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A very small tree in the middle of a park, next to a path. The word "Peach Durazio" is on a purple sign under the tree.

City shares millions in climate grant money with local nonprofits, including one marked ‘delinquent’

on October 30, 2023

Richmond has received a $35 million state grant for climate-related projects that will be put to use by the city and local organizations, including one whose nonprofit status is in jeopardy.

This month, the City Council unanimously approved contracts with the five groups that will share the Transformative Climate Communities grant. Councilmember Doria Robinson was absent for the vote. She is executive director of Urban Tilth, which will control 30% of the grant money and, as of Monday, was listed as “delinquent” on the California Attorney General’s Office’s Registry of Charitable Trusts.

Under the city’s distribution of the money: GRID Alternatives will receive $7.7 million; Urban Tilth, $7 million; Trust for Public Land, $4.8 million; Rich City Rides, $3.7 million; and Groundwork Richmond, $1 million. The city will use the remaining money to make biking, walking and transit improvements as well as to implement the grant projects.

Urban Tilth is the fiscal sponsor of Rich City Rides. A fiscal sponsor receives and manages money on behalf of a sponsored project, allowing that project to access the benefits of nonprofit status, explained Des Lafleur, a business attorney at UC Berkeley, School of Law.

Former Mayor Tom Butt questioned in his e-forum whether Urban Tilth was even eligible to receive the funds, noting its delinquent status with the California Justice Department.

The Attorney General’s Office marked Urban Tilth delinquent because the nonprofit had failed to file independent audits in 2020 and 2021, public records show. The Attorney General’s Office notified Urban Tilth in July and October that it could lose its tax-exempt status if it didn’t complete an audit.

“Are we doing our annual audit? Yes,” Robinson told Richmond Confidential, adding that the state had extended the organization’s deadline to Monday.

At the Oct. 3 council meeting, City Attorney Dave Aleshire cited an email from the Registry of Charitable Trusts that said “Urban Tilth can still solicit and receive contributions and/or otherwise conduct its day-to-day operations during this period.” 

Aleshire added, “The city can still distribute funds to Urban Tilth.”

According to Lina Velasco, the director of Community Development, which oversees the Transformative Climate Communities projects, the city’s application was submitted in 2022. Robinson took office this year.

“I’m not working on any city-related projects right now while I’m a councilperson,” Robinson said. She said any city-related projects would be handled by others at her organization.

Here is what each group will do with the Transformative Climate Communities grant.

A mount of mulch sits on dirt with a few bushes behind it and a couple buildings visible.
The beginnings of an accessible garden in Unity Park. (Alicia Chiang photos)

Urban Tilth

Urban Tilth will be expanding the reach of its food programs, including orchards for all and Veggie RX, a grocery prescription for people with chronic diseases. They will also install water recycling systems for income-qualified residents.

Marcia Vallier, senior architect at CSW |ST2, which is designing an accessible garden at Unity Park, said residents with wheelchairs will be able to roll up to garden beds. There also will be plants at standing height for those who find it difficult to bend. There will be sensory plants with sweet smells and chimes to help visually impaired people navigate the orchard. Interpretive and multilingual signage will be used, “so that anybody can use that garden,” Vallier said.

Rich City Rides

Najari Smith, executive director of Rich City Rides, said 40 electric bikes will be available for people to borrow at an E-bike lending library owned by the city and operated by the organization.

“They’ll have the option to leave their car at home, reducing emissions, reducing traffic, and allowing for there to be a lot more parking spaces,” Smith said.

Groundwork Richmond

Lorena Castillo, executive director of Groundwork Richmond, said the group will be planting 500 trees in the Santa Fe, Iron Triangle and Coronado neighborhoods. The plantings will be in parks, sidewalks and other public areas, as well as on people’s properties if requested.

GRID Alternatives

GRID Alternatives will provide and install solar panels and electric vehicle charging ports for up to 250 low-income families. Arthur Bart-Williams, GRID Alternative’s executive director of the Bay Area Office, said his team also work with MCE and Franklin Energy on energy efficiency measures.

Trust for Public Land

To make transportation more accessible, the city will expand its bike share program with Charleston Mobility and improve Harbour Way, Ohio Avenue, and some AC Transit bus stops for bicyclists and walkers. Trust for Public Land also will be working on the Richmond Wellness Trail, connecting the Richmond BART station and downtown and the waterfront, according to public records. The Trust for Public Land did not reply to calls and emails for comment.

(This story was updated to correct the year the city submitted its grant application.)

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  1. L J on November 2, 2023 at 11:02 am

    Alicia – The TCC grant that was awarded to the City of Richmond was submitted in 2022.

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