Marijuana Justice: Rebalancing the Penalization and Profiteering of Cannabis Through Landscape
Analysis and Planning
Oakland, CA, USA
Jingjing Lai, Student ASLA
Faculty Advisor: Matthew Seibert
University of Virginia
"This meticulously researched and beautifully designed proposal urges that vacant land in Oakland, California, currently occupied by the homeless, be transformed into hybrid landscapes combining urban cannabis farms, homeless shelters, and job training opportunities. The plan argues that the recent legalization of marijuana has generated the emergence of a lucrative industry whose benefits are largely out of the reach of communities formerly affected by drug-related law enforcement. A modular design concept for cultivation and shelter, paired with job training and other services, demonstrates that creative urban land strategies can help transform lives and advance social equity even in the most challenging settings."
- 2019 Awards Jury
Oakland's homeless residents made up 52.7% of Alameda County's homeless population. An estimated 68% of them were African American and approximately one-third of homeless people are suffering from mental illnesses. As property values skyrocket in Oakland, there are lots of vacant parcels scattered throughout the City's neighborhoods, occupied by homeless encampments. At the same time, Communities of color, low-income and homeless have been devastated by the War on Marijuana. Fewer than 1% of all marijuana dispensaries are owned by African Americans, yet are on average three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana.
Responding to homelessness, the vacancy of urban lands and inequity of marijuana use and industry, this project is aiming to transfer vacant lands occupied by homeless people into a unique landscape condition: hybrid sites of urban farm, homeless shelter, and job training. The project is expected to not only help with the living conditions of homeless people but also involve them into a burgeoning cannabis industry by creating jobs and opportunities to help them achieve financial independence and societal well-being.
According to the 2019 Alameda County Homeless Count, Oakland's homeless residents made up 52.7% of Alameda County's total homeless population, grew to a total of 3,451 residents. An estimated 68% of Oakland's homeless residents were Black or African American, despite Black residents only composing 26% of the overall City population. Housing and mental illness are the two most significant reasons why people become homeless. Approximately 33 percent of the homeless are individuals with serious mental illnesses that are untreated; Many of these people suffer from schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder or major depression.
As property values skyrocket in Oakland, there are lots of vacant parcels remain scattered throughout the City's neighborhoods and industrial areas, occupied by the homeless encampment. Those homeless encampments in vacant parcels have been associated with lowered quality of life for nearby residents, negatively impacting mental health and offering opportunities for illegal dumping.
At the same time, Communities of color, low-income and homeless have been devastated by the War on Marijuana use. In 2015, African Americans made up 30 percent of the population but 77 percent of cannabis arrests, compared to 4 percent for whites. The situation is even more serious among homeless communities. Fewer than 1% of all marijuana dispensaries are owned by African Americans, yet are on average three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana. As the marijuana industry continues to grow, we must ensure that people of color are not left out of the conversation.
The economic benefits of legalizing weed have already been apparent. Legal marijuana could mean a big push for state economies and big bucks for both the state and the federal governments. Setting up marijuana nurseries and dispensaries would be the first step for the states that voted in favor of medical marijuana. These would not only create jobs but also set the ball rolling for economic activity in the pot industry in these areas.
Responding to homelessness, the vacancy of urban lands and inequity of marijuana use and industry, this project is aiming to transfer vacant lands occupied by homeless people into a unique landscape condition: hybrid sites of urban farm, homeless shelter, and job training. The project is expected to not only help with the living conditions of homeless people but also involve homeless people into a burgeoning cannabis industry by creating jobs and opportunities to help them achieve financial independence and societal well-being.
Hybrid urban farming homeless shelter block selection system
This project creates a system to select suitable vacant lands to build Hybrid Urban Farming Homeless Shelters. After investigating non-profit homeless shelters in Oakland, they offer shelter service, food service, medical service, and training service to homeless people. They will provide summer emergency shelters and winter emergency shelters to solve housing issues during extreme weather condition. The criteria of the selection is 1. Within the 10-min-walking-distance buffer zones from Non-profit Community Homeless Shelters in Oakland; 2. Avoid 600-feet-radius school buffer zones.3. Vacant lands in the commercial area can be used as cannabis cultivation;4. Vacant lands in the residential block can be used as food production shelters.
Based on existing urban conditions, there are 4 stages for Oakland Downtown to build hybrid urban farming homeless shelters.
1. Soil Amendment
According to USGS Soil Survey 2018, there are two different kinds of soils in Oakland Downtown. S-148-Urban land-clear lake complex soil. This kind of soil is poorly drained and mostly locates in east Oakland. S149-Urban land-Danville complex soil. This kind of soil is well-drained. The first step is to do the soil amendment for poor-drained soil in the selected vacant lands. Substances such as finished compost, well-rotted leaves, and other natural materials, worked down into the soil, improve the way soil particles fit together and the way air and water move through them. Organic matter improves the soil's capacity for holding water and nutrients and increases the activity of beneficial microorganisms.
2. Water Collection and Recycling System.
Marijuana cultivation requires a certain amount of water. California is suffering from drought. In order to cultivate marijuana, the shelters should build a water collection system to gather water. At the same time, the water can be used as shower water for homeless people.
3. Cannabis Cultivation Facilities
Cannabis cultivation requires planting box, planting bed, greenhouse, irrigation system, and lighting system.
4. Homeless Shelters
Community Homeless Job Training Program based on cannabis cultivation timeline
After researching precedents about how the communities run programs involving homeless people, urban farming, veterans, cannabis and African-American Business, the project design a system for a community center to run the hybrid cannabis cultivation homeless shelter. There are. four 3-month programs during the whole year based on cannabis cultivation timeline.
3 different communities - 21 cannabis communities, mixed communities (with kids), community centers Different types of jobs can be offered based on different stages Community center will provide
- Job Training Programs
- Mental Health Recovery Programs
- Medical Marijuana programs for homeless people
Flexibility and adjustability of modular design
Creates a modular urban design system characterized by functional partitioning into homeless shelters, cannabis urban farms and job training facilities. By cultivating cannabis, shelters, and jobs, I hope to help homeless people in Oakland move toward their independence. Temporary modular units can be moved depending on different programs, functions. Permanent units will provide community food services, medical services and will be used as dispensaries for medical cannabis
The selected site is located at the intersection of freeway I-980 and San Pablo Ave., one of the biggest low-income African-American communities in West Oakland. , St. Vincent De Paul Community Center, one of the biggest homeless shelters in West Oakland, locates inside the site. By offering food and bedding services to homeless people, the community center becomes the main attractor of homeless people gathering around the community. The homeless encampments are occupying the lower space of freeway and vacant lands in the community, which leads to health, social security, social sanitary issues. According to the site analysis, the use of marijuana and the market situation of cannabis are both pretty active in the area. As a result, there are a lot of potentials for the community to enroll in Cannabis Urban Farming program and help with the city's homelessness issues.
Development and future
Alameda County and its 14 cities are seeking to end homelessness by 2023. End unsheltered family homelessness by December 2019 and all family homelessness by the end of 2023. Reduce chronic homelessness among persons with serious mental illness by 30% by December 2021. Reduce all chronic homelessness by 50% by 2023. This plan embraces four broad strategies that, together, will bring the necessary capacity, investment, partnership, and community services. The cannabis urban farming and homeless shelter can respond to this situation in some way. In addition to that, publicization of cannabis plantation helps the development of nationwide Marijuana Justice Act and Cannabis Equity Program in California.