If the Sierra snowpack vanishes as feared, California will need ideas like this for water

By the Sacramento Bee Editorial Board | February 2, 2022 | The Sacramento Bee

Sacramento — which once only had to worry about seasonal floods — now worries each year about delivering water to its citizens in a hotter and drier California. But there is a way for Sacramento to capture rain and snow, and for the broader region to keep surface reservoirs like Folsom and Oroville lakes nearly full. This same technique could help Sacramento capture enough water to share with neighboring areas in dry years, as well as to store it when we need it most.

Read more at: https://www.sacbee.com/article257812568.html#storylink=cpy


Photo Copyright 2021, Scolopendra Empire Inc.

New Federal Leadership on Planning Emphasis Areas (PEAs)

January 5, 2022

This week, FTA and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued updated Planning Emphasis Areas (PEAs). In the letter announcing the revised PEAs, FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez and the FHWA Deputy Administrator Stephanie Pollack are asking FTA and FHWA field offices to work with their metropolitan planning organizations, state Departments of Transportation, transit agencies, and federal land management agencies to incorporate these PEAs into their Unified Planning Work Programs and State Planning and Research Work Programs.

Several of these emphasis areas focus on the Biden-Harris Administration’s goals of advancing equity and environmental justice in transportation planning, which will help achieve greenhouse gas reduction goals and increase resilience to extreme weather events resulting from climate change. These efforts will better support regional and local governments as they plan for future transportation needs in their communities. There is considerable flexibility in how metropolitan planning organizations and State DOTs can incorporate the PEAs into the transportation planning process. Recognizing the variability and timing of transportation planning processes, FTA and FHWA encourage these PEAs to be incorporated as programs are updated.

Oak Park gentrification: $5 million Aggie Square fund to protect tenants from displacement

By Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks | November 14, 2021 | The Sacramento Bee

…community advocates have repeatedly warned that those benefits may not be experienced by low- and middle-income residents and residents of color. Those concerns led to the creation of a sweeping Community Benefits Partnership Agreement* that would invest several hundred million dollars in Oak Park and Tahoe Park through new affordable housing, local hiring requirements, job training and eviction protections. As part of a deal reached with a group of local organizers called Sacramento Investment Without Displacement, the city is required to allocate $5 million from its housing trust fund and general fund to efforts that would alleviate resident displacement and stabilize the housing market.

Read more at: https://www.sacbee.com/news/equity-lab/article256557521.html#storylink=cpy


*Join Sacramento Investment Without Displacement for a Community Benefits Agreement Presentation on Dec 16. Attend to learn more about Community Benefits Agreements (CBA) and how they have significantly impacted other cities. We will also have a discussion on the CBA Ordinance for the City of Sacramento and what should be included as the Ordinance is being developed.


Photo by MART PRODUCTION from Pexels

CEQA can increase affordable housing in Sacramento while protecting communities

By Ralph Propper, President of the Environmental Council of Sacramento | October 19, 2021 | Sacramento News and Review

The City of Sacramento signed a deal this summer to build a U.C. Davis campus and innovation hub, bringing economic investment that will create affordable housing, jobs and transportation infrastructure. Thanks to California’s premiere social and environmental justice law, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), this agreement was not just a win-win for the project developers and city, but also for the community living near the development. Without a strong CEQA, however, the deal could have had wide-ranging negative impacts for the area’s under-resourced neighborhoods.

The project, known as Aggie Square, is a case study in how CEQA works to protect public health, safeguard communities and spur more affordable housing development. When market-rate developers approach cities with plans to build housing developments, warehouses or other big projects, their main concern is to make a profit. Thanks to CEQA, communities have a chance to make their voices heard by decision-makers before permits are approved and potentially problematic projects are built. Under CEQA, public agencies must study the environmental and public health impacts of a proposed development and identify feasible ways to offset those impacts.

Originally signed by Governor Ronald Reagan in 1970, CEQA protects environmental resources and advances environmental justice and social justice goals. But this keystone law has somehow become the punching bag of for-profit developers, who wrongly blame the statute for creating a barrier to the development of affordable housing. In fact, studies show local zoning and other local factors – not CEQA – are the primary barriers to affordable housing development. While the CEQA process has at times stalled or even blocked inclusionary housing or densification—which does further chill affordable project proposals—the Aggie Square development is a case where CEQA worked as designed, providing a pathway for inclusionary affordable housing and equitable access to opportunity.

The developers of Aggie Square were planning a project that, while bringing economic gains to the city as a whole, would have driven up rents for existing residents, leading to the all-too-familiar pattern of gentrification that displaces lower-income residents. But the outcome was different. Largely as a result of a grassroots effort led by Sacramento Investment Without Displacement that leveraged CEQA to ensure that community voices were heard, the city established a Community Benefits Partnership Agreement that protects local residents from gentrification and reduces the impact of increased traffic surrounding the new development.

Moreover, the agreement goes beyond mitigating harm posed by the project — it creates real benefits for the existing community. It will ensure that a significant portion of the new jobs created by Aggie Square, from entry-level to higher-wage positions, go to local residents. And it will create affordable housing, transportation options, job training and youth education programs.

By requiring decisionmakers to take the time to receive public input, and developers to understand the impact of their proposed development, the CEQA process made this project better and brought it into alignment with state priorities, including by increasing affordable housing supplies. Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg is now talking about replicating the agreement elsewhere in the city, prioritizing economic equity and residents’ rights over the financial gains of big, for-profit developers. This same model could be used to bring affordable housing and economic growth to communities across California.

As we continue to look for solutions to build more affordable housing, all Californians should look past the distorted picture being presented by those who have the most to gain by weakening this 50-year-old law. CEQA may be imperfect, but we must recognize that it is an essential tool for environmental and social justice, and for housing justice.


Click here to read this article on the Sacramento News and Review website.

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

An ode to our native oaks

By Stephanie Robinson | October 11, 2021 | Sacramento Tree Foundation

Out of all the wonderful trees that make up our urban forest in Sacramento, native oaks hold a special place in our hearts. Ask any staff member what their favorite tree is, and chances are many will mention the valley oak. Native plants are trending, and for good reason – they are so important to our natural ecosystems. But native trees, and native oaks in particular, carry the biggest impact.

This Oaktober, we’re celebrating the oaks that are native to the Sacramento region – the valley oak (Quercus lobata), blue oak (Quercus douglasii), and interior live oak (Quercus wislizeni). These majestic trees provide more benefits than any other tree that grows locally. Thanks to donors and volunteers like you, every year we plant 3,200 native trees throughout the region, both in reforestation sites and at places like homes, parks, and schools.

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