A Crossroads for Integrated Planning in California
California and its communities are at a critical juncture. Across the state, fragmented water management and land-use planning have resulted in harmful effects on people and communities. With ever-increasing urban sprawl and escalating threats associated with a changing climate, now is the time for our state and regions to better integrate water management and land-use planning to ensure healthier, more resilient communities.
That’s why the funders that together form the Community Foundation Water Initiative (CFWI) commissioned a recently-released report from the Local Government Commission (LGC), Bringing Water and Land Use Together.
The five community foundations that make up the CFWI span the length of the state. Each sought to better understand how land-use and water planning play out in their regions, and strategies to make their communities more resilient. LGC utilized literature reviews and policy analysis, as well as focus groups and countless interviews with land-use and water leaders across the state to develop the report, which provides an overview of both statewide and regional challenges and opportunities. It also offers recommendations for state and local municipalities as well as community foundations, advocates and other stakeholders.
Putting Equity at the Forefront
The disconnect between how our resources are managed and how our communities are organized is inefficient at best, and deeply harmful at worst. One solution? Put equity at the forefront of decisions related to investments, benefits and risks. “Policies that favor sprawl development, along with a lack of attention to the natural functions and limits of our environment, often lead to degraded ecosystems, unsustainable communities and exacerbated, disproportionate impacts on communities already experiencing disadvantages,” the report states. Integration “must be achieved through actions that enhance equity,” such as building a coalition of leaders who are committed to integration, and developing shared principles, knowledge and terminology to work across silos.
The report provides numerous statewide recommendations, varying in degrees of feasibility but all having the capacity to make significant impacts on water and land-use integration to benefit all Californians. Four recommendations that emerge as the most viable for more immediate action include:
- Require greater sophistication and alignment (through better data and analytics sharing) in growth projections and coordinated planning for both land-use planning and water management agencies;
- Promote cross-sector coordinated planning and management of land use, water management, food mitigation and climate adaptation;
- Direct state and local investments toward multisolving through groundwater recharge and green infrastructure projects developed at local scales with robust community engagement;
- Prioritize infrastructure investments that support existing communities, especially underserved communities, before new development.
For each of the five distinct regions, there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach to some of the more local nuances. The report dives into each region’s unique assets and challenges, and proposes strategies for action that can be taken by community foundations and other stakeholders locally. While recommendations such as building local leadership and political will apply to all five regions, the report also provides individualized best practices for each unique region. Read the full report to learn more about the statewide recommendations and to review your regional profile – San Diego, Los Angeles, Central Valley, San Francisco, and the Silicon Valley.
The Community Foundation Water Initiative was launched in 2015 and meets quarterly. LGC completed the report in late 2018 and shared at The Funders’ Network 20thannual conference in Miami in March 2019. Danielle Dolan, Water Program Director for the Local Government Commission, served as the lead author for this report. LGC will move forward with a second phase of the project, working to develop and implement action plans to advance regional and statewide strategies identified in the report.
The community foundations that make up the CFWI include the San Diego Community Foundation, California Community Foundation, Central Valley Community Foundation, Silicon Valley Community Foundation and San Francisco Foundation. They are supported by S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation. The Water Foundation serves as an advisor to the cohort. Learn more about the Community Foundation Water Initiative, a funder working group of Smart Growth California. If you’re interested in learning more, please contact Ron Milam at Smart Growth California