Hardly a day passes without headlines reminding us of the many challenges California faces: from the housing affordability crisis sweeping across nearly every community in the state, to families without access to clean drinking water in small Central Valley towns, to the dangers posed by increasingly frequent and devastating wildfires. Income inequality leaves millions of California residents on the brink of devastating poverty, and a society built around racial barriers keeps many communities of color from accessing the same opportunities as white residents. On top of this, a global pandemic in 2020 exacerbated and exposed the existing inequities that had been disproportionately impacting low-income communities of color.
Yet California is uniquely positioned to take on even its greatest challenges. The Golden State is known as a national leader in innovation and bold policymaking, with a long history of movements for social change and environmental protection. As importantly, several pieces of historic state legislation – including cap-and-trade, SB 375 (connecting land use planning and climate), SB 535 (climate funds to low-income communities), SB1 (gas tax), SB200 (safe and affordable drinking water) and the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act – have created unprecedented policy opportunities to address climate change, advance health and equity, and improve the environment.
At Smart Growth California, we believe that as grantmakers, we have a critical role to play in shaping California’s future and the future of our communities – and that by working together we can have a far greater collective impact. Through new levels of partnership and leadership, funders can help to build a California that is healthy, equitable, and sustainable.
How California grows – which is determined in great part by the policies and programs that shape land use, housing, transportation, and infrastructure – will profoundly influence how well the state can address climate change, protect open space and arable land, manage water resources, and support health and access to opportunity for all Californians, particularly low-income residents.
About Smart Growth California
Founded in 2009 by The Funders Network and The San Francisco Foundation, Smart Growth California is a network of funders working together to build healthy, equitable, and sustainable communities throughout California. We are dedicated to advancing reforms that will benefit all Californians and the communities in which they live.
Smart Growth California funders invest in issues that center at the intersection of climate, land-use and equity – affordable housing, transportation, water, green infrastructure, and open space, to name a few – to achieve outcomes that promote public health and racial equity, a more sustainable climate and economic opportunity for all. We believe that connecting and working across these issue areas is essential to addressing California’s challenges. Throughout all of our work, we seek to ensure that these reforms prioritize and benefit low-income communities and communities of color.
Learn more about our recent and ongoing work at the Smart Growth California’s blog.
Our vision for California is one where all residents enjoy:
- Clean air and water
- Safe and convenient access to places to walk, bike, and play
- Reliable, affordable public transportation options
- A range of housing options that are affordable to all incomes and are located in opportunity-rich neighborhoods
- Abundant green space and sustainable natural systems
- Access to healthy food, with thriving agricultural lands to support this system
- Living wage jobs and economic opportunities
- The power to influence the decisions that shape their communities and their lives
Our approach is grounded in shared learning and collaboration with a focus on facilitating funder action and leadership. Working together, Smart Growth California funders support a range of strategies, including multi-sector collaboration, community organizing and power-building, driving policy change, increasing public funding, building the capacity of nonprofits and community organizations, and increasing civic engagement.
Coming Together on California’s Most Urgent Issues
Smart Growth California is an action-oriented network with over 40 core funders and 500 funders in the broader network dedicated to creating healthy, equitable, and sustainable communities throughout California. Smart Growth California helps to coordinate and connect funders’ efforts at the state, regional and local levels.
Smart Growth California’s working groups are where funders come together to address critical statewide issues, develop joint strategies and take action. Working groups are funder-initiated and supported by the Smart Growth California team. Smart Growth California’s current working groups include:
- The Statewide Steering Committee sets the overall strategic direction for Smart Growth California and works together on statewide strategic priorities.
- The Los Angeles Funders’ Collaborative brings funders together across LA County to work on equitable implementation of public funding measures.
- The San Joaquin Valley Funders’ Collaborative joins funders from the 8-county region who are aligning their work on various issues such as water, housing and the digital divide.
- The Community Foundation Water Initiative is a cohort of five community foundations from across the state working to integrate water and land use into local priorities. CFWI completed their work together in 2020.
In addition, Smart Growth California facilitates ad hoc committees to work on timely issues, and collaborates with partner networks such as ClimatePlan and the Great Communities Collaborative in the Bay Area. If there isn’t a SGC workgroup in your region, and you’re interested in organizing one, contact Ron Milam at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SGC also hosts virtual funder convenings and learning opportunities for our broader network. Check out our events page for upcoming opportunities to engage.