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Introducing "Greening in Place: Protecting Communities from Displacement"

An anti-displacement guide for green infrastructure development

The Audubon Center at Debs Park is proud to introduce Greening in Place: Protecting Communities from Displacementa comprehensive resource for park agencies, conservation organizations, local decision makers and community advocates to engage in equitable green infrastructure development. 

The Guide assesses displacement risks associated with green infrastructure investment and provides a number of recommended strategies to reduce the potential harmful economic impacts such investments may have on vulnerable populations.

The Center worked on this guide in partnership with SEACA-LA, Public Counsel, and Team Friday. We would not have been able to complete this Guide without the valuable insight and hard work contributed by these "nontraditional" partners. This Guide was made possible by Prop 1 funding through the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

What is green infrastructure?

When we talk about “green infrastructure” in this Guide, we are referring broadly to developments promoted on the basis of environmental sustainability and urban greening. Investments in green infrastructure can include a broad range of projects, from park development to bicycle infrastructure. For the purposes of this Guide, green infrastructure also includes what is sometimes referred to as “gray infrastructure,” such as bicycle lanes, farm-to-table restaurants, energy efficiency buildings, and improved recycling programs. In Los Angeles, a high profile example of large scale green infrastructure planning is the ongoing revitalization of the LA River.

What is green gentrification?

Green infrastructure projects are often financed with public dollars, with the stated intent of building healthy communities for underserved populations and of improving access to green amenities in under-resourced, low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. But such investments, together with shifting job and housing markets, can also set in motion or intensify a process of gentrification and displacement—a process called “green gentrification.” 

First, green infrastructure investments make neighborhoods more attractive places to live, which increases surrounding housing costs and spurs real estate speculation. This, in turn, attracts both new development and new residents with different racial and socioeconomic characteristics to surrounding neighborhoods. Without robust protections in place, low-income individuals and families are either immediately and directly displaced by evictions, or quickly become overburdened by rising rents that dramatically outpace their incomes. The accelerated cost burden ultimately leads to a tipping point, after which greater financial sacrifice or doubling up with friends and relatives become untenable and families fall into homelessness. Over time, these neighborhoods lose their low-income residents and residents of color. Such displacement harms long-term residents, resident-owned businesses, and neighborhood culture and social capital, as well as gravely affecting community health and wellbeing.

What is equitable green development?

When we talk about equitable green development in this Guide, we refer to development that prioritizes investment in, and engagement with, low-income communities and communities of color that have historically been excluded from and/or harmed by land use and environmental policy decisions.

An equitable green development framework aims to rectify these harms and improve access to green infrastructure in low-income communities and communities of color. Equitable green development ensures that green infrastructure benefits historically disadvantaged people and communities.

So...why Audubon?

Through community centered programming, the Audubon Center at Debs Park has strengthened relationships with people in the neighborhood and expanded its reach beyond the physical confines of the park itself. This has helped the Center authentically reach audiences traditionally ignored or undervalued by the environmental movement.

Through its deep community engagement, the Center has come to see that park and conservation agencies can play an important role in fights to prevent gentrification and displacement. This begins by recognizing that the work of park and conservation agencies occurs within a broader social context. To the Center, in order to serve the community, we need to be engaged with the community’s struggles. We firmly believe that by prioritizing community needs, park and conservation agencies can achieve significant results for neighborhoods: more green space and more stable, secure housing for people, leading to a stronger bond of stewardship among people, their waterways, and bird habitats. This Guide is the outgrowth of this belief.

What do we hope will come from this Guide?

When it comes to green infrastructure development, community members are often placed with the burden of raising concerns of displacement to local decision makers, and they typically end up having to spend a significant amount of time advocating on behalf of their own communities. This is usually on top of working full-time, raising families, and dealing with the number of other factors that impact their daily lives. Oftentimes these concerns are ultimately dismissed or ignored, or park agenices and developers do not provide "opportunities for feedback" until it's essentially too late to truly address the community's concerns. 

The goal of this Guide is really to place the burden back on local park agenices, developers, and decision makers to do the work to engage and invest in communities from the very beginning of a green development project. We hope that this Guide will serve as a useful tool for park agencies and decision makers who want to do this work, but perhaps don't know where to start. Green developers should no longer have an excuse to ignore the impacts that green development can have on displacement and gentrification. We hope that they will take action to implement strategies outlined in the Guide, so that we can all work together to build a more inclusive and sustainable future for our local communities here in Los Angeles and beyond. 

Where can you access the Guide?

The Guide is available to view and download online at https://www.greeninginplace.com/

Please contact debspark@audubon.org with any questions, comments, or concerns!

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