Summer 2024: CBI in Action

Orchard Park

Long before the tech industry boomed, California’s Silicon Valley was rich with fruit orchards, from San Jose to Santa Cruz. Today those orchards are mostly gone. In Sunnyvale, however, a working heritage orchard remains: Orchard Heritage Park. The city of Sunnyvale owns the property, and it’s managed as a living apricot orchard. In 2008, the local Historical Society built a museum on the property, focused on the history of Sunnyvale. Now, with plans to expand the museum into land used by the orchard, Sunnyvale’s city council has sought to balance the museum’s commemorative work with the needs of the living orchard. The city council approved the museum’s expansion, but also prompted a study to identify a long-term plan for managing the orchard and a final limit on the museum’s expansion, in order to address controversy about the museum infringing on the orchard’s space.

CBI is working to help those involved in this process find areas of commonality amid disagreements. This has meant collaboration with the architecture firm Page and Turnbull, bringing together perspectives of an economic analysis team, a tree specialist, landscape architects, and an engineering firm. CBI has conducted a situational analysis and is working with Page and Turnbull planning three public meetings over the next year, which will inform city council’s decision for managing the orchard.


Israel and Palestine in U.S. Higher Education 

As violence in Gaza worsened, protests and tensions spread throughout U.S. academic institutions, and students, faculty, and staff have struggled with discussing Palestine and Israel—the history and the violence unfolding today. During this difficult time, CBI began working with deans of students at major universities to foster communication on this crisis.

At one university, this work began with virtual facilitated listening sessions aimed at understanding what staff have experienced in their roles on campus during this time, and where they feel they could use more support in their work. Then came three in-person sessions on campus. The first focused on communication skill-building—specifically dealing with communication about challenging topics. The second session was aimed at understanding students in opposition. Staff learned and discussed pivotal parts of the history between Israel and Palestine. Students coming from different backgrounds, with different lenses, expressed the need to be understood, and to feel understood, to keep communication going. In this way, staff can provide supportive spaces for students and can also help serve as translators between students coming from very different places. 

 

Green Hydrogen and Community Engagement in Chile’s Patagonia 

Green hydrogen has high potential to curb greenhouse gas emissions. To be “green,” hydrogen projects require large-scale wind and solar arrays to power electricity to produce hydrogen, along with other infrastructure to produce, store, distribute, and fuel transportation. Chile has developed a strategy to scale up green hydrogen production and be a world leader, but this has raised some questions in the iconic Patagonian region where many such projects have been proposed. 

In response to these concerns, Chile's Agency for Sustainability and Climate Change (ASCC) is piloting a program aimed at helping green hydrogen developers and other companies engage with communities early in the project development cycle. The goal of the program is to improve projects’ social and environmental performance through dialogue and voluntary agreements with affected communities, and specifically in the initial phases when major decisions are being made.

CBI is working with the ASCC as an observer and advisor on its first pilot under this new program, a green hydrogen initiative near the windy Straits of Magellan in extreme southern Chile. CBI facilitators observe how the participation process is going and give feedback to the agency—both about the dialogue and about the program more broadly. The goal is to help the ASCC ensure its program is durable and effective, such that companies participating in the program reliably include community feedback in their decision-making. 


Habitat Conservation on the Salinas River

Running through San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties on California’s Central Coast, the Salinas River provides water for farms and vineyards and sustains a habitat crucial for a range of wildlife, including endangered species. The Monterey County Water Resources Agency (MCWRA), recognizing potential effects on the natural habitat prompted by its work in the area—including water supply operations and management of floodwater—has begun developing a Habitat Conservation Plan. CBI has been supporting the planning effort’s Stakeholder Planning Group and technical advisory committee. The goal has been to create a forum to hear from interested stakeholders as MCWRA evaluates its water management and considers the reoperation of two dams on the Salinas River. This means hearing from experts in hydrology, fish and wildlife biology, geomorphology, and more.

 

Affordable Housing in Massachusetts 

"Massachusetts is the third most expensive state in the U.S. to rent a home," a headline read last year in The Boston Globe. “Between 2000 and 2020, the share of greater Boston renter households deemed cost burdened climbed from 37 percent to 46 percent,” according to the State House News Service. Recent decades in Massachusetts have been a long period of housing crisis, and to address this, the governor has established a Commission on Unlocking Housing Production and charged her administration with developing a Statewide Housing Plan.

CBI has been facilitating these processes to expand access to housing in the Commonwealth. This means working with leaders from government, industry, and advocacy organizations; it means hearing from community members and community leaders across the state. This work has included designing and managing listening sessions from Pittsfield to Martha’s Vineyard, working on outreach, and documenting regional perspectives. The listening sessions concluded in June, and the findings will feed into the Statewide Housing Plan, which is due to be released later in 2024. 

In the meantime, CBI is continuing to facilitate the work of the Commission, which is expected to submit its report to the Governor by early 2025. The report will contain recommendations for regulatory changes and incentives to advance housing production in the Commonwealth.