Why the Gilbert Foundation is Suddenly Dabbling in Environmental Grantmaking

We recently profiled the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, a Los Angeles-based funding known for its Jewish, college prep, healthcare, and art education grantmaking. In 2014, most of Gilbert’s money went towards college prep (over $1.3 million) and healthcare (over $1 million).

Related: Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation: Los Angeles Grants

Now Gilbert has stepped a bit out of bounds and gotten behind the popular AltaSea project in Los Angeles. The foundation awarded a $1 million gift to AltaSea, a public-private partnership aimed at generating innovative ideas for global sustainability. Gilbert isn’t known around town as an environmental funder, but this grant could change the public perception a bit.

Back in 2013, the Annenberg Foundation kicked in a whopping $25 million to develop the AltaSea research campus in the Port of Los Angeles. Annenberg is also hosting "A Day at AltaSea" to publicly preview the facility. This massive project is redeveloping 35 acres of land into an ocean-based campus to study how the ocean directly contributes to public well-being and environmental health. It’s in the planning and development stages right now, with construction set to begin in 2017 and completion estimated for 2019. 

Related: Annenberg Foundation Supports Marine Research in Los Angeles

"AltaSea is about uniting business, academia, and our scientific community to turn the Port of LA's public waterfront into the mecca for jobs and discovery and sustainability that it should be," said Wallis Annenberg.

Phase One of AltaSea is estimated to create 4,200 temporary jobs, 1,350 permanent jobs and generate $290 million in increased economic activity each year. Early estimates indicate that AltaSea will create more than $1.17 billion in increased economic activity.

And even in these early stages, it seems all sorts of local funders are jumping on the bandwagon—even ones that don’t put a strong emphasis on environmental grantmaking. For instance, the Crail-Johnson Foundation, a SoCal funder that focuses on education, human services, and health, also contributed $500,000 to the AltaSea effort.

“AltaSea represents that very special combination of important elements found in a well thought out public-private partnership: Academia, research and entrepreneurial direction coupled with political involvement and support,” explained Richard Ziman, CEO and trustee of the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation.

So in this regard, the Gilbert grant may not be all that environmentally-motivated after all.

“Our Foundation is not just a philanthropic institution, it is an investor,” said Martin Blank, COO and foundation trustee. “AltaSea is a good investment in the economic and cultural future of Los Angeles and its people.”