About the Studio

Welcome to the North Richmond Studio 2012 blog, which contains work completed over a four-month period by UC Berkeley graduate students. North Richmond is a small (about 3,000 residents) unincorporated community located in Contra Costa County, CA, which is about 15 miles north of downtown Oakland. In the early 190ss, the community developed as a temporary outpost, primarily to house men and women working in the nearby shipyards. Its early settlers were Italians, Asians, and Mexicans, but by the 1940s, North Richmond’s population was primarily African American. The change in demographics contributed to disinvestment in infrastructure, fire, and police personelle. Although in its heyday North Richmond was a thriving community and home to many a great jazz and blues clubs, there were never any long term development plans made for the community.


Institutionalized racism played a large role in decisions about North Richmond’s development as well; by the 1940s, the community was almost all African American, and as such it was low on the list to receive routine infrastructure, safety, and housing investments.


This community development studio is taught within the department of City and Regional Planning, and attracts students from a variety of departments on campus, including the School of Public Health and the Haas School of Business. Professor Malo Hutson leads this course, which is taught in partnership with the California Endowment’s ‘Building Healthy Communities‘ initiative (TCE), a 10 year initiative to invest in 14 low-income California communities.  The 2012 studio is part of an ongoing collaboration between UC Berkeley and TCE, and there are plans to continue this studio into the future.


Based on priority areas identified by Healthy Richmond, the studio focused on efforts in three main areas:


  • Children and their families are safe from violence (TCE Outcome 5)
  • Neighborhood and school environments support improved health and healthy behaviors (TCE Outcome 7)
  • Community health improvements are linked to economic development (TCE Outcome 8)


A mid-semester presentation and feedback from TCE Richmond Officer, Diane Aranda, further directed our research.


This community development studio was most students’ introduction to North Richmond, and as such, and there was a wealth of material to uncover in just four months. Conducting key informant interviews, meeting with historians, administering surveys, viewing documentaries, reading specific plans and land use documents, attending community meetings, and participating in North Richmond community-wide events were some of the ways that we became more familiar with the community. We considered the role of Chevron and related health impacts, North Richmond’s historic status as a temporary outpost, and the role of structural racism. With that being said, of course there were many resources and perspectives that we didn’t have time to tap. The final report is a slice in time, and is a summary of our research between January – May 2012.


The nature of this course is such that many students will graduate, and new students will take this course next spring. We are creating this blog, in part, to build institutional knowledge about the North Richmond Community Development Studio, and also so that  our work is made available to other institutions who are working in this community.


Click here to view our final studio presentation. As mentioned previously, this report summarizes our findings from a moment in time, and because this is a dynamic site, the material will be updated as new resources become available.


Please check back soon for more information.



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