Urban Tilth Celebrates 10 Years of Food Justice


Photo Essay, David Meza and Malcolm Marshall

Marking a decade of community gardening, about 225 people came from across the Bay Area to the Craneway Pavilion on Saturday, Oct. 3 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the non-profit Urban Tilth.

The fundraiser included bus tours of some of Urban Tilth’s community gardens in Richmond, along with a seasonal harvest dinner prepared by the People’s Kitchen of Oakland. The event also featured live music and dancing, including a stirring a cappella performance by singer Jennifer Johns.

Urban Tilth works to put healthy and sustainable foods into the kitchens of Richmond and West Contra Costa County residents. Employing local youth, the group manages community gardens through the area — many in schools, where they grow and sell food and teach community members to cultivate their own gardens.

“What makes Urban Tilth so powerful is their commitment not just to healthy food or healthy land, but above all to healthy people and community power,” said Josh Healey, emcee for the evening.

“They put young people, black and brown people, at the center of the conversation about what food justice looks like in Richmond,” he said. “They have a bold vision. It’s not just about one little garden here or there; they’re on their way to radically transforming the whole food system in Richmond and beyond.”

Inside the Craneway, the event began with a screening of “Gaining Ground,” the new work from Portland, Oregon filmmakers Barbara Bernstein and Elaine Velazquez, which looks at both rural and urban farmers feeding local communities sustainably by changing their farming practices. Urban Tilth and its executive director Doria Robinson feature prominently in the film.

“Urban Tilth brings together youth organizing, environmental justice and urban agriculture in a totally unique, beautiful way,” said Healey. “As this drought continues in California, and climate change [continues] across the globe, they’re teaching all of us the skills we’ll need to thrive and survive as a community — and really, a species. I love Urban Tilth not just because they show me how to grow food and eat right, but because they really show us all how to live.”

Richmond Rent Control Stalls — and Could Go Up for a Vote



News Report, Nancy DeVille

Editor’s Note: Richmond was the first city in the state to pass a rent control law in more than 30 years. Now it could end up going up for a vote.

Richmond’s controversial rent control ordinance has hit a snag after the California Apartment Association submitted more than 7,000 signatures opposing the plan, a move that blocked it from becoming law.

The ordinance, which was approved by the City Council on Aug. 5, was scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 4. It was drafted to stabilize rents for about 10,000 residences in Richmond, limiting annual rent increases to 100 percent of the Consumer Price Index. Condominiums, single-family homes, Section 8 housing and properties built after Feb. 1, 1995 are exempt.

Once the Contra Costa County Elections Office certifies the signatures, the Richmond City Council can opt to repeal the ordinance, place it on the ballot next November or call a special election for voters to decide.

Tom Bannon, chief executive officer of CAA, argued that since the City Council “fast-tracked” the ordinance approval, the referendum would give residents more time to think more about what rent control means for Richmond’s future.

“Rent control has long-lasting, negative impacts on communities,” he said in a news release. “That’s one reason no other city in California has approved rent control in decades.”

But supporters of the ordinance worry that the plan’s delay will leave residents with rising rents or simply priced out of Richmond. According to a report by UC Berkeley’s Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, the median rent in Richmond rose 13 percent between January 2014 and January 2015.

It’s an issue Joanus Youngblood knows too well. She was forced to relocate last year after her landlord raised the rent by $250. She has since settled in Oakland.

“I grew up in Richmond and I really loved living there and being close to work. But I didn’t have any other options and couldn’t find anything that was affordable,” she said.

Youngblood works as a case manager, helping Richmond families find affordable housing.

“Housing is the number one need for the families that I serve,” she said. “A lot of my families were depending on this rent control bill. Their kids are in school in Richmond but they can’t really afford to live there. So some end up in homeless shelters or living in their cars.”

Joe Fisher, a local realtor and longtime Richmond resident, says he opposes the rent control ordinance because it could be detrimental to the city’s future.

“Richmond is starting to change but it’s still one of the lowest [priced] places for quality living in the entire Bay Area. In the long range, we will be just like San Francisco and Berkeley, where everyday people will not be able to find a decent place to rent,” he said.

“When I talk to some people in Berkeley and Oakland, they wish they would not have voted for [rent control]. After a few years, some want to move to a larger unit, but they are stuck and can’t afford it,” he added.

Some proponents hope the rent control ordinance will curtail the exodus of African American residents from the city. The city’s black population fell by 12,500 people between 2000 and 2013, according to the UC Berkeley Haas Institute study. African Americans now make up 24 percent of Richmond’s population.

In recent years, black families have relocated to cities like Pittsburg, Vallejo, Fairfield and Antioch in search of cheaper housing. Eli Moore, co-author of the report, said nearly two out of three African American households in Richmond are renters.

“For those residents who do not have disposable income to cover the rising rent prices, rent control could prevent these households from being displaced,” Moore said.

While many have chosen to leave Richmond, Deyong Hollman says he is determined to stay. He’s seen some major improvements in recent years, including a decline in violent crime. And as Bay Area freeways become more congested, the city’s central location is prime for the daily commute.

Hollman, a real estate investor and lifelong resident who supports rent control, hopes to be part of the trend that transforms some of the city’s blighted housing.

“Richmond is prime for redevelopment,” said Hollman, “but the playing field needs to remain fair.”


Rosie the Riveter – Still Inspiring Women in Richmond


Story, Nancy DeVille | Photos, David Meza

They came from all over the Bay Area. Hundreds of women in navy blue coveralls, knee high red socks, black work boots and red and white polka dot bandannas. All to be a part of history and pay homage to the woman known as Rosie the Riveter.

The Rosie lookalikes gathered at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park to attempt to break a Guinness Book world record for the most Rosies gathered in one place since World War II. The previous record of 776 Rosies was set in Ypsilanti, Mich. last year.

For Yenni Velazquez, the Rosie rally was an opportunity to educate her seven-year-old daughter Yennell, who met one of the original Rosies at the event.

The original Rosies were workers at Richmond’s Kaiser shipyards who took jobs during World War II that were traditionally held by men. They earned the nickname Rosie the Riveter and worked as buckers, welders and electricians. The Rosies are renowned for redefining the women’s role in the workplace and inspiring women of all ages.

“The minute we got out of the car it felt like we were part of a scene back in the ‘40s, because there were Rosies everywhere,” Velazquez said. “It empowered my daughter for her to hear one of the original Rosies tell her, ‘You can do anything you want to do.’”

Ellen Seskin, a Richmond resident, said the event brought together a diverse group of women. “For just a few hours, there weren’t black women and white women and Asian women, old women and young women,” she said. “We were all just Rosie the Riveter, [coming] together for a common cause, just as I imagine the real Rosies did.”

Guinness must still validate the head count and ensure the women were dressed in the official Rosie attire before the record is official. But Rosie officials believe the record was broken because they sold more than 800 of the famed polka dot bandannas before the rally. During the event, organizers announced that 1,084 attended.

“It was important for me to get involved for something that was bringing positivity to Richmond,” added Velazquez. “We have some pretty awesome women that can come together and break a world record. It gave me hope that we can get together and continue to bring out the best in Richmond.”

Small Businesses Discuss What New ‘Global’ Campus Will Mean for Richmond


News Report, Malcolm Marshall

Just as the city of Berkeley developed around the University of California, Berkeley, the planned Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay is expected to be an enormous economic development opportunity for Richmond. But what can be done to ensure that it benefits the city’s small businesses? That was the question at the center of a breakfast meeting in August at the Richmond Civic Center, where about 75 local business leaders filled the room.

The breakfast, sponsored by Healthy Richmond and Richmond Main Street Initiative, in cooperation with UC Berkeley, invited local businesses to discuss how businesses can prepare for opportunities and growth from the new campus. The breakfast also provided a chance to hear from locals on what the Berkeley Global Campus could do to support Richmond businesses.

“There’s going to be a lot of money invested,” said Roxanne Carrillo Garza, Healthy Richmond hub manager. “We’re interested in making sure that business owners themselves had a chance to weigh in on what they need to really be successful and be able to compete for procurement opportunities.”

Biggest economic development since World War II

The Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay is slated to be the largest economic development to come to Richmond since the shipyards of World War II. It will be built at the Richmond Field Station, a site on the waterfront just off the Regatta Boulevard exit of Interstate 580 that has sweeping views the San Francisco skyline. The development will span 152 acres, about three-quarters the size of UC Berkeley’s main campus.

According to the recent “Anchor Richmond” report by the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, the campus will likely become the largest employer in Richmond within a decade. By the year 2040, it’s projected to be at full capacity with a daily average of 10,000 workers, faculty, students and visitors.

A report by UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business estimates that construction costs could range between $520 million and $900 million. The “Anchor Richmond” report estimates that 2,700 jobs will be generated in the first phase (2014-2018) of construction.

How local businesses can prepare

“I think there’s a need for education, for workforce development, for helping businesses to build their capacities,” said Roesia Gerstein, UC Berkeley’s supplier diversity program manager.

Some groups are already working to give small businesses the tools they need to compete for campus contracts.

Among the attendees were representatives from small business development programs that offer local businesses training and technical assistance to help them compete for UC Berkeley procurement.

This fall, the city of Richmond is also launching the Richmond Build Contractors Resource Center, a new contractors’ capacity building center to help small, local contractors compete for jobs on large-scale public construction projects. According to the chancellor’s office, UC Berkeley plans to partner with the center.

Gerstein is also part of a committee where she represents UC Berkeley in discussions about how to support local businesses. The committee, which aims to draft procurement strategies and ideas, has recommended that UC Berkeley respond to the barriers that local businesses are facing.

Draft recommendations also include calling on UC Berkeley to set a specific goal for increasing procurement from Richmond businesses, partner with Richmond programs that build the capacity of local businesses to compete, and regularly address policies that may create barriers for small businesses to access these opportunities.

At the breakfast, Gerstein said she was energized by the amount of excitement and interest she heard from attendees.

“Part of the challenge,” said Gerstein, “is for us to work through the policies and the regulations and requirements that we have with the State of California and the federal government to able to use local businesses the best way possible.”

But some fear that Richmond’s local residents and businesses could be left out of the prosperity that the global campus will bring.

What happens in Richmond should benefit Richmond

Over a year ago, a coalition of concerned community members formed a group called Raise Up Richmond to make sure the campus is a win‑win for both UC and Richmond. They’ve sought to get UC Berkeley’s commitment to a Community Benefits Agreement that could include guaranteeing local hiring, a housing displacement fund, affordable
housing and the protection of longtime residents from displacement.

Earlier this year, UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks committed to entering into a Community Benefits Agreement but what concessions, if any, that agreement will contain is still being determined.

“The stakes are very high for the people of Richmond,” said Todd Stenhouse, spokesperson for Local 3299 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “Whether it’s making sure there are good jobs in the community or making sure people aren’t displaced from their homes or making sure that small businesses have a chance to share in any prosperity that is connected to the project. Absent a CBA, there are no such guarantees that the project will realize its promise.”

Small business owners learning about new campus

Catahoula Coffee owner Timothy Manhart, who attended the breakfast, says he’s seen Richmond grow since he first opened his neighborhood coffee shop on San Pablo Avenue. He says he may not see a huge uptick in his business from the campus but is interested in the impact the campus will have on the overall Richmond community.

“When the housing collapsed, that’s when I started my business at Catahoula. Seeing all the turbulence that hit, what I saw as a benefit were young professionals who started seeking out Richmond,” he said. “That’s what I think will really help out the overall status of Richmond, just being the last affordable place that’s commutable distance to San Francisco to live.”

Carrillo Garza of Healthy Richmond said the business breakfast provided attendees with information on opportunities they didn’t know about.

For Salvador Moreno, who works at Pro Sound on 23rd Street doing car stereo and alarm installations, the breakfast was the first time he had heard about the planned UC Berkeley campus coming to Richmond. He said he came to the event in search of information about training to better serve his customers.

“Some trainings and connections with partners would help us most,” he said. “Training on how to use the Internet more. I’m just starting to learn it and now it comes with the new systems in the new cars so I need to learn a bit more to do better.”

Richmond resident Charlene Chabural, who works for local general contractor Overaa Construction, came to the event to network with other local business professionals.

“We’ve been following the story on the Richmond Global Campus and it’s something we’re very excited about,” said Chabural. “We know that it’s going to open up a lot of opportunities for our line of work and also for our subcontractors.”

“It really comes down to two things,” added Carrillo Garza. “It’s to make sure our local businesses thrive here and scale up so they can actually compete for these opportunities; and to make sure there are more jobs for our local residents. At the end of the day, we want to make sure that 1,000 people are getting hired for these business opportunities.”

Local Motorcyclists Giveaway Hundreds of Backpacks to Richmond Kids

Photo Essay, David Meza

As long summer days wind down, parents and kids around Richmond are ramping up back to school shopping. But for around 300 children there’ll be a few less necessities to buy thanks to an unlikely partnership between Richmond’s Recreation Department and the One Richmond Motorcycle Association, a collective of several different motorcycle clubs based in the city.

The two disparate groups came together to show support for Richmond’s youth by giving out free backpacks and school supplies on August 8 to children who participated in the recreation department’s summer camps.

The motorcycle association paid for the backpacks and community members donated the funds for school supplies. Also included in each backpack was “Be a Change Agent for Your Community,” a children’s book by Andre A. Lewis about the work of the city’s Office of Neighborhood Safety.

“The best part was seeing the smiles on the kid’s faces,” said Dean Vigil, a summer camp program coordinator. “We allowed them to choose what kinds of school supplies they wanted; paper, pencils, file folders, staples… they were able to get what they wanted.”

Vigil said that the event seemed to be a success all around. “We had a long line,” he said. “The parents were very thankful and appreciative. You could tell people in Richmond really needed it.”

Darryl ‘Starchild’ Robinson, president of All Access VIPs and founder of the One Richmond Motorcycle Association said that the association decided to partner with the city to help build community.

“Richmond is a hard place to grow up,” he said. “We are trying to bridge the gap between our clubs and the kids of our communities.”

Three Years Later


By Tania Pulido

The memory is a vivid one for me. It was a beautiful day in Richmond; I was hanging out in my backyard in Richmond Annex when I heard sirens. My heart dropped, the first words that came out of my mouth were, “It’s not Wednesday.” I kept repeating that sentence as I moved closer to the fence to get a better view of the Chevron refinery where a black cloud of smoke was billowing up from, before spreading over parts of Richmond and San Pablo.

Three years have passed since the refinery fire on August 6, 2012. To recognize the anniversary elected officials, community organizations and residents gathered out front of the Richmond Civic Center this year.

The event was held as a way to remember the tragedy while celebrating the community’s resiliency. Speakers included Richmond City Council members Eduardo Martinez and Gayle McLaughlin, along with leaders from local activist groups.

Lipo Chanthanasak an active member in the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, moved to Richmond in 1988 and was deeply affected by the fire. “This is a history we cannot forget,” Chanthanasak said. “We learned that it could’ve been prevented but it wasn’t.”

The fire sent 15,000 people to nearby hospitals, illustrating the damage the refinery could do. As a community gardener with Urban Tilth, I was heartbroken when we decided it was necessary to remove plants from the garden, and stop gardening until we could have soil tests done. I remember being moved hearing co-workers share their stories of digging up their gardens and feeling hopeless, not knowing if their gardens were safe, with the crowd at the town hall meeting following the fire.

Following the fire we experienced a new level of community action. People who normally did not participate in political actions showed up to events, community leaders who tended to be neutral about Chevron’s business practices took to social media to voice their discontent with the corporation and it seemed that from all over the political spectrum people were devastated to experience another explosion.

Stephanie Harvey, a Richmond resident shared her experience at the hospital following the fire. “When I went to Kaiser the doctor was wearing normal clothing, no suit,” she said. “He prescribed aspirin and sent me home. He didn’t even look at my eyes even after I told him about my concerns.”

Others were concerned that not enough had changed for the better in the years following the tragedy. “Chevron is still here polluting,” Olivia Eldred, a nurse with the California Nurses Association told the crowd. “And if there is a next explosion where will people go?” she asked, referring to the recent closer of Doctors Medical Center—a hospital that previously served a large part of Richmond and San Pablo residents.

Reverend Earl Koteen of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley said that while he believes the people who work at the refinery are not evil, the outcomes and effects the refinery wrecks on nearby communities is. Koteen challenged attendees to find a middle ground with those who work at the refinery and those who are actively organizing to hold them accountable. “May we find love in the battle,” he said.


Plan Ahead, Richmond: BART Shutdowns To Affect 100K



By Nancy DeVille | Photo Courtesy of Richmond Confidential

Richmond residents may want to think twice before heading across the bay Aug. 1-2 and again on Labor Day weekend Sept. 5-7, as a Bay Area Rapid Transit tube closure is expected to displace about 100,000 transbay BART passengers.

BART will suspend train service between the East Bay and San Francisco to do $2 million of critical track repair work, replacing worn tracks and installing an interlock track between the West Oakland station and the eastern entrance of the Transbay Tube.

“We need to get in there and completely tear out that section of track and rebuild it,” said Jim Allison, spokesman for BART. “This means replacing 932 rail ties, 2,000 feet of rail and rebuilding all the switches. This is something that we can only do in an intense, very quick period of time.”

Affected passengers are encouraged to use other public transit transbay options, such as ferries and area bus service. The San Francisco Bay Ferry will have additional service on its Alameda/Oakland/San Francisco and Vallejo/San Francisco routes during the BART closures.

“Driving is not going to be a good option,” Allison said.

Ninety-four buses from the AC Transit, Golden Gate, Muni and SamTrans lines will operate as part of a continuous, coordinated “lifeline” shuttle service between the 19th Street BART station and the Transbay Temporary Terminal at Howard and Beale streets in San Francisco. Officials say riders should consider the buses a last option, predicting one to two hour delays for some customers. Riders are encouraged to lock their bikes at stations rather than bringing them onto crowded buses.

Other BART service, except for the closure at the West Oakland station, will continue to operate, though rerouting the trains will still cause delays elsewhere in the system, officials said. On average, BART’s ridership throughout the system hits well over 200,000 on Saturdays and more than 150,000 on Sundays.

“We understand the interruption in service will be a significant inconvenience for tens of thousands of people, but we simply can’t avoid making these repairs,” said BART Assistant General Manager for Operations Paul Oversier. “We need to completely rebuild one of the hardest working sections of track in the entire BART system. Once the work is finished, riders can expect a faster, smoother ride between West Oakland and Embarcadero.”

For tips for travel during the shutdown weekends, visit http://www.bart.gov/news/articles/2015/news20150710.

Richmond Is First California City in Decades to Pass Rent Control



News Report, Malcolm Marshall

Beginning  Sep. 4, Richmond will become the first California city in decades — and the first in Contra Costa County ever — to enact a rent control ordinance, after a 4-1 approval by the Richmond City Council.

The new law will use the consumer price index for the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose region to limit annual rent increases — essentially meaning that rents can’t increase more than the overall expense of living in the area. Exempt properties include condominiums, single-family homes, Section 8 housing and units built after Feb. 1, 1995.

“What it does is help those people who are currently renters in about half the rental housing, stabilizing their rents and only allowing them to increase a reasonable amount as long as they are renting,” according to Mike Parker of the Richmond Progressive Alliance. “This helps keep neighborhoods stable, and keep kids in the same schools. This helps everyone concerned about our neighborhoods.”

Council members Jael Myrick, Jovanka Beckles, Gayle McLaughlin and Eduardo Martinez voted in favor, while Nat Bates dissented. Councilman Vinay Pimple and Mayor Tom Butt abstained.

Many property owners opposed to the measure spoke passionately during the heated public comments section of the meeting, calling the new rules unfair to landlords and arguing that rent control statutes create unintended consequence for the city.

“This rent control is just a punitive law,” said 80-year-old Mon Lee, who told the council that he’s lived in Richmond for 25 years and owns property here. “It requires the owner to subsidize the renter, [but] you already have Section 8 for that.”

“I’ve worked all my life since I bought the property; it has been in a negative cash flow and nobody helped me,” Lee added. “Now that I’m retired and can’t work, you change the law.”

But supporters said that rent control will defend low-income renters from rising Bay Area rents forcing them out of their homes.

“It’s a moral issue. We need to protect the least protected, the most vulnerable in our community,” said Tim Laidman. “I have had great landlords, and I appreciate them and think they’re an asset to this community. I also think that this law won’t hurt them, it will help them. It will make the other people that aren’t good compete with their goodness.”

After the vote, Butt took to his e-forum to lament the decision.

“Although I am disappointed that rent control passed, I was prepared to live with it, even though it is a colossal mistake for Richmond,” the mayor wrote. “It is kind of like a lottery; every ticket purchaser (in this case, renter) sees themselves as a winner, although most renters will see no benefit. As time goes on, the number of beneficiaries will dwindle, as will the supply of low-rent units, while all other renters will be faced with rent increases that will exceed what they would have been without rent control. This is what has happened in San Francisco and other rent-controlled cities.”

Laidman, however, noted that the new law will assist nearly 10,000 residents, most of them low-income.

“It’s not a criticism that it doesn’t affect everyone and can’t help everyone,” he said. “It shouldn’t stop us from doing what we can.”

Parker, meanwhile, argued that the ordinance addresses broader issues, such as slowing gentrification in Richmond.

“This measure does not stop gentrification and it does not provide more affordable housing,” Parker said. “[But it] gives us more time to try to deal with fundamental problems, like encouraging the building of more affordable housing, requiring mixed-income housing in developments that are coming, [and] programs to refurbish abandoned housing.”

UPDATE: A previous version of this article stated that the effective date of the rent control ordinance was December 1, 2015. The December 1 effective date was removed per City Council direction during the first reading of the ordinance on July 31, 2015.


Local Happenings July 2015

Independence Day Celebration

The City of Richmond will sponsor its annual 3rd of July Celebration from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday, July 3 at Marina Bay Park.

The (mostly) free event will include fireworks, food, live blues music and a pay-to-play youth area. The 20-minute fireworks display will start at 9:15 pm.

For more information, call 510-620- 6793.


New Park Opening

The grand opening of Santa Fe Union Park, formerly known as the South 2nd Street Play Lot, is scheduled for noon on Saturday, July 18.

The celebration will include food, refreshments and remarks from local community leaders and members. The park, located on South Second Street between Florida Avenue and Main Avenue, has undergone a total renovation with new children’s play areas and basketball and soccer courts.

To RSVP for the grand opening event, visit 4richmond.org of call the at 510-260-0290.


Reggae in Richmond

Reggae music will be center stage during a three-day festival coming to Richmond this month.

The Bay Area Reggae Festival is scheduled for July 17-19 at the Craneway Pavilion (1414 Harbour Way). Artists scheduled to appear include Bugle, Gyptian, Lady Saw, Romain Virgo, and Marcia Griffiths, among others. Ticket prices range from $75-$195, and will increase if purchased after July 9.

For a full list of performers or to purchase tickets, visit bayareareggaefest.net


New City of Richmond Mobile App

A City of Richmond app is now available for IOS devices and Android mobile phones. The app was designed to provide Richmond’s community members with one-stop access to city services and information. An informational video providing an overview of the app is accessible online from the city’s website.

The app can be downloaded for free from the Apple App Store and at Google Play.

Richmond officials would like feedback from the community on the new app, send in comments to webservices@ci.richmond.ca.us

Family Justice Center Opens at New Location


News Report, Keisa Reynolds | Photo,  Ann Bassette

After breaking ground in 2013, the West Contra Costa Family Justice Center held its grand opening this month at 256 24th Street. In the first year at its new location, the center is expected to help an estimated 2,000 survivors of domestic violence, family violence, elder abuse and human trafficking.

The center moved from its temporary location at Richmond Police Department’s substation at Hilltop Mall, where it had operated since 2011.

Mayor Tom Butt, who spoke at the opening reception, said the center was the first community construction project to impact the lives of victims and survivors of domestic violence. Other speakers included Police Chief Chris Magnus, Andrea Bailey from Chevron Richmond, and Jodi Ravel and Karen Kruger from Kaiser Permanente. Fourteen-year-old spoken word artist Sukari Wright from RYSE opened the ceremony with an inspirational poem.

County Supervisor John Gioia told the audience that the center “demonstrates what could happen when community and government do well working together.”

In 2001, Contra Costa County became the first Zero Tolerance for Domestic Violence County in California. As a part of the initiative, two centers have opened here in West County and Central County (Concord) with a third in East County underway.

Survivors of violence often have to speak with multiple agencies in order to get assistance. The center aims to eliminate this by offering dozens of on-site and off-site providers. Its partnerships give clients access to local organizations including Monument Crisis Center, Children and Family Services, Bay Area Community Resource, Bay Area Legal Aid, Community Violence Solutions, County Mental Health, Familias Unidas, Native American Health Center, and many more.

“We see that at about 50 percent of our clients identify as Hispanic or Latino. Our next biggest demographic is African American: About 30 percent of our clients identify as African American. We also see a significant number of Asian Americans,” said Elizabeth Wilmerding, director of Project Connect at West Contra Costa Family Justice Center.

Between its staff and partners, the center is able to offer services in 10 languages including Spanish, Korean, Lao, and Thai. The center also offers services for victims of many other demographics including children and youth, elders, veterans, and Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) individuals and families.

Clients work with navigators who help them create goals and connect them with services for long-term solutions. Clients can receive assistance from myriad services such as civil legal services, health care, mental health, housing, job training, tutoring, and prosecution.

Menbere Aklilu, owner of Salute e Vita Ristorante in the Marina, shared a personal story of her experience as a survivor of domestic violence. “Today, I fully love Richmond more, especially when I see this type of thing coming together,” she said.

Aklilu encouraged the community to invest in the center and, leading by example, she said she donated $15,000. “I am doing this for my mother, for me, my sister, brother, for all domestic violence survivors,” she said.

Chevron Richmond followed suit and donated $80,000 to the center.

Family Justice Center Alliance (FJCA) President Casey Gwinn praised the center for “creating a beacon of hope that will impact survivors for generations to come.”

“This is where you break the cycle,” he said, noting that many incarcerated people come from homes where child abuse and other forms of violence are present. “We end up locking people up instead of saving them.”

FJCA donated $65,000 at the beginning of stages of the project. Gwinn acknowledged project director Jennifer Anderson, who had recommended opening a family justice center in Richmond six years ago, and Gloria Sandoval, director of STAND! For Families Free of Violence, one of the center’s on-site partners.

“There isn’t a person listening to my voice who can’t involved in the family justice center going forward. Everybody here can do something to invest in this. This is how we can change the world.” Gwinn urged. “Twenty years from now it will matter that you were standing in this parking lot. It will matter Zero Tolerance was created. It will matter John Gioia said we’re going to make this countywide. It will matter that we invested ourselves here in changing the endings for survivors and their children.”

Residents can get involved with the work of the center by donating, volunteering, or participating in workshops offered by the Family Justice Institute.

Grand Opening of the West Contra Costa Family Justice Center from Alive & Free/ Street Soldiers on Vimeo.