Berkeley’s Climate Equity Fund and Its Buildings, Bikes and People - CivicWell

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Berkeley’s Climate Equity Fund and Its Buildings, Bikes and People

By Marna Schwartz, Sustainability Coordinator at the City of Berkeley

Climate Change & Energy


June 2, 2023


Berkeley’s Climate Equity Fund provides climate change and resilience ben

efits to income-qualified residents. The $600,000 Fund consists of three program areas: 

  1. Resilient Home Retrofits for building electrification upgrades for income-qualified households and workforce development for contractors learning about electrification
  2. Berkeley E-Bike Equity Project (BEEP) for e-bikes for income-qualified residents and youth education and workforce training for e-bike maintenance 
  3. Climate Equity Collaborative for capacity building for local community-based organizations and to elevate the voices of under-represented community members along with the distribution of resilience-focused equipment and resources to those who are most vulnerable to climate impacts


Stop Writing and Start Doing Berkeley’s Existing Buildings Electrification Strategy (adopted in 2021) and Electric Mobility Roadmap (adopted in 2020) detailed the need and goals of equitable decarbonization. The Climate Equity Fund pilot programs now move us beyond our ambitious plans into the manifestation of tangible, real-life decarbonization benefits for residents. They also propel us into the deep learning of what (or maybe watt?) it really takes to electrify Berkeley’s housing and transportation in a way that serves the needs of Berkeley’s low-to-moderate income households. While we are only midstream into the pilot, we are already learning. Our discoveries to date include the actual costs of building retrofits and nuances of layering available incentives, just how many people are eager to own an e-bike, and the true pace and resources needed for people-centered, equitable community engagement.  

The Hammers, Nails, and Heat Pumps of Resilient Home Retrofits The Climate Equity Fund granted three organizations, Northern California Land Trust (NCLT), Association for Energy Affordability (AEA) and BlocPower (in partnership with, funding to provide building electrification upgrades in income-qualified single-family and multifamily homes. NCLT is using their Climate Equity Funds to upgrade their eight unit 10th Street affordable housing property. These funds, braided together with other public funding, philanthropic grants and rebates, will be used to address health, safety, seismic resilience and provide comfort and climate improvements. Upgrades include the installation of Harvest Thermal dual-system heat pumps. 

BEEP, E-Bikes Coming Through The Berkeley E-Bike Equity Project (BEEP) is administered by Waterside Workshops in partnership with Grid Alternatives. Waterside Workshops distributed 55 e-bikes to income-qualified residents. Over 600 residents applied for the e-bikes and were entered into a lottery. BEEP participants received training on safe e-bike riding, an e-bike, helmet, bike lock, lights, as well as child seats, panniers, racks and other customizations, and will get a year of quarterly e-bike maintenance check-ups. In addition, Waterside Workshops is also providing workforce training on e-bike assembly and maintenance for their income-qualified youth interns. 

Climate Equity Collaborative The Ecology Center leads the Climate Equity Collaborative. It is using its Climate Equity Funds to provide community stipends to support BIPOC-serving organizations’ capacity to participate in the Collaborative and for the purchase and distribution of resilience equipment and resources for target communities. The Ecology Center has already hosted three Climate Equity Collaborative convenings, facilitated 23 one-on-one meetings with community-based organizations, jointly developed a “Principles of Equitable Engagement” document, and a curated menu of resilience measures for income-qualified community members.