Why Richmond’s General Plan Must Pass

Op-Ed, Sheryl Lane

Richmond has reached a major milestone with the City Council hearing on the adoption of the General Plan scheduled for April 17th. The opportunities presented by Richmond’s General Plan update have been just beyond our grasp for the past five years. Planning consultants, council members, and other city officials have come and gone during the General Plan years; however, a group of committed city staff and community members has tried to move the process forward.

A General Plan is a city’s long-term vision that guides future policy and economic decisions that range in scope from what types of businesses come to Richmond and where they locate to what types of housing and recreation amenities are available for residents.

Some unique features of Richmond’s updated General Plan include recommendations that promote a community health-based vision and move the city toward a more equitable and accountable system of land-use planning.

Among the plan’s 12 elements is the landmark Community Health and Wellness Element, which guides a policy framework that encompasses many of our residents’ quality-of-life concerns, such as increasing access to healthy food and increasing neighborhood lighting to reduce crime. This element is unique because Richmond is the first city in California to draft a General Plan element solely addressing community health.

This General Plan’s additional long-term benefits for Richmond are highlighted in the economic development, land use, circulation, health and wellness, and energy and climate elements.

The Planning Commission recommendations represent the input and energy of a diverse cross-section of Richmond residents and stakeholders, including those involved with the community-based Richmond Equitable Development Initiative (REDI)*. At every step of this process, historically under-represented groups have provided input in the planning processes that most affect their lives and livelihoods.

The Economic Development Element suggests local hire and workforce development provisions that offer Richmond residents opportunities to be trained and employed in living-wage jobs right here in the city.

Ideally, some of these opportunities will come from new large-scale employers in emerging industries, including the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), which recently chose the UC Field Station in Richmond for its new campus site. LBNL’s site in Richmond could mean the creation of a new and diverse industrial cluster aimed at renewable energy or clean technologies.

Renewable energy employers can turn the tide from dependence on industries that emit high levels of pollution to low emissions industries, effectively improving our environment and our economy.

Adoption of this General Plan means a better Richmond community to live, work, shop, and play. Let’s pass this General Plan for Richmond’s economy, environmental quality, and our community’s health.


Note:  Sheryl Lane is a long time Richmond resident and a Planning Commissioner on the Richmond Planning Commission. Please note that the views expressed here represent Sheryl Lane only and not those of the Richmond Planning Commission. 

*REDI comprises the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Asian Pacific Environmental Network Laotian Organizing Project (LOP), Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), Contra Costa Faith Works, Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization (CCISCO), and Urban Habitat. 

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