Richmond’s Groundbreaking Community-Centric Policy for Public Land


On March 19th, the Richmond City Council took a historic step forward by unanimously adopting the Equitable Public Land Disposition Policy. This pioneering policy charts a new course for developing affordable housing on city-owned land, embodying the city’s commitment to inclusivity and sustainability, and reflecting the core objectives of Partnership for the Bay’s Future.

The policy sets forth ambitious goals to redefine the use of public land: maximize public benefit; preserve housing affordability for longstanding Richmond residents; and ensure generational housing security and permanent affordability through innovative models like 99-year ground leases and community land trusts. This approach not only aims to proactively prevent gentrification and the displacement of Richmond residents but also exemplify how public lands can serve as a cornerstone for equitable development, delivering a future where every resident has access to secure and affordable housing.

Building Foundations

Richmond stands at a critical juncture, where the challenge of providing affordable housing intersects with a unique opportunity: the abundance of underutilized public land with over 100 undeveloped sites. Recognizing this potential, the City Council passed a resolution in 2020 that designated 14 parcels as Surplus Land for housing development tailored to meet the needs of Richmond residents. This action started Richmond on the path where these public lands fulfill the promise of serving its residents directly.

This policy, borne out of collaborative efforts, underscores the critical role of community-driven solutions and sets the standard for inclusive, sustainable development. It’s about reshaping the socioeconomic landscape of Richmond for the better.

But until now, Richmond has lacked a comprehensive policy to guide the use of its surplus properties towards public benefit. The Equitable Public Land Disposition Policy establishes clear goals, allowing the city to lease the land at below market prices to reduce development costs, while prioritizing development proposals that maximize affordability and support permanent affordability through models like community land trusts.

The transformative journey towards achieving equitable housing in Richmond has been significantly propelled by partnerships and community outreach facilitated through the Partnership for the Bay’s Future’s (PBF) Policy Fund. The collaborative effort convened community leaders, government officials, and local organizations like RichmondLAND, exemplifying a model of inclusive policy-making process. The Policy Fund team’s comprehensive outreach to Richmond residents was pivotal towards gathering valuable insights and ensuring their active involvement in shaping the policy. By ensuring a diverse range of perspectives in crafting the policy, the Policy Fund team laid a foundation for the future of creating community-centered policies in Richmond as well as a blueprint for other cities grappling with similar challenges, demonstrating the scalable impact of collaborative governance.

When asked, residents asserted that publicly owned land should be utilized to address the housing crisis displacing their neighbors. Residents want opportunities to lead the solutions to address housing unaffordability and instability in the City of Richmond. One resident shared, “With so much extreme wealth in the Bay Area, there needs to be options for regular working folks to buy houses and live in great neighborhoods with green spaces, access to shops.”

A Blueprint for Transformation

This policy, borne out of collaborative efforts, underscores the critical role of community-driven solutions and sets the standard for inclusive, sustainable development. Beyond addressing housing affordability, it’s about reshaping the socioeconomic landscape of Richmond for the better. It calls for decisive action to ensure public land benefits all residents, laying the groundwork for development that embraces diversity and fosters long-term prosperity. And by prioritizing voices historically sidelined in the planning process, Richmond confronts traditional paradigms, offering a powerful example of how cities can evolve to meet the needs of all residents.

Underutilized public land represents a critical opportunity for innovative housing projects that emphasize community control and shared equity not only for Richmond, but across the Bay Area. Such initiatives are crucial for emerging real estate development organizations to establish themselves, and to foster long-term community resilience and prosperity. This untapped public resource needs to be utilized to address the significant housing challenges and keep the Bay Area a diverse, inclusive and vibrant place to live.

In the coming months, the City of Richmond will issue its first Request for Proposals (RFP) aimed at developing affordable housing on city-owned surplus land. The review process for these proposals will be notably inclusive, featuring a committee comprised of Richmond residents alongside city staff. This committee will meticulously assess developer submissions to ensure they meet the stringent policy criteria established, prioritizing proposals that most effectively advance the city’s goals for equitable and sustainable housing solutions.

With the adoption of the Equitable Public Land Policy, Richmond sets a precedent in the fight for affordable housing and economic equity. This milestone, achieved through a dedicated collaborative effort, demonstrates the power of unifying around the pursuit of common goals. By prioritizing the creation of affordable housing and leveraging community engagement, this policy can transform not only the housing landscape but also the overall socioeconomic fabric of Richmond. We hope this will serve as a rally call for the Bay Area to transform public land as a stepping stone towards equity, sustainability and prosperity.

Explore the extensive community outreach and collaborative efforts behind the Equitable Public Land Disposition Policy with our previous blog, ‘A Community’s Vision for Publicly Owned Land.’