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5.  Saying Yes

To Healthy and Just Communities for All

 

Communities of color, social justice advocates, and other grassroots organizations are taking advantage of the opening created by AB32 and SB375, and the Health in All Policies Task Force Recommendations to promote community benefits. They are seeking strategies that help to Green House Gas (GHG) emissions get people out of their cars while promoting social and health equity.

The purpose of Part Five is to explore how these activists are mobilizing to capture opportunities in land use and transportation planning to promote health equity.

 

Background: Goals Of The Six Big Wins Coalition

The Six Big Wins Coalition in the San Francisco Bay Area is prominent effort to achieve healthy communities, social and health equity in the SB375 process.  Among its goals are:

  • To strengthen capacity, effective engagement, and power of non-profit organizations seeking to influence outcomes of the Bay Area SB375 process
  • To secure tangible short term wins and long range victories in transportation, housing, health and economic outcomes for low-income communities through participation in regional planning processes.

 

Between now and early 2013, the Bay Area will develop its first Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) with the goal of aligning transportation investment, land use, and housing policies to meet GHG emission reduction targets. The outcome of these processes, including the adoption of a Regional Transportation Plan, and a Regional Housing Needs Assessment, will determine the allocation of $218 billion of Bay Area public investment over the next 25 years.

Senate Bill 375 (SB375), the legislation which mandates the Sustainable Communities Strategies, also requires extensive public participation.  By law, the process must be open and transparent.  This requirement presents both significant threats and opportunities for low-income communities.

The Threat

The participation process is complex, and in many ways it inherently favors more privileged populations in the region.  There is no guarantee that, even after extensive engagement, low-income communities will have substantive gains from the process. Indeed, there is evidence that the process could have very unfavorable outcomes for some low-income neighborhoods and populations.

The Opportunity

On the other hand, the regional planning processes could open long overdue public dialogue and yield more equitable outcomes for working families, and marginalized racial and economic groups through out the region.

Our Collaboration

At the invitation of the San Francisco Foundation, six regional social equity organizations have come together over the past several months to explore how their efforts to address opportunities and challenges of SB375.  The groups, whose programmatic competence focused on public health climate change, transportation, housing, land use and community leadership development, convened a series of meetings culminating in a retreat on October 6, 2010 to explore ways to strengthen citizen engagement, and potential social equity outcomes of the SCS process. The groups which served as a host committee for the retreat included:  Breakthrough Communities, Genesis, Non Profit Housing Association of Northern California, Public Advocates, Public Health Law and Policy and Urban Habitat.  The retreat brought together 35 groups representing a strong cross section of issues and affected communities.

The Retreat

The major accomplishments of the retreat have been (1) outlining six areas of potential benefit for citizen engagement in the SCS process; (2) identifying clusters or networks of NGOs through out the region, committed to working in each of these six areas; (3) confirming the lead/ co-chair within the Host Committee for each benefit area; (4) developing a preliminary database of NGOs interested in each benefit area. (5) Deepening the understanding of potential opportunities for low income and marginalized communities engaging in the SCS process.   We believe that the groups who participated in this process have an essential technical understanding of the full range of issues as well as a commitment to address potential impacts of the SB375 process on working families and low-income communities throughout the SF Bay area.

The groups participating in the process represent a critical mass of issues and affected communities. We have reached a strong preliminary consensus on the threats and potential benefits of the process for working families and low-income populations through out the region.  We are open to reshaping this consensus through further participation of affected communities, in order to strengthen our collective voices. We are committed to working together until the SCS process reaches completion.
 


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