Keynote Speaker Nalleli Cobo, CEO/Executive Director Sigrid Wright, and Boardmember Carolyn Fitzgerald | Credit: Gail Arnold

On September 28, about 200 supporters of the Community Environmental Council (CEC) gathered at CEC’s recently opened Environmental Hub to raise funds for this popular nonprofit and celebrate once again the opening of this spectacular 10,000-square-foot space at 1219 State Street. The event raised more than $100,000.

Guests enjoyed mingling during the reception, while plant-based noshes by Satellite S.B. were passed instead of a sit-down dinner. Many checked out the two-story space — what CEC bills as an epicenter for community activism, education, entrepreneurship, media, and art — along with office space for itself and a few other nonprofits.

For the program, CEO/Executive Director Sigrid Wright welcomed guests and shared that with its focus on climate change, CEC aims to reverse, protect, and repair. Moreover, with California repeatedly setting the pace for other states and beyond, Wright noted, CEC’s work in shaping the Central Coast as a climate innovation lab has impacts far beyond this region. Boardmember Geoff Green then led a spirited auction.

Nalleli Cobo, Goldman Environmental Prize winner and cofounder of People Not Pozos, gave an impassioned, eloquent, and inspiring talk about her story and the importance of climate activism. Cobo, now 22, grew up 30 feet from an active oil well that led to myriad health issues for her, including reproductive cancer. 

Her activism, starting at age 11, led to the closure of that AllenCo well and spurred other people to action. She joyously shared how last year, the L.A. City Council and L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to phase out all oil and gas wells and ban new oil sites. Also last year, Governor Newsom signed into law a bill requiring a 3,200-foot health and safety buffer zone between new oil extraction and sensitive land. Subsequently, the oil industry got a referendum on the 2024 ballot to overturn this, and Cobo urged guests to vote no on this.

The Hub is quite impressive, reflecting the $3.5 million expense CEC incurred on improvements to the building it is leasing from the Hutton Parker Foundation at a heavily discounted rate. The funds came out of the nearly $17 million it raised in its capital campaign. The space previously was leased by Youth Interactive, which also created a community space and sublet to other nonprofits.

Regarding the size and expense of the Hub, Wright related that “thinking big is vital to tackling climate change, and we are intentional in our strategy and commitment to do twice as much, twice as fast to address this existential crisis. The Environmental Hub was designed not only to bring greater awareness to this critical issue, but to provide a space and resource for organizations along the Central Coast working to solve complex social and environmental problems.”

Since the Hub’s opening in early July, CEC has held a western monarch butterfly exhibit and related discussion and film, an Extreme Heat Forum, a screening and discussion on Holly Becker’s documentary Arresting Science, and a Plastic-Free July Expo.

Going forward, CEC has two events planned: a meet and greet on October 16 with filmmaker Rachel Ward in conjunction with the premier of Rachel’s Farm at the Lobero Theatre and a Youth Climate Workshop on October 28.

CEC is offering free use of the space to some grassroots partner organizations and offering it for a fee to others. Several nonprofits are taking advantage of this.

CEC has sublet a small amount of space (400 sq ft total) to the White Buffalo Land Trust, Human Rights Watch, the Terrace Foundation, and TVSB and hopes to sublet another 2,000 square feet next year when it completes remodeling work. CEC will soon seek to rent hot desks at the Hub, with members having access to common areas. 

Next year, the plan is for a partnership with TVSB on a Media Lab for podcasts, webinars, live broadcasts and more.

CEC seeks to advance rapid and equitable solutions to the climate crisis. Recent work includes advocating for community choice energy programs, installing 121 bottle-filling hydration stations in local schools and public spaces, launching a bilingual service to provide info on switching to electric, and training more than 100 climate stewards.

Boardmember, Emcee, and Auctioneer Geoff Green with Board President Barbara Lindemann | Gail Arnold
Boardmember Chandler Buie, Jenny Kearns, and Boardmember Jon Clark | Gail Arnold
Kent Mixon, Melissa Brown, Natalie Greenside, and Joe Andrulaitis (Andrulaitis + Mixon Architects and MN Studio, which did Hub renovation)
Boardmembers Ivette Peralta and Nadra Ehrman
Event Committee | Gail Arnold
Guests enjoy the reception. | Gail Arnold


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