Newsom announces $296M in green grants to underserved California communities

·2 min read

Underserved communities across California will be receiving $296 million in grants to transform their public spaces and eliminate litter from their streets, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced on Tuesday evening.

The funds will be divided among 105 community enhancement projects and create an estimated 3,600 jobs, Newsom's office said. The projects - which include trash removal, landscaping, art installations, safety improvements and pedestrian and bike path installations - are part of a $1.1 billion "Clean California" program, launched by California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) in July.

"Clean California is an historic investment transforming unsightly roadsides throughout our state into places of community pride for all Californians," Newsom said in a statement. "Clean California will not only help to clean up our state, but this program will also create thousands of jobs and revitalize neighborhoods in every corner of California."

Some examples of the 105 community project grants are $2.6 million for a green promenade in Anaheim and almost $600,000 for a new park in Berkeley that features a drought-tolerant plant pollinator garden and Native-designed turtle sculptures. Oakland, meanwhile, is benefiting from $2 million for the restoration of an urban stream and a recreational trail in Courtland Creek Park.

Downtown Fresno will be getting $5 million for litter cleanup, urban greening and improved walkability, while Long Beach will be receiving $180,000 to add a new mural on its existing State Route 91 bridge abutment wall.

Los Angeles will be getting three separate grants, including $5 million to both green and improve the connectivity of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and nearly $5 million to beautify the Hollenbeck Park near the I-5 freeway. The city is receiving another nearly $5 million to create urban habitats and strengthen biodiversity via median greening in six of its historically underserved communities: Chinatown/Downtown L.A., Van Nuys, Vermont Vista, Historic South Central, Leimert Park and Wilmington.

The grant recipients are all required to complete their projects by June 30, 2024, Newsom's office said. The governor's recent budget also proposes an additional $100 million round to fund more such endeavors.

The community projects announced on Tuesday build upon a $312 million allocated last month for 126 beautification initiatives along state highways, the governor's office said. Since the launch of Clean California in the summer, Caltrans has removed about 7,400 tons of garbage from highways - enough to fill 134 Olympic-size pools - and has hired 623 team members, according to the agency.

"California is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and the trash cluttering our roadways tarnishes that image," state Transportation Secretary Toks Omishakin said in a statement. "These Clean California grants empower communities to highlight the beauty of our state by turning public spaces littered with trash into places to treasure."