By Lauren Michele, August 9, 2010
Originally posted by Lauren Michele in association with Policy In Motion on the Policy News Blog.

Today the California Air Resources Board (ARB) released a report on the “Proposed Regional Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Targets Pursuant to Senate Bill 375.”

The report, required under SB 375 (Steinberg, 2008), proposes targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 and 2035 associated with passenger vehicle travel in the state’s eighteen Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), including the four largest: Southern California, San Diego, the Bay Area, and the Sacramento region. The Air Resources Board will consider adopting these targets in September.

Today’s press release from ARB stated that:

“These proposed targets are ambitious, achievable and very good news for Californians” and “Regions that meet the targets will receive incentives in the form of easier access to federal funding, and streamlined environmental review for development projects.”

Policy in Motion founder Lauren Michele provides a summary of the proposed targets here.

For the four largest MPOs, the report outlines proposed targets of per capita greenhouse gas reductions of 7 to 8 percent by 2020, and between 13 and 16 percent in 2035 compared to 2005 levels.

A separate approach was developed for the eight planning organizations that comprise the San Joaquin Valley, establishing placeholder targets of a 5 percent reduction in per capita emissions in 2020, and a 10 percent reduction in 2035.For California’s four largest MPOs, the report outlines proposed targets of per capita greenhouse gas reductions of 7 to 8 percent by 2020, and between 13 and 16 percent in 2035 compared to 2005 levels.

Targets for the remaining six Metropolitan Planning Organizations – the Monterey, Butte, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Shasta, and Lake Tahoe regions – reflect each region’s current plans for 2020 and 2035.

Robert K. Ross, M.D. (see it also here)

At The California Endowment, the issues of diversity and equity are always top of mind. Our foundation was created to address the needs of underserved California communities, and the reality of our state is that the majority of those who live in underserved communities are people of color. In making grants to support improved health in these communities, we seek out organizations whose strategies and staffing reflect a deep understanding of the communities they serve. We also seek to have our Endowment staff and board of directors reflect the ethnic and racial richness of this great state.

We’re proud to be considered philanthropic leaders in making grants to organizations led by people of color. The priority we give to diversity reflects a steadfast commitment by our board of directors, not only as a critical component of our core values, but as a strategic imperative to create and sustain meaningful change through the lens of our mission. In other words, this is fundamentally about impact, and the matter of results.

We have done well in this area, but we can do better. This communique serves as a report to stakeholders and constituents of The Endowment about how we are expanding our longstanding commitment to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors.

I would like to share progress at our foundation on three fronts:
  • Our commitment to a multi-foundation coalition to improve funding to minority-led organizations, in response to the 2008 introduction of California Assembly Bill 624 that challenged foundations to do more in this area;

  • The Endowment’s role in the national Diversity in Philanthropy Project;

  • Our own commitment to staff and board diversity at The Endowment, as well as current and future commitments to grant making and capacity-building in minority-led organizations through our 10-year Building Healthy Communities plan.
Our Coalition Commitment
You may recall that a little over a year ago, a group of nine California private foundations committed to invest $30 million over 3 years to build and strengthen grassroots-level, minority-led nonprofit organizations. Although a substantial portion of The California Endowment’s grantees have historically included such organizations, we committed an additional $2 million as part of the foundation coalition. We recently announced our first set of coalition grants, with $1.4 million in funding to strengthen grassroots organizations focused on improving the health and well-being of communities of color.

In addition to the coalition commitment, we have pledged $8.65 million over the next 2 years to support increased capacity for minority-led organizations involved in our Building Healthy Communities strategy. So, rather than viewing the foundation coalition commitment to capacity building in these organizations as a “special project,” we integrated the commitment into our long-range strategic grant making.

The National Diversity in Philanthropy Project
From 2007 through 2009, The California Endowment helped launch and served in a leadership role in the national Diversity in Philanthropy Project (DPP), an effort undertaken by 35 executives and trustees of key leading philanthropic institutions across the country to strengthen voluntary activity to advance diversity and inclusion in the field. Here are the highlights and outcomes of this 3-year effort:
  • Established a 20-member Data and Research Working Group to develop recommendations on data collection to better track foundation diversity performance and to identify new research on the topic of diversity.

  • Engaged over 50 philanthropy researchers and practitioners throughout the country for discussions about creating better diversity measures. Demographic studies have been completed in California, New York, Michigan and the Pacific Northwest.

  • Produced a seminal report on 300 U.S. Diversity Focused Funds (minority-led) compiled by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. A special issue of the National Civic Review titled Philanthropy And Diversity: New Voices, New Visions will soon be published.

  • Engaged more than 100 Foundation CEOs in Chicago, Detroit, Columbus and Los Angeles in focus groups to share successes and failures related to their diversity work.

  • Provided additional support to Regional Associations of Grantmakers to promote lessons learned from Transforming Michigan Philanthropy Through Diversity and Inclusion, a 5-year initiative of the Council of Michigan Foundations. Based on the success of this initiative there has been an increased level of interest by other regional associations, including those in California, to replicate this approach.

  • Co-commissioned a study, with the Race & Equity in Philanthropy Group, to assess what is needed to effectively incorporate racial equity and inclusion into foundation priorities and systems. The results of the study, Lessons Learned in Addressing Racial Equity in Foundations, is forthcoming.

  • A new Diversity in Philanthropy Web site, offers a range of resources, publications, and links that address, assess and advance diversity including legislative updates. An e-newsletter was launched this year and is distributed nationally.

  • Philanthropic leaders have committed to strengthening the capacity of five institutional partners to advance diversity, inclusion and equity. These partners are The Council on Foundations, The Foundation Center, The Regional Associations of Grantmakers, The Joint Affinity Groups and Minority-, Women-, and LGTB-led philanthropies.
The California Endowment’s Enduring Commitment
Since the founding board of directors launched The California Endowment in 1996, we have maintained a strong sense of values with respect to diversity, inclusion, health equity and social justice in philanthropy. Since our inception, the board of directors,  in its makeup, has reflected the extraordinary diversity of our state. Currently, 11 of our 16 board members are persons of color, and 14 of our 16 members are either women or persons of color. At the management level, 7 of our 12 senior managers are persons of color, and 10 of 12 are either persons of color, women, or openly gay.

People of color make up 65 percent of our staff, and this percentage rises to 85 percent when women and persons of color are added jointly.

This strong commitment to diversity expresses itself through our grant making, as well.  Our practice has not been to routinely collect racial and ethnic data about grantee organizations; rather we ask prospective grantees to identify the target populations they will serve.  Through this data, we know that nearly 100 percent of our grant funds, in some manner or form, are working to address the needs of communities of color, low-income populations or the underserved. However, we are exploring ways we can assess grants made to minority-led organizations as a way to better understand their needs and concerns.

The California Endowment’s 10-year Building Healthy Communities strategy, which begins implementation in 2010, affirms our commitment to improved health equity in low-income, communities of color. We have completed an arduous, year-long process of selecting and engaging leaders in 14 disinvested communities across the state – from City Heights in San Diego and Coachella in the south, through the Central Valley, and as far north as Del Norte County. We will concentrate grant making and other efforts in these communities challenged by poverty, violence, and health inequity, and work with leaders to transform them into healthier places to live, eat, work and play for children and youth. Across these 14 communities, more than 90 percent of the resident populations are persons of color. We anticipate investing several hundred million dollars across these communities in the coming decade.

Finally, our foundation has recognized steep equity challenges faced by boys and young men of color in disinvested communities across the state, and we are heavily engaged in planning efforts to address the health needs of this high-risk group of young people under the umbrella of our 10-year strategy. To learn more about the challenges faced by these youth and promising policy solutions, see Reparable Harm: Assessing and Addressing Disparities Faced by Boys and Men of Color in California, a RAND Corp. report commissioned by The Endowment and available for download at www.calendow.org.

In Closing
For The California Endowment, this enduring commitment to diversity, inclusion, race and equity is not a manifestation of an obligation to quotas, set-aside formulas or political correctness. Rather, it reflects a strong sense of values, a recognition of historic and deeply embedded discriminatory practices and policies that perpetuate health and economic disparities, and a strategic imperative that our communities deserve better. Through the lens of our mission, it is our strong belief that achieving meaningful and sustained improvements in the health of underserved communities cannot be achieved without investing in the innovation and leadership efforts by community leaders and organizations who directly confront these challenges. Social problem-solving emerges from the ground up, and not the other way around.

While we are proud of this track record and commitment, we recognize that we have more work to do to assure that a powerful commitment to diversity is fully expressed through all that we do. In 2009, our foundation commissioned the firm Social Policy Research Associates to conduct what amounted to a “diversity-inclusion-equity audit” of the organization. Some areas of needed improvement include how we contract for services, our practices in social- and mission-related investing and the policies that shape how the foundation’s assets are invested.

We also recognize the impact of structural racism and the historical disadvantages faced by people and communities of color. To that end, we are developing a training Institute on Racial Justice for our staff and community partners to deepen our understanding of this issue and identify ways we can more effectively support minority-led organizations.

Our board of directors recognizes that the matter of diversity and inclusion in philanthropy has, in recent years, become the subject of some controversy. Over the past 20 years, we have witnessed meaningful improvements in diversity in the field, and in particular, at the level of boards and senior management. It is our view that voluntary leadership practices should continue to drive improvements in diversity and inclusion. For a nation struggling to improve equity and opportunity in vulnerable and underserved communities, we believe that organized philanthropy must recognize that diversity is both a moral and strategic imperative.

Daniel Boggan, Chair of the Board
Tessie Guillermo, Vice Chair of the Board
Robert K. Ross, President and CEO
Posted by: kbvale | August 12, 2009

Land of Plenty? Food Access in the Valley

The valley’s poor are more often than not farm workers: people to spend most of their days surrounded by the fruits, dairy cows, and other regional staples that produce food that feeds the world.  Ironically, though, the lack of affordable food access means that many of these laborers cannot eat the very products they helped to harvest. An article in the July 25, 2009 edition of the Fresno Bee titled “Groceries more costly for Valley’s poor” (http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/1559656.html) depicts this issue very well, telling the story of valley residents who are forced to eat poorly due to financial or transportation issues and a lack of affordable supermarkets in low-income areas of the region.

Food access has more repercussions than simple hunger and nourishment; this issue affects mental and physical health, creating problems such as poor school achievement that perpetuates the very state of poverty that started the issue in the first place.  Furthermore, with television and popular commentary claiming that issues such as obesity or failing grades is result of a purely individualistic choice, it becomes clear the larger issue: without assistance, poor people have little ability to pull themselves out of their economic condition.  In many cases, poverty (much like wealth) is an intergenerational experience, which runs in direct contradiction to our ideal of American meritocracy in which we claim all people to have equal chance at success.  And clearly there is no better example of the flaws in reason presented by this idealist view of society than the case of those who live and work surrounded by food and yet are unable to keep them and their families properly nourished.  Yet, in a society driven by capitalistic motives, how are we to stop these injustices if not through direct government intervention?  While the answer is not clear, one thing is: with most valley  towns relying on the Food Mart at their local gas station for their meals, something must be done.

Posted by: kbvale | August 3, 2009

Ground-Breaking Community Mapping Workshops Held

By Kendra Bridges

On May 14 and 21, members of two south Sacramento communities joined staff from the Coalition On Regional Equity, the UC Davis Center for Regional Change, Legal Services of Northern California, and Sacramento Mutual Housing Association to discuss the state of their communities. The workshops were held in the Avondale / Glen Elder neighborhood at Max Baer Park, and in the Lemon Hill neighborhood at Sacramento Mutual Housing Association’s Lemon Hill Estates.

During the workshops, community members discussed issues related to the health of their communities, including access to health care, transportation, safe and decent housing, and other issues that help build a quality living environment. Lively discussions took place at both events. Participants identified assets in their communities, and things they would like to see changed. They spoke about their personal habits in the neighborhood, how they got to frequent destinations, and what services they used locally. All had something to say about what they would like to see improved in their communities.

The information gathered from the community members of Avondale / Glen Elder and Lemon Hill will be made into maps of community knowledge. These maps will be presented to the communities in future meetings, and will be used to begin a discussion of next steps. Ultimately, the data created in these mapping workshops will be used to support advocacy for change in these neighborhoods.

These workshops are part of a project called SCORECARD, or Sacramento Coalition on Regional Equity Collaborative Assessment of Regional Development, which is a collaborative between the Coalition on Regional Equity and the UC Davis Center for Regional Change. The SCORECARD will serve as a vital resource for advocacy, organizing, and building a critically-informed people’s movement for regional equity and health. It enhances the ability of populations typically marginalized in regional planning efforts (such as immigrants, low-income people, communities of color, youth) to have their visions seen and heard by regional policy makers.

The goal of the SCORECARD is to provide a tool to empower and engage community partners to assess development and advocate for change in the region at multiple scales, from the neighborhood, to the municipality, to the county, to the full region. It will involve a dynamic process that links community involvement with cutting-edge mapping and geographic information systems (GIS) technology.

Much of the data for the SCORECARD will come from secondary data sources to allow for consistency across the region over time. But it will also include data garnered through collaborative public participatory GIS (PPGIS) system that reflects residents own knowledge of their neighborhoods. This PPGIS system will be developed through conducting workshops such as those held in May that are novel in the non-profit, community development, and social empowerment fields. It will capture local data by conducting mapping workshops where community members will have an opportunity to participate in hands-on mapping of information they feel is relevant to their community’s well-being.

The Central Valley Tribal Environmental Justice Project is a collaborative effort between the eight valley Councils of Governments (COGs) to develop a report containing tribal input on transportation, cultural preservation, participation in decision-making and environmental justice as part of the region’s Blueprint process. At the three workshops have been an assortment of tribal members (with over 45 tribes represented) and representatives from local COGs and County Association of Governments (CAGs).  A diverse array of topics have been covered, from cultural resource mapping to government-to-government cooperation, but the underlying topic for this group remains to be fleshed out: how to create more structural tribal involvement in local government.  Now, with the workshops completed and the foundation laid, eight meetings will occur via the internet among workshop participants where a more concrete format for participation and recommendations can hopefully be envisioned.

With these meetings still to occur, the tribal participants have already made several concrete recommendations and requests for the County officials of the region.  Among them are the following:

  • Creation of an educational or information-sharing system between tribal and non-tribal people; maps are too risky, but increased and established consultation may be the solution.
  • Tribal issues of transportation and resource access/preservation which are exacerbated by their isolation in rural areas must be addressed by planning officials.
  • There must be a proactive approach to tribal involvement in government planning and actions.
  • Tribes need expert help and new ideas to address the specific issues that affect them, such as health concerns and resource preservation.

On the flip side, the COG and CAG representatives at the workshops made requests to the tribal people, the most important being intertribal communication and collaboration to allow for easier coordination with non-tribal entities; while some of such networks do exist in the Central Valley, the meetings of this collaborative are the first substantial interface for interaction between the tribes and regional government officials.

An example of a more established system is in place in the San Diego area, with tribes organized into a Regional Transportation Authority that places representatives on the board of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).  While San Diego differs greatly from the Central Valley in the fact that their county comprises the region (establishing a regional government through SANDAG) and that most tribes are Federally recognized (unlike in the Valley where, for instance, Kern County has NO federally recognized tribes), the principles of their model are things we should strive for in this region.  Namely, they have given tribal representatives authority in the regional planning process, and have taken proactive steps to ensure their input in decisions which may affect their land, lives or other resources.

It’s time the tribes of the valley get a voice in the governing structure that effects their people, regardless of Federal recognition or any other barriers to more inclusive participation, in an attempt to right the historical wrongs committed against them.  They need protection from people seeking to exploit their sacred plants and artifacts, the ability to preserve their land and resources, and an established means of influencing government decisions that affect their ability to live their lives as they deem culturally appropriate.  While the first step was taken in these meetings, much more is to be done to establish a regional governing structure that allows for more structural participation of tribal representatives.

For more information, visit the project’s website at http://www.catribalej.com

Californians are angry. Our schools are failing, our infrastructure is crumbling, our prisons overflow and our financing system is bankrupt. We have a legislature that can pass neither budget or reforms.  It is our duty to declare that our government is not only broken, it has become destructive to our future.  It is time for a Constitutional Convention.”

– Reform California website

The current problems in California are hard to miss.  The daily news has been filled with articles on prisoners being released from jail, government employees (from teachers to police officers) being laid off in droves, and other such budget related turmoil.  In response to these events, Jim Wunderman of the Bay Area Council has started the Reform California movement, which has been holding constitutional convention summits all over the state to garner support.  Their objective is to pass two propositions in the November 2010 election: the first to allow for Californians to call a Constitutional Convention, and the second to call one.  The end result would be a new draft of the State Constitution, which could be put up for voter approval in the November 2012 election.

I was able to attend such a “town hall meeting” when the Central Valley Constitutional Convention Summit was held in Fresno on June 26, 2009. Featuring several notable speakers, the idea of a constitutional convention was addressed, as well as theories about how the government was able to get to this point.  Dan Walters hit the point best, I feel, when he described the system of checks and balances that the founding fathers put into place as being hyper-developed in California, achieving a point where too many people have the ability to stop initiatives.  Now, our government is left with no way to make solutions that make sense, creating deep-set problems that result in the hardships currently experienced in our local governments.

While a lot was said of the process and potential end results, the main discussion was centered on two main issues: the selection process for the 400 delegates for the convention, and how the convention could operate in a progressive manner.  The current constitution stipulates that such a convention must involve 400 delegates that are representative of the state population, but does not go beyond that and thus leaves a lot of room for interpretation.  Who will design and enforce accountability?  How will special interests and other political barriers be kept out of convention proceedings?

While the possible solutions to these questions are numerous, the main result I garnered from the group discussion a high level of fear of change, and of the unknown.  People in this state have very little (if any) experience with such movements, and thus many can’t envision the potential results without some guidance.  While I agree that a Constitutional Convention is necessary in our state (constitutions were designed to be living documents, after all), I think that Reform California cannot gain the results they desire without providing a vision of potential outcomes of such an event.  Unlike the propositions passed in most elections which act as Band Aids to the larger issues at hand, a Constitutional Convention has the potential to completely revamp how government is run and how citizens participate in that system… the possibilities are exciting, and I think the fear will be dispelled if only people realize the potential of this movement.

For more information, go to http://repaircalifornia.org

Sacramento Natural Gas Storage Project (SNGS) is proposing the storage of 7.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas 3800 feet underground. Such a natural storage “bank” would be used to help meet Sacramento’s increasing demand for energy during high seasons and in the case of an emergency. While such an emergency storage bank would be a huge resource for the area, the proposed site resides under 700 homes. The California Public Utility Commission just published its Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) noting that, “significant and unmitigable impacts were identified,” including potential hazards such as the release of hazardous materials, impacts to drinking water quality, and possible fires and explosions to name a few. The DEIR concludes that SNGS’s proposal poses real dangers for residents.

Quoted on the SNGS website Jeff Raimundo states that “This project won’t move forward unless we can prove it is safe…we understand that we have to prove that, and we intend to.” The company needs to get signatures from the land-owners of the proposed site and SNGS offers both a signing bonus and annual payments for the use of the land (payment based on 0.20acre land parcels). The SNGS’s most recent newsletter, fall 2008, reported that more than 680 property owners representing more than 450 properties, a majority of eligible properties, had signed approval leases. These numbers represent signatures obtained before the DEIR was released, which leads one to question whether residents have been fully informed of the safety issues at hand. As financial incentive plays a role for both the residents and SNGS, is there a particular basis on which these homes are being targeted for such a potentially dangerous project? Are residents receiving accurate information on safety to base their decision? And furthermore are these residents forced to make personal decisions between financial gain and safety?

Taking power relationships into consideration, it is interesting to see what SNGS has to gain from having signatures in support of their project on a basis other than safety. As multiple stakeholders take into consideration whether or not to allow for this development, safety will be a central issue of concern. Resident signatures can be used to show understanding and support, but the issue of financial gain and possible lack of accurate information in regards to safety may mean that those signatures misrepresent the true opinions of residents. CORE (Coalition on Regional Equity) and AGENA (Avondale/Glen Elder Neighborhood Association) along with other community partnerships are working on making neighbors accurately aware of the potential dangers. Both CORE and AGENDA note that the California Public Utility Commission says that the safest thing for everyone would be not to store gas under our homes at all.

The DEIR clearly addresses potential hazards, but when are the dangers threat enough for us to consider alternatives? When signatures are coming before understanding of potential threats, we really have to question if the honest safety and well-being of our neighbors is top priority. The basis for choosing this site may very well be based simply on the fact that with a factor of financial gain, in a lower-income area, there is a lower likelihood of resistance. But is this regional resource for many worth the sacrifice of a few?

For more information

Sacramento Bee article: http://www.sacbee.com/ourregion/story/1777803.html

Sacramento Natural Gas Storage website: http://www.sacnaturalgas.com

Draft Environmental Impact Report: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/environment/info/dudek/sngs/DraftEIR.htm

By Jim Wilson, New York Times

By Jim Wilson, New York Times

“From each according to her/his ability, to each according to his/her need.”

– Karl Marx

How did we get so far from Marx’s ideal vision of society? Currently, with over five empty households per homeless family, it seems silly that we would be experiencing a surge in our homeless population. And yet, the “Shantytowns” popping up all over the Central Valley of California are causing quite a stir that is lacking in political action while shamelessly exposing the members of this vulnerable group to media scrutiny.  A new type of homelessness has emerged, broadening previous definitions of homelessness as simply a matter of mental defect, drug addiction or inability to work. The occupants of the makeshift neighborhoods we see all over the news today are not “chronically homeless.” In fact, most of these working class people had built the overabundance of housing to which they no longer have access. With one eviction happening every 13 seconds, the ranks of the homeless are being expanded by working and middle class families who were once financially secure. All homeless people have enough to worry about without the added judgment of a nationwide audience to their pain, and they deserve more than to be shuttled around through a maze of political promises that fail to recognize or respect their experiences.  With today’s economy and housing market, many workers are being forced closer to the brink of homelessness. It’s time to drop the stigma of homelessness, and recognize that viable solutions are needed before things get worse. Those who have noticed Shantytowns in the Valley need to demand more of a response to this crisis than the more visits from media and politicians. There are adequate and respectful solutions out there, and utilizing them may bring us closer to the egalitarian ideal that Marx envisioned so long ago.

Based on a piece by Gifford Hartmann, “The New Joads: Trying to Survive in the Spectacle-Commodity Society,” as well as recent news articles.

Posted by: kbvale | February 17, 2009

SB 375: The Solution for Regional Planning?

SB 375 is the recently approved, state-wide legislation aimed at fighting climate change in California through smart development. Besides creating a state-mandated program that brings together formally disjointed planning activities, SB 375 will set benchmark goals of carbon emission reduction within the different regions of California. Also, by creating Sustainable Community Strategies, each region will be led to incorporate housing needs, transportation alternatives, and regional targets for emission reductions into their already existing planning structures. Uniting invested stakeholders in the planning discussion, as well as creating timetables for the implementation of new ideas, SB 375 hopes to considerably reduce climate change and promote sustainable development throughout California.

But, there is one question left by political commentators: is SB 375 enough? Nowhere in the legislation’s text is there any note of enforcement or penalties for a region’s failure to comply with their Sustainably Community Strategy. The State Senate’s analysis concluded that the lack of requirements to follow the advised strategies sought for in the new planning process was a big factor its implementation, citing that a reliance on regional pressure would probably do little to contradict the natural zoning tendencies of city governments. While certain perks of applying the bill to planning processes (such as extensions on deadlines to submit housing elements from every five to every eight years, and generous exemptions to environmental restrictions), even supporters of the bill say they wonder how accepting local governments will be to this new shift of power to the regional level. Also, many have noted how the lack of additional funding for projects resulting from SB 375 planning, such as for building infrastructure for infill developments, could act as a further disincentive for implementation. With funding still as limited as ever, there is no guarantee that new development proposals focused on SB 375’s goals will win approval over those that are more affordable, yet less sustainable in nature.

The bill’s author, Senator Darrell Steinburg, admitted in an interview that the intent of this bill was to encourage regions to consider climate change in their planning, adding that the lack of punishments for a region’s failure to meet such goals was intentional. Though this optimistic interpretation of the inherent nature of city planning and development is always nice to hear, it is without basis in our state’s history. Too often have developers and those with financial interests won out over smart, sustainable planning. The governor’s fact sheet on SB 375 even cited that the biggest source of carbon emissions is from automobiles and small trucks, directly resulting from the sprawling development that is winning out in most areas of California. This is probably why most newspapers across the nation have cited SB 375 as a revolutionary and encouraging beginning to our fight against climate change.

As for my opinions, I wonder how SB 375 will be united with the state’s Regional Blueprint efforts. It seems as if those planning processes would be a great opportunity to take SB 375 to a new level of understanding and implementation at the regional level. Also, I feel that the more pronounced presence of regional councils of governments (COGs) could be something to consider, for a more formalized planning role at their level could be most beneficial for regional planning on the whole.

Even with the optimistic progress being made to date, proponents and opponents seem to agree on one point: there is still more to be done.  Whether the initiative comes from government actions or by regional movements, though, it is clear that something has to happen before climate change overwhelms us.  SB 375 is a great start to addressing this problem, but it will take state-wide support to bring about success.  It can’t do it alone… it’s time we all jumped on board and started to demand more from city planners throughout our state.

Posted by: kbvale | February 12, 2009

Regional Blueprints in California

This past Tuesday, I attended a statewide summit on Regional Blueprints in California. Like most of us, when I hear “blueprint,” I think of construction. In particular, I think of a specific, comprehensive plan that is made to ensure that all people working on a project are moving in the same direction. Hence, when I heard that California was attempting to make Regional Blueprints for future development, I was excited about the potential such a plan would have to unite researchers, public officers, and community workers in their quest to improve California. As I learned at the summit held this week, the rest of the nation’s leaders are pretty excited to see what happens as well.

While the information provided by speakers and discussions were incredibly useful, in the end I was still left with some questions unanswered. Specifically, I heard little mention of incorporating existing plans and movements already occurring throughout the state, almost as if those involved assumed that these Blueprints would be a starting point when, in reality, development work in California was started long ago.  I have personal experience with several such efforts in the Central Valley, and thus the lack of focus on incorporating such groups raised major flags for me.  In order for the Blueprint to really revolutionize regional planning, I think more focus needs to be placed on incorporating ALL relevant groups in order to pool resources and avoid the duplication of work. Also, questions of information dissemination, funding, and access to resources were raised repeatedly in discussions, which are all issues that I feel would be easily overcome if Blueprint efforts were to focus on creating collaborative efforts among organizations and groups in the state. Each group has funding, resources, and knowledge that could be combined in effective ways towards achieving Blueprint goals, and I feel it would be unwise for Blueprint organizers to ignore those assets.  The Blueprint is a new and valuable effort, but there’s no need to waste time re-inventing the wheel.

SB 375, the new regional planning bill that passed State legislature a few months ago, was brought up several times as an encouraging ally in the quest to get people on board with their region’s Blueprints. While I wonder if the lack of regulatory measures in this bill will allow for cities and counties to continue planning as usual, one participant pointed out a distinct air of acceptance of regional planning in the state. In his words, “something seems different,” and many feel that the impending climate crisis and a more environmentally-minded state governor could be factors behind that sentiment. But, the Blueprint is intended to be a tool to plan for long term goals and needs, not a binding document, which leaves room to wonder what will actually result from these processes. As Henry Gardner said in his address, regional organizations have “no power to force anybody to do anything,” so it’s time to look beyond regulatory penalties to more diplomatic measures. This may be helped by some suggestions made in our group discussions, mainly around identifying success stories and conducting evaluations of Blueprint planning efforts, information which we can hope will inspire more people to get on board. I suppose only time will tell us how this will play out.

Several participants were concerned (and rightly so) about information sharing, to which I suggest a Blueprint website that could serve as a source to view regional Blueprints, as well as a resource to view involved organizations and information gathered. Providing information is key, as well as educating people about Blueprint goals in a manner that is able to be related to each resident effected. This could also provide a public forum for citizens to leave anonymous feedback, comments, or suggestions for Blueprint planners, which is obviously necessary when one takes into account the demographics of those who attend summits and conferences like the one this week.

Overall, I felt this summit was incredibly valuable for the information and participants it garnered. While I’m left with many questions and concerns about Regional Blueprints, it’s hard to not get excited about its potential to change planning and community action as we know it. On that note, I leave you with a quote from our Governor that particularly resonated with me (as a native of what I see as the much neglected Central Valley of California):

“As goes the San Joaquin Valley, so goes California… as goes California, so goes the nation.”

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