EDITOR’S NOTE: Multimedia journalist Taylor Torregano spoke with Lauren Sanchez, Bezos Earth Fund vice chair, and the planning director of Pacoima Beautiful about the fund's announcement. Click the arrow above to watch the video.
LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The Bezos Earth Fund announced a $400 million Greening America’s Cities initiative aimed at creating more equitable access to urban green spaces with more parks, trees and community gardens — and Los Angeles-area organizations will receive $12 million for the effort.
The Bezos Earth Fund is Jeff Bezos’ $10 billion project to fund scientists, activists, NGOs and other actors as they seek climate and nature solutions.
Lauren Sánchez, Bezos Earth Fund vice chair, joined White House Senior Adviser John Podesta along with state and city officials and community groups at the Pacoima Wash in the San Fernando Valley Monday morning to celebrate $12 million that will benefit local projects.
“Green spaces are critical for people and the planet,” Andrew Steer, president and CEO of the Bezos Earth Fund, said in a statement. “The Bezos Earth Fund is proud to partner with local communities and government to expand urban green spaces.”
“In partnership, this new initiative will support historically underserved communities, supporting their health and well-being,” Steer said.
Among the local beneficiaries, Pacoima Beautiful received $3.5 million to support the first phase of a project to reshape four miles of the Pacoima Wash. The award will help fund construction costs, community organization and outreach, professional development to secure additional funding, hiring additional staff and volunteer training.
“My community has long been on the front line of the climate crisis,” Rep. Tony Cárdenas, D-Los Angeles, said in a statement. “Growing up in Pacoima, the air quality was so bad that we were prevented from playing outside.”
Cárdenas added, “Today, even as circumstances have improved, residents not only endure poor air quality, but also extreme heat and drought. Fighting the climate crisis requires all hands on deck.”
The nonprofit TreePeople received $1.9 million to plant and maintain at least 4,250 trees in underserved communities in LA. In addition, the funding will help TreePeople launch multilingual community organizing efforts to expand urban greening, work to shape policy and green infrastructure support at the state and local level, and engage with underserved youth about career opportunities in the environmental sector.
“This is a critical step toward transformative change, holistically advancing both the greening of urban neighborhoods and the lives of those who live there, through increased urban tree canopy, community organizing, workforce development and actionable policy to combat the climate crisis,” Cindy Montañez, CEO of TreePeople, said in a statement.
SE Asian Community Alliance received $500,000 and will partner with the Los Angeles Regional Open Space and Affordable Housing Collaborative for efforts to prevent displacement of long-term residents of communities adjacent to Taylor Yard — a formerly contaminated rail maintenance yard which is being transformed into a 100-acre park.
The East LA Community Corporation received $300,000 to partner with community farming organization Campos de Cultivo to complete the Lorena Terrace Community Garden and two additional green spaces. Through the project, Boyle Heights will gain access to fresh food, as well as a space for physical activity and build community.
Additional organizations funded to work in Los Angeles, includes:
- Hip Hop Caucus;
- Green Cities California;
- Urban Sustainability Directors Network;
- Trust for Public Land;
- USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences; and
- UCLA Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies.
According to UCLA, the $545,000 grant it received will support ethnic journalists with fellowships and workshops to assist in their coverage of urban greening projects.
USC Dornsife received $2.9 million for its Urban Trees Initiative aimed at increasing the number of trees and identifying communities that would most benefit from them.
Other inaugural Greening America’s Cities include projects in Albuquerque, Atlanta, Chicago, and Wilmington, Delaware.
The Greening America’s Cities initiative builds on the Earth Fund’s earlier $300 million in funding to climate and environmental justice groups in the U.S.