Established in 2023 by Smart Growth California, the Rural Urban Interface Learning Group builds funder knowledge in a supportive, interactive and generative environment to collectively learn and enable funder alignment and collaboration at the intersection of land-use, climate and equity in predominantly rural communities outside of major metropolitan regions with populations under 100,000 across the state of California.
“Smart growth” concepts and practice have typically been centered on dense urban cores, and Smart Growth California’s work (with the exception of the San Joaquin Valley Funders’ Collaborative) has largely reflected this focus on the coastal urban areas of the state. With the housing affordability crisis forcing people out of big cities, and the rise in remote work due to the pandemic, smaller cities across the state are receiving a massive influx of residents. The New York Times reported that “California’s biggest cities are shedding residents, while its suburbs and exurbs are seeing rapid population gains. The shift is fueling a red-hot housing market in areas once ignored by city dwellers, and turning some of the state’s secondary cities into small-scale boom towns.”
This dispersing of the state’s residents could have positive outcomes; with less population pressure on big cities, it may create greater housing affordability within city limits. At the same time, there are also many potential risks for climate, health and equity. Building outside of cities without thoughtful planning could put more homes and residents in the dangerous Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), destroying wild areas and increasing car-centric sprawl. Sprawl could weaken residents’ sense of place and diminish the community feel of these small cities. Alternatively, with intention and political will, this could be a moment for new “micropolitan” towns around the state that weave smart growth practices in a way that fits with their community spirit.
As the demographics shift in our state, Smart Growth California has identified an opportunity to explore a new working group of funders who invest to discuss the intersection of land-use, climate and equity for these fast-changing regions. This will open space for new funders to engage in our work who have not previously been as deeply involved due to their geographic focus.
For additional background, check out our Beyond City Limits Blog.
The Rural Urban Interface Learning Group is open to all funders currently supporting efforts to build healthy, equitable, and sustainable communities with a population under 100,000 in California. If you’re interested in learning more and attending a future quarterly meeting, please contact Ron Milam).
As part of the RUI Learning Group, you can:
- Network and build relationships with other funders committed to creating healthier, equitable, and sustainable communities in the Baja/Imperial/San Diego region.
- Learn about model practices, tools, and strategies that you can apply to your work, plus share knowledge and insights with your peers.
- Explore opportunities to create joint funding opportunities and drive policy change.
- Leverage the impact of your own giving through collaboration with other funders.
How to Join the RUI Learning Group
To join our network, we ask that you support our vision and allocate some portion of your giving to creating healthy, equitable, and sustainable communities. If you currently don’t fund in the region but are exploring opportunities to do so, we also welcome your participation. We also ask that you join The Funders Network. Contact Ron Milam, Director of Smart Growth California, to learn more and get involved. In joining the RUI Learning Group, you also become part of Smart Growth California.