What should Richmond do with its surplus land?
on January 10, 2024
Richmond has a question for residents: What do they want built on unused city-owned land?
RichmondLand, a community land trust, and city staff are working to gather community input on the public land policy.
“Affordable housing is really needed, but parks like this and different spaces for people to get together are also important,” said Leonardo Santana, a 20-year Richmond resident, who talked to Richmond Confidential at a Halloween Land event on Oct, 28 at Unity Park. The park, at 16th Street and Ohio Avenue, has a children’s play area, community garden, bike path and public art.
At the event, residents received information about the land policy and a survey about it that residents can fill out. Santana took a picture of the survey QR code to give feedback when he got home. Others wrote their ideas on notes that they stuck on a bulletin board.
The city is updating its public land policy to comply with the Surplus Land Act, a 55-year-old state law that was updated in 2020 to promote the development of more affordable housing. It connects developers interested in building affordable homes with unused public land. The law requires local agencies to list their land as either surplus, or exempt, if it is too small to develop or falls under a state exemption.
In 2020, Richmond reported 434 city-owned properties, 17 of which were declared surplus and available for affordable housing. Although cities do not typically build affordable housing, selling or leasing city-owned land below fair market value can incentivize developers.
The city also can designate surplus properties for other types of development, as long as they benefit the public, such as parks, gardens and libraries.
Kaitlyn Quackenbush, a Partnership for the Bay’s Future fellow working with the city and RichmondLAND, said the agencies have sought public feedback for over a year, at community events and at sessions with community organizations.
“We want to go above and beyond what the state’s Surplus Land Act requires,” she said.
Residents who want to participate, may fill out a survey on the city’s website.
(Top photo: Oct. 28 event at Unity Park, by Ana Tellez-Witrago)
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