In July 2020,SCAG’s Regional Council adopted Resolution 20‐623‐2, affirming its commitment to advancing justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion throughout Southern California. The resolution called for the formation of an ad hoc Special Committee on Equity & Social Justice to further develop SCAG’s response to advancing equity. The Committee met on a quarterly basis starting in September 2020 and concluding in March 2021, culminating in the development of an early action plan.
On May 6, 2021, SCAG’s Regional Council adopted the Racial Equity Early Action Plan, which will guide and sustain SCAG’s regional leadership in service of equity and social justice over the years to come. The Early Action Plan provides a definition of equity and establishes goals, strategies, and a set of “early actions” to advance racial equity through SCAG’s policies, practices and activities. Highlights from the Early Action Plan are listed below.
Defining Racial Equity
The Special Committee on Equity and Social Justice, SCAG staff, and stakeholder groups developed a working definition of racial equity to guide work moving forward. This definition forms the foundation of the Early Action Plan. The goal is to lead with racial equity as a focal point in addressing the pervasive and deep inequities faced by peoples of color and support the overarching goal of the creation of a just and equitable society.
As central to SCAG’s work, racial equity describes the actions, policies, and practices that eliminate bias and barriers that have historically and systemically marginalized communities of color, to ensure all people can be healthy, prosperous, and participate fully in civic life.
Prior to developing a Racial Equity Early Action Plan, SCAG needed to acquire a better understanding of the agency and the region’s existing conditions. In February 2021, SCAG staff developed a preliminary baseline assessment of racial equity in Southern California to inform future planning efforts. Indicators of equity were grouped into categories aligned with the goals of SCAG’s long-range plan, Connect SoCal: Economy, Healthy and Complete Communities, Mobility, and Environment. This baseline conditions report was meant to serve as a starting place for future assessment of equitable conditions in the region. The baseline conditions report is currently in the process of being updated, with an anticipated release in summer 2022.
The Racial Equity Early Action Plan provides a framework for internal- and external-focused actions. It is a critical step in ensuring that SCAG’s equity-related work continues to advance and that it endures for years to come. The Early Action Plan is an iterative process, with opportunities to identify new actions and commitments going forward to ultimately improve regional conditions, through SCAG’s policies and programs and in partnership with other agencies and institutions, across sectors, putting community in the center of efforts.
The framework of the Early Action Plan was informed by Equity in the Center’s publication, Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Race Equity Culture, which provides insights, tactics, and best practices to shift organizational culture and operationalize equity, and by consultation with Mr. Charles Brown of Equitable Cities.
FRAMEWORK OF THE EARLY ACTION PLAN INCLUDES FOUR GOALS
Shift Organizational Culture – Focus SCAG’s internal work and practices on inclusion, diversity, equity, and awareness.
Center Racial Equity in Regional Policy & Planning – Bring equity into SCAG’s regional planning functions.
Encourage Racial Equity in Local Planning Practices – Promote racial equity in efforts involving local elected officials and planning professionals.
Activate and Amplify – Communicate broadly SCAG’s commitment to racial equity and join with others in different fields and sectors to amplify impact.
EACH OF THESE GOALS IS ADVANCED THROUGH THREE STRATEGIES
Listen & Learn – Develop a shared understanding of our history of discrimination and the structural barriers that continue to perpetuate the inequities experienced today.
Engage & Co-Power – Create an environment where everyone is included, able to share their experiences, and equipped to talk about racial equity and inequities.
Integrate & Institutionalize – Center racial equity in all aspects of work through internal and external systems change.
THE EARLY ACTION PLAN INCLUDES A TOTAL OF 29 ACTIONS FAIRLY EVENLY SPLIT ACROSS ALL THE GOALS AND STRATEGIES
Examples of actions include:
Update SCAG’s Strategic Plan to incorporate an equity vision and goals to guide the agency’s work plans.
Develop equity goals, policies, and metrics as part of Connect SoCal update, and conduct equity-focused outreach and engagement.
Provide resources through the Sustainable Communities Program to promote Environmental Justice.
Expand Toolbox Tuesday trainings to include sessions on racial equity.
Explore developing a Research Program with University Partners.
Explore opportunities to partner to establish a “Planning University” for community-based organizations and stakeholders.
Regional Planning Equity Working Group
Consider attending a quarterly meeting of SCAG’s Equity Working Group (EWG). The group functions as a forum for SCAG staff to engage stakeholders on regional and local planning activities as well as share efforts from across the region to eliminate racial bias and barriers in land-use and transportation planning. Discussions focus on equity-related plans, programs, projects, tools, resources, and best practices, and address multiple planning areas such as Environmental Justice (EJ) and Public Health. Meetings occur on a quarterly basis and are open to all interested in advancing equity, including EJ and Public Health stakeholders, community-based organizations, academic partners, local jurisdiction staff and other government agencies. More information regarding EWG meetings and other regional planning working groups can be found here.
Acquire new equity-related skills and knowledge at an upcoming Toolbox Tuesday training. As a part of implementing the Racial Equity Early Action Plan, SCAG now hosts quarterly equity-focused Toolbox Tuesday trainings for practitioners. SCAG has held trainings on equity-related topics such as:
Taking Action to Advance Equity: Action Plans and Frameworks (April 2022)
Equity Resource Guide
Interested in taking on equity work, but not sure where to start? Review examples of equity-in-action in SCAG’s newly developed Equity Resource Guide. The guide is a collection of local, state, and national examples of practices and approaches, to help support government agencies in advancing equity. The guide promotes and amplifies best practices for equitable and inclusive planning and is intended to be used as a resource to support subregional and local efforts to advance equitable plans, projects, programs, and policies.
The Equity Resource Guide covers several equity focus areas including: equity resolutions, definitions, glossaries and key terms, indicators and baseline conditions, community engagement, communications and messaging, amplifying equity, audits and inventories, frameworks and action plans, trainings, and tools. SCAG anticipates that this document will evolve as new practices and approaches for advancing equity surface.
Need funding to support your work? SCAG’s Sustainable Communities Program provides resources and direct technical assistance to jurisdictions for local implementation and will release a Call for Applications for programs and projects centered on Civic Engagement, Equity, and Environmental Justice in Fall 2022. For more information, please view updates here.
A foundational strategy in the Early Action Plan is to listen and learn to develop a shared understanding of our history of discrimination and the structural barriers that continue to perpetuate inequities. Below is a list of resources to support agencies and individuals as they work to advance equity.
National Equity Atlas – Contains data on demographic change, racial and economic inclusion, and the potential economic gains from racial equity for the largest 100 cities, largest 150 regions, all 50 states, and the United States as a whole.
Othering and Belonging Institute – Publishes a suite of resources including the United States Segregation Map, which examines how racial residential segregation has changed across the country.
Race Forward – In partnership with communities, organizations, and sectors, Race Forward builds strategies to advance racial justice in policies, institutions, and culture to catalyze movement building for justice. Race Forward is home to the Government Alliance on Race and Equity.
Race Counts – Analyze racial disparity and impacts by population size of counties and cities in California.
SCAG’s Connect SoCal Environmental Justice Technical Report (2020) – Included as an appendix to SCAG’s 2020 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy (RTP/SCS), or Connect SoCal, which is designed to create region-wide benefits that are distributed equitably, while ensuring that any one group does not carry the burdens of development disproportionately.
SCAG’s Connect SoCal Public Health Technical Report (2020) – Included as an appendix to SCAG’s 2020 RTP/SCS, or Connect SoCal; it provides an overview of health outcomes in the SCAG region as they relate to the built environment and the impacts of the RTP/SCS.
Orange County Equity Map – A data platform developed by Advance OC that spotlights social and health disparities in Orange County neighborhoods across multiple dimensions, with a specific focus on the impact from COVID-19.
California Healthy Places Index – A data visualization tool developed by the Public Health Alliance of Southern California to assist communities in exploring local factors that measure life expectancy and compares health outcomes across the state.