Richmond City Council Approves Green-Blue New Deal

By Mark Van Landuyt

In the same week the Supreme Court struck down the Clean Water Act and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report told us “Delay Is Death,” the City of Richmond approved a Green-Blue New Deal for implementation.

A major victory for environmental policy in the Bay Area, the plan was forwarded by City Council member Gayle McLaughlin and had its final ratification the evening of April 5th.

The Green-Blue New Deal will be exploring community-led programs around green workforce development, sustainable affordable housing developments, local circular economy reuse projects, water-energy conservation, the greening of government buildings, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, public health, and more.

Origins for Richmond’s proposal started with the Bay Area Green New Deal in 2020 — a policy document written in collaboration with scientists, labor, activists, Indigenous communities, and elected officials.

“The Bay Area Green New Deal is about jobs — good paying jobs that will usher in the economy of the future, that leaves no community behind,” says Justine Burt, author of The Great Pivot.

Advocacy of the plan started with Bay Area Green New Deal town halls, educational forums, and workshops for elected officials and city staffers.

These workshops were produced by the Sierra Club in coalition with Generation Green, the Bay Area Green New Deal Alliance, Contra Costa County Climate Leaders, Our Revolution East Bay, and others.

The Bay Area Green New Deal was developed by Sierra Club activist and environmental scientist Dr. Wietske Medema and sustainability policymaker Justine Burt, with involvement from frontline communities and stakeholders. The name is a reference to the economic and public works projects undertaken by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the labor movement during the Great Depression, giving a sense of the size of mobilization needed to tackle climate change.

“To tackle the climate crisis, cities need to redesign countless systems and enable new kinds of climate adaptation, mitigation, and resilience. The City of Richmond has shown its commitment to meet this moment,” says Dr. Wietske Medema.

Invaluable support for the policy was provided by Sierra Club stalwarts Igor Tregub, Olga Bolotina, and Paul Seger, Environmental Protection Agency scientist Lynda Deschambault, labor activist Steve Ongerth, former Fremont City Councilmember Vinnie Bacon, former Vice Mayor of Dublin Arun Goel, Food & Water Watch director Mark Schlosberg, California State University, Chico economics professor Mark Stemen, green advocates Jeff and Lisa Songster, Sunrise Movement activists Massimo Lambert-Mullen and Maria Luisa Esteves, environmental journalist Ted Franklin, and economist Fadhel Kaboub.

Activists hope the victory and success of Richmond’s Green-Blue New Deal will animate other Bay Area cities to embrace comprehensive economic action that will benefit workers and residents.

Nature writer Rachel Carson once said, “hope is also a natural resource.” With the IPCC report saying it's “Now Or Never” about addressing the climate crisis — this is no time to give up. Richmond is showing the way forward. Now is the time for all municipalities to act.

Mark Van Landuyt is the chair of the Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter Contra Costa Green New Deal Committee.