Last week the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) held its first “Sacramento Regional Consortium” funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program. In partnership with other federal agencies including the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT), the joint “Partnership for Sustainable Communities” includes the following six objectives which SACOG’s application reflected strongly:
• Providing more transportation choices.
• Promoting equitable, affordable housing.
• Enhancing economic competitiveness.
• Supporting existing communities.
• Coordinating policies and leverage investment.
• Valuing the uniqueness of communities and neighborhoods.
Lauren Michele highlights key points from the event below.
Cynthia Abbott, Director of HUD’s District 9 Field Office, opened the event praising SACOG’s grant application as being nearly the highest ranked in the country in an extremely competitive process. She pointed to their plan, vision and partnerships as the key elements on why they received a $1.5 million Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant. Other California-based representatives of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities were present, including those from EPA-Region 9, DOT Federal Highway Administration’s California Division, and DOT Federal Transit Administration’s Region IX. In speaking with all four of the federal representatives after the event, it is clear that SACOG’s leadership is being used as a model across the county. While the impacts of the federal budget situation is highly uncertain, the Partnership is hopeful there will be additional Livability grant in the next fiscal year for applicants who did not receive funding during this year’s cycle.
SACOG’s New Planning Process
Joe Concannon from SACOG spoke on SACOG’s bottom-up and input-first approach to the development of their Senate Bill 375 required Sustainable Community Strategy (SCS). With an extensive partnership and steering committee including the Urban Land Institute, Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, Regional Water Authority, Valley Vision, and the UC Davis Center for Regional Change, SACOG will be using the $1.5 million federal grant to collaboratively develop performance measures for placing the region’s Transit Priority Areas to work toward their regional per capita greenhouse gas reduction target of 7% by 2020 and 16% by 2035. Transit Priority Areas are defined in SB 375 as 20 dwelling units per acre of residential density within a half mile of transit, and SACOG will be leading a new planning process to engage stakeholders in the initial creation of performance measures for equity, health and economic development. They will be utilizing a “Return on Investment Tool” as well as an “Infrastructure Cost Model” to help guide the process of creating a plan which provides access to opportunities as a priority. As part of the federal grant, SACOG will also integrate their SCS with the Draft Council on Environmental Quality Principles/Guidelines at the federal level.
Integration with MTP Update
The Project Manager for SACOG’s Metropolitan Transportation Plan, Kacey Lizon, highlighted that 2/3 of the audience participants has not previously attended a SACOG’s MTP update event. She reviewed the three MTP growth scenarios under review at SACOG, which goals of per capita reductions in vehicle miles traveled between -13 and -15 percent by 2035, and increased transit ridership of up to 82 percent by 2035. While the most aggressive greenhouse gas reduction scenario was selected as the preferred growth option at nearly every MTP outreach workshop, SACOG’s recommended scenario will be a modified version between Scenario #2 and #3 as presented to the public. SACOG’s effort to expand the regional transportation planning process to other sustainability indicators including housing affordability, environmental justice, and economic development is being recognized by the federal government as a well-deserved model on how transportation policy impacts regional health and happiness. In fact, Chris Benner from the UC Davis Center for Regional Change even pointed to relevance of the “Gross National Happiness Index” as used in the country of Butan.
*The next Regional Consortium will be March 23th to gather input on “Health, Access, and Equity” performance measures*