Oakland EcoBlock: Who governs a climate-resilient neighborhood?

Authors: Emma Tome*, University of California - Berkeley
Topics: Urban Geography
Keywords: Urban climate change experimentation, Green gentrification, Governance, Decarbonization, Green investment, Energy transitions, Energy justice, Climate justice
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Endymion, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The EcoBlock is a proposed climate change mitigation and resiliency experiment on a residential block in a gentrifying Oakland, California neighborhood. The project aims to produce a scalable model for neighborhood retrofits and resource sharing, including water, energy and transportation. I use in-depth, semi-structured interviews to understand the experiences of residents and landlords historically, in relation to one another, and in relation to the proposed project. Following Bulkeley et. al’s (2014) formulation of the ways urban climate change experiments are “made, maintained, and lived,” I focus on the “making” of new forms of neighborhood governance. I analyze how the prospect of block-scale retrofits and resource sharing register with tenants and property owners, and ask how existing social dynamics could shape participation in and governance of such a project. I also situate the EcoBlock planning effort among other urban responses to climate change, and California’s aggressive decarbonization goals. Despite state aspirations toward environmentally and socially just climate change solutions, “community based” decarbonization investments could still exacerbate housing unaffordability and gentrification, and fail to attend to the class and racial micro-politics in neighborhoods. Given these dilemmas, I ask if and how the EcoBlock, and other interventions like it, could deliver just processes and outcomes.

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