REDWOOD CITY HAS been named a finalist for the 2023 All-America City title, from the National Civic League for their work to improve the health and well-being of youth and all of its residents.

The national award is given annually to 10 cities to recognize communities that have been able to harness civic engagement, collaboration, inclusion, and innovation to address local change.

This year’s theme was “Creating Thriving Communities Through Youth Engagement”, with a special focus on communities that genuinely engage and welcome youth in this work.

“It is a great honor to be recognized for our innovative work and investment in our young residents, especially youth from underrepresented communities,” said Melissa Stevenson Diaz, city manager of Redwood City. “Creating opportunities for children and young people to grow, learn and play in safe and healthy environments has long been a City Council priority.”

In its application, Redwood City highlighted several community-driven activities:

Purpose, Action, Creation and Commitment (PACE): Developed in collaboration with Redwood City Together and the Redwood City Police Activity League PAL, the program responds to community concerns about disruptive behavior by youth in the inner city and aims to encourage positive relationships between community leaders, law enforcement and the youth of the Bike Life movement in Redwood City and North Fair Oaks.

The People’s Budget: This participatory budgeting initiative allowed community members to decide directly how to spend a million dollars as part of the city’s budget. 

In that regard, the city made extraordinary efforts to engage youth from historically marginalized communities in the development of the Popular Budget, while nearly 1,800 people voted during this participatory budget process, which resulted in the selection of four projects for funding. 

Selected from over 700 ideas submitted by over 500 community members were free showers for homeless community members, supportive housing initiatives, a peer mentoring program for drug and alcohol prevention, and bike lanes on El Camino Real.

Youth Inclusion and Childcare Initiatives: This program included inclusive play through Magical Bridge Playgrounds, childcare and preschool programs, and the OYE Latinx Youth Conference, an annual conference that provides a unique opportunity, especially for Latinx youth to come together and explore their identity and passions for their future, as well as learn concrete tools to realize their goals and address issues facing the community.

Anti-Displacement Strategy: This serves as a policy roadmap and foundation for how the city can achieve Housing Preservation and Protection goals in an effort to meet the unique housing needs of the community for people at all income levels. 

Through a 2021 Community Needs Assessment Survey conducted by Stanford University’s Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities, the city learned that the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic shutdown that accompanied it disproportionately hurt lower-wage local workers, parents, monolingual Spanish-speakers, and other black, indigenous, and communities of color. 

The pandemic had a particular impact on the housing security of the city’s most vulnerable populations, including low-income households with children under the age of 18. 

The finalist communities, representing 12 states, range in size from 4,700 residents to more than 8 million. The 2023 All-America City Awards will be held June 9-11 in Denver, Colorado.

Peninsula 360 Press is a collaborative media outlet with news from Redwood City and the Peninsula, Mexico, Honduras, Colombia, Latin America, Asia and Europe.

This story originally appeared in Peninsula 360 Press.