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Greening Cities & Community Food Forest

Updated: Feb 3, 2023


In early 2022, CURE pulled together a collaboration of water and environmental leaders including the Planning & Conservation League, Endangered Habitats League, Robert Redford Conservancy, Environment Now and Southern California Water Committee along with Professor Bill Snape from American University, Andrew Cotton (JD 2022) and our attorneys, Amy Minteer, Adam Keats and Caryn Mandelbaum, to convince Riverside that it had a legal and fiduciary responsibility to consider climate impacts as part of water management. With the help of a grant from Environment Now, we first convinced the City Council to include Governor Newsom’s 30x30 plan for setting aside 30 percent water and green spaces in the City’s strategic plan.

CURE hired HDR, a national consulting firm, to negotiate changes to the Urban Water Management Plan requiring Riverside to develop a baseline measuring the temperature, pollution and carbon reduction resulting from its existing tree canopy. Based on that information, decision makers are presented with data to evaluate the economic and health advantages of expanding green spaces and allocating affordable water dedicated for those purposes. Because of this, they will better understand the consequences if outdoor water use is curtailed. This is a challenging analysis given California’s ongoing drought. The failure to acknowledge and prioritize the use of water for green spaces may accelerate the impacts of climate particularly in disadvantaged communities.

This is an ongoing effort but the first phase is well underway. We’re encouraged that these developments were achieved without the need for litigation, and we thank the City staff, city council and residents for their support. A greener future lies ahead in 2022, and beyond if elected officials are held accountable to prioritize climate in their water management decisions.


A food forest is an edible park that also serves as a natural forest. Though designed and created by people, these forests do not not require much attention to be sustainable. The food forest relies on a layering method of tall fruit trees, nut trees, fruit bearing shrubs, vegetable vines, ground hugging vegetable plants and roots to grow and is similar to a forest ecosystem. Less labor intensive as a garden, it still provides opportunities to participate in nature as well as to be an observer of the cycles of nature and wildlife. A food forest grows connections to people and food.

The City of Riverside can be among the first cities in California to offer a food forest as a resource. According to, there are 12 food forests in the state of California. The proposed site for the food forest will be accessible to the community as well as to the local wildlife. It will be a place for habitat conservation that will be a part of a historical site for urban agriculture, Victoria Ave, and is continuous to a local high school allowing for training students about resiliency and climate.

The food forest will be managed by the local nonprofit Citizens United for Resources & the Environment, C.U.R.E., in collaboration with Riverside Polytechnic High School, Victoria Avenue Forever, Engage Riverside and other community groups. The food forest will not only grow food and protect wildlife, but also be a place that grows a new generation of students knowledgeable about resilient agriculture and climate all while advancing community engagement.

Victoria Urban Forest Project Site, 2021

This green infrastructure project will intentionally foster social cohesion

impacting institutions and economic development within the City of Riverside. Social cohesion and climate resilience is the strength of a community and sense of unity and links the present to the future through reducing disparities and building unity within the communities of the City of Riverside. Lastly, this project can be the “seed” in which other food forests can be created throughout our city.

CURE continues to work closely with government agencies and the private sector to support urban forests and agriculture. Recently, it commissioned the design for a 10 acre parcel continuous to Poly High School for a forest and after school ag courses. This proposal is in line with Governor Newsom's Executive Order on cities reserving 30 percent green spaces and 30 percent water to address climate.


CURE also is participating on urban water management planning to set aside a percentage of baseline water to address climate change.

CURE works on several initiatives intended to help reduce the environmental impacts of urban expansion particularly the impacts of the increasing logistics industry in Southern California. CURE is working with industry leaders and elected officials in developing Best Practices for warehouse siting, operations and transportation in an effort to mitigate the negative efforts on local communities. See Best Practices for Logistic Leaders.

CURE also is a leader in promoting the growing sustainable agriculture industry in Riverside including the sponsoring of Grow Riverside and participation in the Riverside Food Systems Alliance. The popular focus on “farm to table” and water conservation provides a great opportunity for universities and high schools to provide training opportunities in these growth markets. CURE also encourages water agencies to offer irrigation advice and repairs to customers similar to what the telephone and electric utilities provide to reduce the loss of water due to poor irrigation systems.

CURE also is committed to retaining Riverside’s Greenbelt, 5000 acres in the midst of the City down zoned in the 1970s for agriculture. CURE is working with the City and other interests to stop any efforts to remove the growth restrictions and to develop a coherent specific plan to manage the Greenbelt. For a look at recommendations made in the late 1980s and late 1990s about the best ways to preserve and enhance the Greenbelt, click Greenbelt-1997 RLC Study  and  Greenbelt – 1987 Ad Hoc Comm Recs.

The patchwork of federal, state, and local government entities charged with addressing growth and environmental impacts makes it extremely difficult for communities to influence their future.

Government agencies often are understaffed and/or disproportionately influenced by industry lobbyists and studies. On the other side of the spectrum are what might be called environmental ambulance chasers, whose business model is to file lawsuits raising every conceivable technicality to slow projects and extort settlements. Both extremes hinder genuine public education and development of sound public policy.

CURE’s goal is to bridge that divide, by helping to mediate disputes and by encouraging industry to adopt its own Best Practices. See CURE’s blog including recommendations for Best Practices in the logistic industry. 

CURE supports a wide range of programs that support urban agriculture, young-farmer training, and conservation easements to maintain green spaces.  CURE regularly sponsors Grow Riverside, an effort by the City of Riverside to preserve urban agriculture in the Greenbelt and CURE is a member of the Riverside Food Systems Alliance.  CURE also advocates the retention and expansion of provisions of the Internal revenue code that facilitate investment backed easements, and we are a member of the Partnership for Conservation.  

Conserving land often has benefits beyond only open space and environmental protection.  For example, urban ag can provide jobs for veterans and the homeless and help address food ghettos in cities.  Maintaining open space buffers in the wild-lands urban corridors also can provide an added layer of protection from flooding and fires.  

If you have land you are considering conserving or want referrals to resources, please contact us.

CURE has vocally questioned the wisdom of over building urban areas before hardening areas to climate change particularly given the longstanding drought and the importance of retaining some water for tree canopies, rivers and green spaces - all of which combat heat islands, reduce pollution, and capture carbon. Municipalities need to take a more integrated and holistic look at the needs of their communities moving forward and recognize that natural resources are in shorter and shorter supply. Learn more about our work with the City of Riverside:

CURE Letter to Housing Commission
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Cure Project Plans - Victoria Urban Forest

Victoria Urban Forest 10.27
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Forbes - Don't Politicize Charitable Easements Law. Strengthen IT.

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Conservation Easements as a Tool for Nature Protection

Financial incentives to conserve land are increasingly important and necessary to reach the Governor and President's goals of having 30 percent open space by 2030. This new study by Professor William Snape of American University highlights the importance for Congress to clarify section 170(h) of the Internal Revenue Code. In recent years, 170(h) has come under attack, because of easements with faulty appraisals. The vast majority of the land conserved nevertheless had high biological value according to this study. Cracking down on unscrupulous appraisers and investors is important; however, Congress can do so while increasing, not reducing, tax incentives for conservation.

Conservation Easements as a Tool for Nat
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