To Curb Illegal Dumping, Richmond Turns to Goats


News Report, Nancy DeVille

A goat grazing along North Richmond’s abandoned lots isn’t an everyday scene. But the herd could be an unlikely savior in the city’s fight to curb illegal dumping.

Illegal dumping has plagued overgrown lots in Richmond for years as vacant lots become trash dumps. Offenders leave behind bags of garbage, construction debris, a mattress or an occasional antiquated appliance.

“You name it, they dump it,” said Linetta Copper, a longtime North Richmond resident.

The city’s code enforcement officers collect an average of 12.09 tons of waste in North Richmond monthly, one of the highest amounts in the city.

Now city officials have a new tool that they hope will reduce illegal dumping.

Earlier this month, a herd of goats from the grazing company Goats R Us chomped away at the weeds of an empty lot at 695 Chesley Ave.

“The goats are really a conversation starter to really get community members to come together,” said Kiana Ward, an organizer for the recent event. “It’s a really unique idea that could get people to stop dumping.”

IMG_7087Residents and children from Verde Elementary and the Shield-Reid Community Center gathered to see the goats and learn about ways to stop illegal dumping. Kids colored “Stop illegal dumping” signs that will be placed in locations around North Richmond in hopes of preventing people from littering their neighborhood.

“The problem of illegal dumping in North Richmond is getting to the point where code enforcement won’t be able to deal with it anymore without any help from residents,” said Ward. “For people in North Richmond, it’s really become a big issue.”

This is the first time Richmond has tried goat gazing, but it’s been effective in surrounding Bay Area cities. The event was part of the city’s Love Your Block, a three-year initiative to engage community members in revitalizing their neighborhoods one block at a time.

“These goats will eat just about everything, but they don’t eat much trash. Let’s make North Richmond trash free in a year,” Mayor Tom Butt said to a cheering crowd during the goat event.

Plans are underway to incorporate goat grazing as a regular tool for the Richmond Code Enforcement to combat illegal dumping. The city already uses state of the art cameras at known littering hot spots to catch dumpers in the act or discourage them altogether.

Richmond officials encourage anyone who finds an illegal dump to report it to the Richmond Public Works Department at 510-231-3043. Call the Police Department at 9-1-1 to report active dumping.



Greening North Richmond

Story , Tania Pulido | Photos, David Meza

It was a cold, cloudy day and I was standing outside of the Multicultural Senior Center in Richmond waiting for volunteers and staff to arrive for this year’s “Beautification Project” ahead of the 5th Annual North Richmond Green Festival.

As I waited a burst of rain came down, but by the time the volunteers started to arrive the giant grey clouds hovering over us broke and the sun radiated through.

DSC_0121The community beautification event happened in the hours before the 5th Annual North Richmond Green Festival, on October 25th, at the Athletics Field. The festival began five years ago as a collaboration between community groups, residents and county agencies to raise awareness about the North Richmond Green Campaign and improve the environment and health of the community.

As the Community Engagement Manager for the North Richmond Farm and Beautification Projects for Urban Tilth, my role that day was to lead the planting activity at the senior center. With the help of seniors, youth, children and adults, we sowed over 60 plants—including lettuce, calendula, native flowers, cabbage and collards.

Tommy James, better known as “Coach Tommy,” helped plant with his kids. Coach Tommy was raised in North Richmond and coaches multiple sports for the North Richmond Green Sports Program. He also serves as a mentor to youth and adults in the community, encouraging them to get involved in community service projects.

Coach Tommy has been involved with initiatives to help green North Richmond for the past seven years, and has participated in all five North Richmond Green Festivals. “This event is very important, Coach Tommy told me. “We need to do this every month… this is beautiful and I love it.”

DSC_0034Bienvenida Meza works at the Verde Elementary Garden Program, an Urban Tilth project. Meza has been involved in garden projects for 20 years and lives in North Richmond. That day she was helping and teaching kids how to plant.

After all the beds, borders, and barrels were planted with the donations from Urban Tilth, Annie’s Annuals, and Sunnyside Organics, the senior center volunteers and staff loaded into cars with freshly wrapped gifts for the raffle. We filled our truck with plants and headed to the Athletics Field to join the festivities.

As we arrived at the park, Carla Orozco from Neighborhood House greeted us. Orozco is the main organizer of the event and helped pioneer the festival five years ago. Neighborhood House of North Richmond is a non-profit that addresses neighborhood needs and supports residents in the North Richmond community.

“Because of the high amount of illegal dumping and blight it’s important to connect neighbors to resources and support systems to help them improve their community and health,” said Orozco, who is also a Community Services Coordinator with the North Richmond Green Campaign. The campaign is collaboration between county, city, and community based organizations in North Richmond with the goal to clean up and beautify the community by deploying initiatives that unite residents.

Blanca Sosa, a North Richmond resident and mother of two, brought her children to the festival to ride the ponies and the train, jump in the inflatable castle, enjoy the live music and eat free sandwiches. Sosa said the event provided “lots of useful information” and her favorite booth was Urban Tilth’s—in part because it had free plants.

Also displaying at the festival were Marin Clean Energy, West Contra Costa County Library Resources, Multicultural Senior and Family Center, Neighborhood House, and more. The Contra Costa County Watershed Program brought a small-scale city that showed how pollution affects waterways.

Vaibhay Sutrayer, who works for the Watershed Program, said pollution is “a severe problem” in North Richmond. Like the beautification project and the green festival, he said the solution must start with the people.

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Richmond Bus Shootings a Major Safety Issue

Blog, D’Vondre Woodards,
Feb 28, 2011

Editor’s Note: Following the shooting of a Richmond public transit bus, police are now being required to escort the 376 bus line as it makes it’s way through North Richmond.

I take the bus everyday in North Richmond to get across town, it helps me get to Del Norte BART station so I can go to school in San Francisco. Most of the time I’m by myself waiting for the bus and there’s no benches to sit on. The 76 or 376 bus lines both go through central and south Richmond. The passengers are diverse – blacks ,whites and latinos of all ages. I’m usually on the bus less than an hour before something happens, like if someone asks a turf question asking someone what side of the city their from. There are a few minor things that happen on the bus, like fights, but none of those things ever bother me because I live in North Richmond.

When I heard about the bus being shot at I was really surprised! I know that gang violence is heavy in Richmond, but the most I’ve ever seen happen on the bus is a high school fight. Sometimes I ask myself “Do these cameras even work.” I usually feel safe, but what about the people that cannot protect their self?

The possibility of being an innocent bystander is very likely to happen in Richmond, because the people that are involved with this criminal activity just shoot no matter who’s around babies, kids, pregnant women, and elders. I can understand why the bus divers are afraid. Bullets aren’t like people, they don’t have a name or a purpose.

Without public transportation coming through North Richmond life will be a lot harder for me. I use the bus to go to school everyday and without it I would have no transportation. But it is a great risk for all of us in the city of Richmond.