By Gabriela Estrada and Kassie Munro, Program Managers

We began 2020 on a high note with the selection of our second Resilient Neighborhood Hub team in Vallejo and excited to invite the community back to our first Hub during the annual spring garden tour. As it became clear that everything was about to change with the restrictions of the pandemic, we used the opportunity to deeply consider the meaning of resilience and what that looks like in the face of dashed hopes and so much uncertainty. After a period of reflection and a lot of soul searching about the importance of adaptability and perseverance in this current climate, we made some difficult decisions that allowed us to move forward and continue building this vision, albeit through a very different path than we had planned.

Seeding Our Second Resilient Neighborhood Hub

After months of searching, we were thrilled to have identified our neighbor-team for the second Resilient Hub installation in March. While beginning the design process we ran up against the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing mandates, a particularly difficult obstacle to overcome for this project, which centers on community collaboration, connection and education through public workshops. We made the difficult decision to move forward with the installation of South Vallejo’s Growing Together Hub in June by employing our designer to complete the work with support from the neighbor-team and our staff as needed. While we were not able to hold public educational workshops as part of the process, we felt it was important to keep the project momentum moving forward in these uncertain times and serve as an example for neighbors and others that creating change within a community and building connection is still possible even with such challenges. The neighbor-team has been fantastic to work with; they are gracious, flexible, and have always remained positive despite the adaptations we’ve had to make along the way. While the scope of what we had hoped to do with the Hub had to be modified to fit our limited capacity under the circumstances, we’re excited to continue building our relationship and working towards opportunities for expansion in the future.

Virtual Tour of Morningside Botanical Bounty

This video is a shining example of how sometimes challenges can lead you to unexpected opportunities. While forgoing the in-person annual garden tour this year was disappointing, we are delighted to have had the chance to create this virtual tour of our first Resilient Hub, Morningside Botanical Bounty. It was a unique opportunity to capture the story of our neighbor-team and their reflections on the process one year in, as well as updates on how their beautiful gardens have flourished. It was a pleasure to connect with each of the team members individually and weave their stories together (even though we couldn’t actually be together) as a reminder that the teamwork and unity they created during these installations is enduring.

Reimagining the Neighborhood

This summer also afforded us the opportunity to virtually connect with Mark Lakeman of Portland’s City Repair Project for a community conversation around Reimagining the Neighborhood: A Placemaker’s Journey. Our Resilient Neighborhoods program is rooted in the belief that the need for strong communities where people know, support and care for their neighbors is more pressing than ever, and during this Zoom event Mark offered insights on simple, impactful solutions to foster placemaking and community building. His discussion with our first Resilient Hub neighbor-team and full presentation can be viewed here. If you’re inspired to create change in your own community, check out the City Repair Placemaking Packet full of resources and share your vision with us through our vision form or Resilient Neighborhood interest form.

Moving Forward

With a future full of unknowns, adaptability is key, and the lessons learned from this pilot have already begun to shape and flow into all our programs as we’ve come to see the positive impact of building social connections through our green infrastructure work, and the power that is created when neighbors unite around a common cause. At the same time, we are faced with the prospect that large public gatherings may not be possible any time soon and are working to dream up ways to overcome this challenge: from relying on virtual workshops and gatherings, to garden work days for smaller groups of people spread across a longer installation process. This is also a time of transition for our team, as Resilient Neighborhoods Program Manager Kassie Munro has stepped down from her role, handing the reins to Gabriela Estrada as the new Resilient Neighborhoods program manager. Gabriela brings her experience as program manager for the Solano Gardens, Urban Forest and Listening Circles programs and a passion for fostering grassroots efforts and supporting individuals and communities who are eager to participate in civic efforts that make the community a more resilient and thriving space.

In her new role, Gabriela will be guiding the expansion of the Growing Together Hub in South Vallejo, by including a third neighbor to the Hub. These three neighbors have lived next to each other for the past 15 years, and it’s exciting to see them working together in beautifying not only their homes, but their neighborhoods. Gabriela will work closely with sustainable landscape designer Ojan Mobedshahi to bring to life the new Hub member’s vision for her garden and her neighborhood. Much like with the installation of the other two gardens due to COVID-19 precautions, the contractor, the homeowner, and Sustainable Solano team will be tasked with installing this home garden.

Through this Hub expansion, we hope to build closer relationships among neighbors and offer low-tech tools that will transform their block into a robust, regenerative and beautiful urban ecosystem that mimics nature in performing valuable functions like producing food, filtering air, cycling water, reducing heat during the hot summer days, and producing a home and food for birds, bees and butterflies. While we continue to navigate this new normal, we’re excited about what the future may hold, and even more excited about finding new ways of supporting our Solano County community.

The Resilient Neighborhoods program is generously funded through the PG&E Corporation Foundation.