The State of California Strategic Growth Council recently awarded a Proposition 84 Urban Greening Grant to West Oakland-based nonprofit Urban Biofilter. Administered through the Governor’s Office of Planning & Research, the grant funds will be used to research the potential of green infrastructure to mitigate urban air and water pollution, in order to advocate for the regulation and implementation of green infrastructure in highly-impacted communities, with West Oakland as a case study. Adapt Oakland will also work with four concurrent plans – the Oakland Army Base (OAB), Gateway Park, the North Gateway, and West Oakland Specific Plan (WOSP) – to develop a comprehensive greening plan that evaluates high-risk zones and priority planting sites based on city, state, and federally-owned land in and around the West Oakland community. The transformation of West Oakland’s toxic environment into a landscape that supports an integrated ecology, industry, and environmental health-justice is an ambitious project that can be expanded for similar freight and industrial developments nationwide. Please see the GreenPaper series in the Resources tab for our latest technical and financial analysis.
Friday May 10th, 2013 3-8pm @ Linden Street Brewery 95 Linden St., Oakland, CA 94607
Introduction by West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project
Updates by agencies and nonprofits on:
Air & Water Regulation
Benefits of Green Infrastructure
Innovative Environmental Economics
Adapt Oakland presentation by Urban Biofilter followed by discussion
5PM - 8PM
Poster viewing, Beer, Food & Music
Launch Event Speakers:
City of Oakland, Watershed and Stormwater Management Program www.oaklandcreeks.org
Kristin Hathaway is a Watershed Program Specialist with the City of Oakland, where she oversees the development of the Oakland Urban Greening Retrofit Plan.
RAMP @ Public Health Institute
Azibuike Akaba is a Policy Associate overseeing the development and implementation of the public health and equity aspects of SB 375.
Karen Goodson Pierce
San Francisco Department of Public Health
Karen Goodson Pierce is Health Equity Projects staff at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, as well as on the Board of Directors of Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates, a grassroots environmental justice organization.
West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project
Margaret Gordon is a life-time community activist; a founding member of the WOEIP, founder of the Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative, former Port Commissioner, and staff at the Pacific Institute.
Dr. Phil Martien
Bay Area Air Quality Management District
Dr. Martien is an Air Quality Engineering Manager at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District where he manages the Exposure Assessment and Emissions Inventory Section, and heads the Community Air Risk Evaluation (CARE) program.
EPA: Region 9 Sustainable Water Infrastructure Office, Water Division
Charlotte Ely is a life-scientist at U.S. EPA Region 9. She works for the Water Division’s Sustainable Water Infrastructure Office, managing grants and promoting innovative water and energy management practices.
A uniquely collaborative approach sets Adapt Oakland apart from other projects; rather than attempting to start another independent project, Adapt Oakland dovetails with concurrent research and planning efforts across various disciplines.
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Preview our ecosystem services toolbox and get the news on Adapt Oakland’s Fall 2013 Conference
January 22nd, 2014
Join us, Pacific Institute and WOEIP for an Oakland Resiliency Workshop this weekend:
November 19th, 2013
This past Saturday we had a crew of citizen foresters out and about at Middle Shoreline Harbor Park and the Bay Bridge Trail measuring trees in an effort to quantify the ecosystem services that the urban forest provides. iTree Eco, a software tool developed by the USDA, allows for cities, land managers and urban forestry groups to collect field data on trees and input it into their online system for analysis and receive a full report on the services that the forest provides. The report includes details pertaining to:
Urban forest structure – types of trees, amount of trees all categorized by land use type
Hourly amount of pollution removed by the urban forest, and associated percent air quality improvement throughout a year.
Hourly urban forest volatile organic compound emissions and the relative impact of tree species on net ozone and carbon monoxide formation throughout the year.
Public health incidence reduction and economic benefit based on the effect of trees on air quality improvement.
Total carbon stored and net carbon annually sequestered by the urban forest.
Effects of trees on building energy use and consequent effects on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
Yearly tree canopy rainfall interception summarized by tree species or land use.
Compensatory value of the forest, as well as the value of air pollution removal and carbon storage and sequestration.
Pests risk analyses based on host susceptibility, pest/disease range and tree structural value.
The turnout was a great mix: UC Berkeley students volunteering for their Alternative Breaks program, various tree groups interested in replicating the iTree survey for their respective cities and horticulture enthusiasts. During this trial run we successfully measured 152 trees down at the Port and we hope to measure the rest in the near future! For more information on this program check out the iTree website.
October 18, 2013
We are always interested when the media covers local issues we are working on, especially national coverage. Recently the New York Times published a story that opened with a family based in Oakland, California and their difficulty in affording prescription asthma medication. The United States on average spends far more per capita on prescription inhalers than any other developed country. People living in West Oakland, encircled by three freeways and the port, are well aware of this cost because they are disproportionally affected by this disease due to pollution. In a nation where prescription costs for inhalers are extremely high, and where you live drastically increases your chances of getting asthma, your options are limited. This is what Adapt Oakland hopes to mitigate, by constructing dense urban forestry in between the source of the pollution and the residential neighborhood we can reduce the environmental health costs inflicted on West Oakland residents.
October 1, 2013
The end of summer brings about another Green Paper on the financial incentives of air biofiltration. These Green Papers aim to break down the social, economic, and financial incentives of the Adapt Oakland project. We plan for approximately a dozen, three of which are already finished and two of which are being drafted. Each of these papers will build upon the previous. We are beginning with breaking down the socioeconomic costs of living next to a port, rail yard, and freeway system, and then describing how we plan to address and mitigate those costs using vegetative barriers.
One of the ways that we incentivize our work is by comparing our “green” mitigation techniques to standard industrial “grey” mitigation techniques, and determining how they differ in their expected cost and benefit. A couple questions we ask and try to answer are:
-How efficient is a cedar tree at removing NOx (nitric oxides) from the air, compared to an updated catalytic converter?
-Assuming the volume of NOx mitigated is constant, How much does it cost to plant and maintain an acre of cedar trees, compared to the cost of implementing and enforcing a new catalytic converter regulation?
Cedar Tree vs Catalytic Converter
As we enter into the Fall, we plan to develop and revise our Green Papers, so that we can disseminate them for peer review and finally offer them to potential clientele. An outline of the Green Paper series is available to the Resources tab of the www.adaptoakland.org website, and several of the papers are up. Stay tuned into the Fall as we continue to upload the rest.
September 19, 2013
Is that a giant abandoned trailer in Laney College east of I 880? Nope, its an Air Quality Monitor!
The soot villains of particulate matter pollution
The main villains of particulate matter pollution – nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide and other fine particulates - that are responsible for illnesses such as asthma, will soon be monitored thanks to three new Air Quality Monitors being installed in Oakland, Berkeley and San Jose. Bay Area Air Quality District is to thank for this upcoming installation and believes the new data can provide more detailed information on air quality of residential neighborhoods located close to major roads.
Urban Biofilters’ fellow Collaborator, Margaret Gordon from the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project was interviewed for an in depth article announcing the new monitoring system as well as covering some of the serious air issues in parts of West Oakland that we at Adapt Oakland are hoping to help. Check out the article here!
iTree Helps Forest Find a Future in Oakland
August 19th, 2013We’ve been digging into new tools to help us quantify the ecosystem services provided by our urban forest in West Oakland. Our hope is that by understanding the ecological benefits our urban trees provide, we can maximize the potential of our urban forest to improve the health of Oakland workers and residents, purify the air and water, improve flood control, mitigate heat island effects, restore wildlife habitat and make our city more beautiful and resilient.
One of the tools we’ve been using is i-Tree, a software suite developed by the USDA Forest Service (and partners*) for assessing urban forest conditions and benefits. The i-Tree tools allow communities to quantify the structure of and environmental services provided by the urban forest, so that they can strengthen their urban forest management and advocacy efforts. i-Tree has been widely used by communities, non-profit organizations, consultants, researchers, volunteers, homeowners and students to report on the urban forest at all scales from individual trees, parcels, neighborhoods, cities, to entire states. It allows users to understand the local, tangible ecosystem services that trees provide.
Adapt Oakland’s is making use of the i-Tree tools to quantify the existing condition of Oakland’s urban forest, and to develop a proposal that will enhance the benefits provided by our landscape. Our green infrastructure solutions include using urban forests, living walls, trellises, and green roofs to mitigate the scientifically-documented health impacts of particulate matter and pollution on people living and working in close proximity to industry and shipping. i-Tree Design is also allowing us to forecast future benefits of trees within the Adapt Oakland project such as benefits such as energy savings, stormwater interception, carbon sequestration, air quality and pollution removal.
*i-Tree was developed, supported and distributed through a group of partners including the Forest Service, Davey Tree Expert Company, National Arbor Day Foundation, Society of Municipal Arborists, International Society of Arboriculture, and Casey Trees.
Adapt Oakland Launch Party
May 20th, 2013
Urban Biofilter launched our new project Adapt Oakland, on Friday May 10th at Linden Street Brewery! We had some great presentations by people working in every aspect of the built environment, community health and policy; and also amazing beer, tamales, and music. You can check out some of the great presentations online and keep a look out for project news and our upcoming Fall Conference! It was a big success – thanks to all who came and contributed!
Urban Biofilter was awarded a Proposition 84 Urban Greening Grant from the state to launch Adapt Oakland, a new cross-disciplinary planning initiative focused on both integrating green infrastructure into Oakland policy and planning, and advancing the understanding of green infrastructure on a larger scale.
Green Infrastructure is the utilization of natural ecosystems and constructed landscapes – such as urban forests, living walls, and green roofs – to filter air, water, and soil. Appropriate planning for and valuing of these services can reduce infrastructure costs, protect the health of and generate new economies for urban communities.
While urban greening standards are being increasingly developed for commercial and residential areas, Adapt Oakland focuses on highest-impact land uses, which are under-researched yet high priority areas for green technologies. Uses include:
In fact they do! Plants are especially effective at reducing air pollution if they meet certain criteria. Current research on plants and air filtration mainly focuses on vegetated air barriers, or greenbelts. Vegetated barriers potentially capture a significant amount of air pollutants, including particulate matter (PM) which causes well-documented adverse health effects in humans. The plants reduce PM through deposition which is the actual deposit of PM particles on the leaves of the plants. The deposition is improved with rough, sticky leaf structured species such as redwood, cedar, and pine. We believe bamboo will be an excellent species due to it’s leaf structure; however, we are still designing controlled case studies to measure the PM capture by bamboo.
Barriers are more effective than individual trees because they force more of the polluted air over the leaf surfaces, resulting in greater PM capture. The closer the barrier is to the pollutant source, the more effective the plants will be at capturing the pollution.
Just as the electric or water company provides a service to individuals and businesses, plants and landscapes provide ecosystem services, which have direct and indirect value. By quantifying, modeling and revealing the true value of these services locally, we create an economy for community members to build and maintain these ecosystem services.
Similar to the way residents vote on bonds to upgrade grey infrastructure like sewers and roads, we could also choose to fund green infrastructure that provides equivalent performance and cost. However, unlike grey infrastructure funding, there are a variety of creative financial strategies that create incentives and reward landowners for using green infrastructure.
A variety of other financial models, from preventive health care funding to natural resource mitigation banks, social investment bonds, and performance-based rate structures are being investigated as funding options.
Stringent CARB standards for truck emissions were put into place through 2030- some of which were implemented in 2010- and these have proved very successful. However, challenges remain: many still find it difficult to achieve CARB goals, and even if these goals are fully attained, 30% or more of particulate matter comes from other non-tailpipe sources, such as road dust, tire and brake wear.
Working with many stakeholders the Port of Oakland developed the Maritime Air Quality Improvement Plan (MAQIP) which set goals for emissions reductions, including cold ironing, renewable energy and infrastructure improvements. Although the MAQIP was received as a great planning effort with many stakeholders, it remains as a visioning plan and does not have a specific timeline. Prioritizing the MAQIP has been a challenge due both to the significant debt accrued and to the lack of hard goals. However, green infrastructure strategies are a very low cost and grant-fundable way for the Port to comply with federal water and air quality regulations in the current financial times. Less understood during the MAQIP, we will address how green infrastructure could serve to cost effectively help meet the projects vision
The current funding returns on urban forest offset credits do not amount to a significant value. Adapt Oakland is considering specialty credits, or “story” credits from various funders. Urban green infrastructure provides a potential solution for the still unknown adverse localized effects from Cap and Trade programs. On a state and national level, with the cap and trade on display in California, there is some question that it could create unjust public health hotspots:
“There is a possibility that some covered entities might increase operation of specific equipment which could increase local emissions. [Air Resources Board]ARB believes that resulting localized air impacts are extremely unlikely, but cannot say that such increases could never occur. ARB proposes an adaptive management approach to address this impact.” – Air Resources Board
While carbon offsets generally focus on greenhouse gases (GHG), it is becoming clear that reductions in these gases could be decades or centuries away. GHG reductions also fail to address other emissions, such as particulate matter, ozone, etc. that have immediate health impacts on surrounding communities. The California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (CAPCOA), the association of air districts and the California Air Resource Board, is currently working on regulating these other harmful emissions. Their efforts will ideally result in a mitigation and/or marketing system in the next few decades. Adapt Oakland pushes this agenda forward through proposing preemptive planning and zoning standards on governmental lands like rail, Port, and Caltrans setbacks.
Adapt Oakland is born in the wake of the Sacramento agenda to overhaul the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Due to the volume of transit-oriented development (TOD) planned, regulators see a pressing need for prescriptive regulations and best management practices for near-road air quality measures.
In the past, the Air District has not had much success with efforts to improve near-road regulations. The attempt to implement stringent TOD mitigation standards were defeated through a big push from congress, affordable housing developers, and building lobby backers. In order to be successful in the future, remediation strategies must be more desirable to clients, architectural, beautiful, and multi-beneficial to compete with outdated strategies.
Both Urban Biofilter and many regulatory staff believe that the answer will consist of further regional air research, coupled with prescriptive strategies that give developers clear methods to implement that fulfill regional environmental requirements. When included in specific plans as stringent and detailed mitigation measures, implementing green infrastructure will prove the path of least resistance for developers to follow. Adapt Oakland is the first step towards developing a land prioritization approach, valuation system, and green infrastructure tools to respond preemptively to new environmental health impacts from Cap and Trade, transit-oriented development, and other climate change impacts.
The social and environmental justice situation is crucial; compared with a white child born in the Oakland Hills, just four miles away, an African-American child born in West Oakland will be five times more likely to be hospitalized for diabetes, twice as likely to be hospitalized for and to die of heart disease, three times more likely to die of stroke, and twice as likely to die of cancer. Diesel particulate matter (PM) emissions from the Port, freeways, and industry contribute significantly to these statistics. Adapt Oakland’s infrastructure solutions include using urban forests, living walls, trellises, and green roofs to mitigate the scientifically-documented health impacts of particulate matter and pollution on people living and working in close proximity to industry and shipping. These strategies optimize the capacity of green infrastructure to improve health of workers and residents, purify air and water, provide flood control, mitigate the urban heat island effect, restore wildlife habitat, and reduce infrastructure construction costs.
Four concurrent plans – the Oakland Army Base (OAB), Gateway Park, the North Gateway, and West Oakland Specific Plan (WOSP) – are all in motion and present critical opportunities to integrate green infrastructure in West Oakland. Adapt Oakland is focused on harnessing the momentum from these existing planning efforts to develop a comprehensive greening plan that evaluates high-risk zones and priority planting sites based on city, state, and federally-owned land within the project area
Donate to Urban Biofilter today and give the gift of clean air to Oakland this holiday!
Urban Biofilter made exciting advancements this year on our State funded Adapt Oakland urban greening research project. We are very pleased as our our work reaches further to include innovative on-the-ground research and implementation projects. With additional funding, we can widen our reach and create a healthier Oakland! Donate Today!
In September, Urban Biofilter moved our bamboo nursery to OASAS, a spring board location for community events and activities. In partnership with WOEIP, we initiated community based air qualitysampling to investigate pollutant sources and the link between community health and air quality.
In October, we received a grant to plant trees around the Port to buffer the surrounding communities from air pollution associated with Port activity. We look forward to collaborating with local organizations such as Urban Releaf for this planting!
In November, we conducted a pilot iTree survey to assess the ecosystem services provided by trees in Oakland such as storm water retention, carbon sequestration, and the removal of pollutants including particulate matter, VOC’s and NO2.
Contribute now to help us conduct an Oakland-wide Tree Survey to understandecosystem services provided by trees in Oakland. This information can be used to encourage more tree planting!
Contribute now to air qualityresearch! Help us investigate pollutant sources and the link between community health and air quality. Support us to create solutions to clean Oakland’s air!
Give the gift of clean air to friends and family this holiday. Let us know if your donation is a gift and we will include a customized holiday card so you can let your family and friends know how they have contributed to our community.