Richmond and the Challenge of Climate Change

With over 32 miles of bay shoreline that put it on the front line of sea level rise and storm inundation, a large petrochemical industry, and a growing disadvantaged population, Richmond is one of the most vulnerable cities to climate change in California.

The Trust for Public Land helps cities use green infrastructure to lower carbon emissions and build resilience while helping to advance climate justice for underserved populations. Green infrastructure can increase the energy efficiency and livability of cities while addressing future climate risks such as flooding and extreme heat.

The Trust for Public Land is working with city staff, public agencies, and community organizations to help Richmond implement these policies by prioritizing projects and generating climate-related funding.

From 2016-2017, TPL worked with leaders and practitioners from a range of sectors to develop this web-based tool that will help the City and community groups analyze and prioritize climate projects. This tool integrates technical data and community input to identify areas at risk to climate change and to help drive local investments to ensure that equity remains at the heart of the city’s strategies.

Additionally, TPL is working with the City and partners to implement multi-benefit projects.

The Climate-Smart Cities Richmond project is a collaborative effort by the City of Richmond, The Trust for Public Land, and members of the Technical Advisory Team to synthesize and operationalize the City’s planning, infrastructure, and information resources for the strategic prioritization of green infrastructure. The Technical Advisory Team is a group with over thirty members from agencies, city staff, and community organizations with expertise in climate-related subjects, and members gave input during the yearlong process to develop the Decision Support Tool.

In Richmond, we built our strategy for the web-based tool around four core objectives:

Additional objectives of the Richmond analysis included:


Building on the City’s great policy and program alignment work focused on health and racial equity, the technical advisory team decided to expand on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Justice Screen by adding criteria such as unemployment, job clusters, vehicle ownership, and other public health indicators such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, and low birth weight. These are factors that climate vulnerability literature suggests render populations as particularly vulnerable to climate impacts such as sea level rise, flooding, and exposure to worsened air quality.


One of the many lessons of Super Storm Sandy and Hurricanes Harvey and Katrina is that it is important to identify and protect critical infrastructure that provides for the continuous operation of city services such as medical care, safety, energy and water. Richmond’s leaders identified a diverse set of services for the City to prioritize in protecting of climate impacts; these include essential emergency services (police, fire, EMS), transportation, utility and communication facilities, density of dependent population care facilities, and cultural and community facilities. This is a recognition of the critical role that traditional emergency facilities and community gathering places such as recreational facilities and schools play in assisting residents respond to climate and other emergencies.

City of Richmond’s Innovative Health Policies

In 2014, Richmond adopted a Health in All Policies framework to solidify “the idea that health starts with where people live, work, learn, and play, and that community health is influenced by more than individual choices.”