilitation, CEQA/NEPA regulations and managing and writing environmental impact reports (EIRs), and in watershed management planning processes.

John Steere has been the Watershed Planner for Contra Costa County since 2013; in this capacity, he implements green stormwater management requirements for new development and pollution prevention regulations to protect the County’s waterways; coordinates and advocates for green infrastructure (GI); works with many organizations in development of community-based beautification and on-land cleanup programs; project managing the preparation and implementation of the County Green Infrastructure Plan, including the “North Richmond Watershed Connections” Project, a multi-benefit urban greening, GI, and resiliency project.

Hidden Hero of the Greenbelt recognized for planning for climate change resilience

Senior Environmental Engineer at Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District and Solano Stormwater Alliance Manager

Emily Corwin is a Senior Engineer at the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District, a Registered Professional Civil Engineer in the State of California, and the founder of an environmental engineering firm that focuses on water resource and conservation projects. At the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District, Emily is creating partnerships and field examples to bring innovative nature-based climate adaptation solutions to the Solano Bayshore region in the San Francisco Bay. These projects combine the conservation and restoration of critical ecosystems with the selective use of conventional engineering approaches. Emily studied Hydrology at the University of California Davis, Environmental Engineering at the University of California Berkeley, and founded the Global Green-Gray Community of Practice at Conservation International, with representatives from 200 organizations and 500 individual members. She also is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers Committee on Natural and Nature-based Infrastructure Systems, manages the Solano Stormwater Alliance, and co-chair of the Solano Bayshore Resiliency Roundtable.

Hidden Hero of the Greenbelt recognized for promoting climate-SMART housing

Director, East Palo Alto Community and Economic Development Department

Amy Chen is the Director of East Palo Alto’s Community and Economic Development Department, which includes housing and rent stabilization, building permits and code enforcement, and planning functions including the entitlement of new development
projects. This department also carries out the City’s economic development initiatives and support for job training of local residents.

Under Amy’s leadership, the Community and Economic Development Department advanced crucial City initiatives including:

  • Building Reach Codes that encourage more efficient development and more sustainable design
    A Local Minimum Wage Ordinance raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and increasing automatically every year thereafter.
  • A Transportation Demand Management Ordinance, which will reduce up to 40% of vehicle trips in EPA.
  • An Urban Forest Master Plan and updated related tree ordinances, that provide a roadmap and shared vision to increase the tree canopy in East Palo Alto

Currently, she is overseeing the City’s efforts to receive certification of its 2023 Housing Element that projects EPA will meet and exceed its Regional Housing Needs Assessment goals over the next 8 years.

She is also leading an update to the Ravenswood Business District/Four Corners Specific Plan which will refresh the existing plan and bring more community benefits, including public open space, to the city and to this area.

Prior to EPA, Amy worked in the City of San Jose for 12 years, holding key roles in the City Manager’s Office, the Office of Economic Development, and various departments, including Environmental Services, Transportation, and Housing. Over the years, Amy and her teams brought in more than $120 million to support planning efforts and sustainable transportation improvements in San Jose.

Amy graduated with honors from Santa Clara University with a dual bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Environmental Studies and received her Master’s degree in Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University.

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