Angelenos have approved new taxes to improve our region’s housing, transportation, parks and water infrastructure. These ballot initiatives were rooted in promises to address the needs of communities across the county, particularly those that have chronically and historically received fewer investments and borne the brunt of associated health, environmental and social inequities.
Now that the measures have passed, comes the important work of investing the resources responsibly. Actually spending these resources in ways that deliver on the promises that were made is possible, but far from guaranteed. That’s the message we heard from our partners across the non-profit and public sectors. With support from Resources Legacy Fund, LA THRIVES and Prevention Institute have released a new report amplifying ideas and insights from the field about how to fulfill the promise for a more equitable and inclusive LA.
Shared Implementation: Building a New Approach to Achieving Social Equity through Public Infrastructure Investment outlines opportunities and challenges for equitably distributing the benefits of housing, transportation, parks and storm water investments. Among our conclusions drawn from focus groups and convening attendees over the last year are that we need a more coherent system grounded in a culture of adaptive leadership that relies on data and coordinated action; creates larger decision-making and influencing roles for residents, non-governmental and community based organizations from under-resourced communities; and, elevates accountability and transparency through data sharing and ongoing communication with residents and stakeholders.
Notable work has already helped advance LA towards these goals, and more is needed:
- The LA County Board of Supervisors, acting in its oversight role for the Regional Parks and Open Space District and considering community input from a broad array of residents and advocates, adopted implementation guidelines for Measure A that ensure a floor for directing park investment to high-need areas and includes a displacement avoidance plan;
- LA Metro developed an Equity Platform, a draft Equity Focus Communities geographic analysis, and a Transit Oriented Communities policy with input from Metro’s Policy Advisory Committee, engaged stakeholders and advocates;
- The County Sustainability Office undertook a broad-based engagement of county stakeholders to inform its Our County Sustainability Plan;
- The Department of Public Works is developing a local return procedure for investing additional revenue into watersheds with disadvantaged communities; and
- Public agencies around the county are actively taking steps to address racial equity by participating in the Government Alliance on Race and Equity.
The ideas put forth in this report reinforce work underway in LA County and nationally, demonstrating an emerging consensus on the importance of maximizing the value of public infrastructure investments by emphasizing equitable processes and outcomes. University of Southern California’s Program on the Environment and Regional Equity’s (USC PERE) 2018 report Measure Matter spelled out a working definition of equitable implementation, and offered numerous recommendations to public agencies and foundations to build stronger systems for inclusive infrastructure investments. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has written from a national perspective about the concept of High Road Infrastructure that maximizes social, environmental and economic outcomes. The Los Angeles Regional Open Space and Affordable Housing (LA ROSAH) collaborative are exploring tools and opportunities for integrating infrastructure and affordable housing alongside displacement avoidance strategies.
A culture shift from “business as usual” to shared implementation is more important than ever. Our report offers three high-level recommendations for systems and culture change to move towards a system of shared implementation for a more equitable region. First, the establishment of a countywide definition of equity along with an “equity czar” or equity council. Second, standardizing public procurement practices of community based organizations for community engagement services. Thirdly, developing and implementing best practices for community participation and engagement. LA finds itself with an incredible opportunity to leverage recently passed infrastructure investments to maximize community health, social equity and environmental sustainability.
Download the full report here. And, learn more about the Healthy Equitable Land Use Network and our 2019 convening series, Ensuring Equity in Infrastructure Investments.