As 2021 comes to a close, we would like to extend our sincere thanks on behalf of everyone at SCAG. Thanks to partners like you, the region has been able to achieve many milestones and accomplishments in the face of hardship.
As communities throughout the SCAG region continued to persevere during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, resources and expertise provided by SCAG were in high demand. The lack of affordable housing continued to frustrate cities across the state; access to reliable, safe and affordable public transportation options increased in importance to cope with COVID challenges as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and issues of economic inequity were further revealed as a barrier to the financial recovery of the region as a whole.
Ensuring the economic recovery of Southern California is inclusive and leaves no one behind was the key theme of our 2021 Regional Briefing Book, presented at the 12th Annual Southern California Economic Summit.
Our 32nd Annual Demographic Workshop, The Post-Pandemic City, covered the latest trends in migration, fertility and vaccination, as well as the new 2020 census counts.
The lack of affordable housing across California is a top concern for residents and Southern California employers. This year’s Housing Policy Forum was well attended and focused primarily on state and federal policies and resources that could help localities plan for more units. Finding new ways to educate decision-makers about housing policies is the goal of our Housing Policy Leadership Academy, selecting participants in January 2022.
Through the Subregional Partnership Program, an allocation of $24 million is going to local subregions to fund planning efforts that accelerate housing production, align investment in housing planning with the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) allocation and implement the broader goals of Connect SoCal. This program aims to find new and innovative ways for neighboring cities to work together to address common barriers to housing.
In partnership with the California Community Foundation, SCAG launched the Call for Collaboration program, which combined $1 million from SCAG with contributions from local foundations to fund the development of community-based policies and plans that help cities and counties reach 6th Cycle RHNA goals.
Transportation agencies and programs across the SCAG region are getting a boost from the federal infrastructure bill, and we worked closely with our federal representatives and partners to advocate for key initiatives in the final legislation. We approved the 2021 Federal Transportation Improvement Program, which contains approximately 2,000 projects in the SCAG region, programmed at $35.3 billion over the next six years. Our Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Training Sessions were held this year, with each session designed for TDM newcomers and early-stage TDM Programs, tailored specifically for each county.
While addressing the most urgent issues of the day, the region was steadfast in its pursuit of the forward-thinking strategies outlined in Connect SoCal’s “Key Connections” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate against the ever-growing impacts of climate change. In the last year, the Regional Council approved 45 projects as part of the Sustainable Communities Program, totaling approximately $12.2 million to support local plans for Housing & Sustainable Development, Smart Cities & Mobility Innovations and Active Transportation & Safety. The fourth Call for Applications is under development, to be released in Spring 2022 prioritizing investments in environmental justice communities.
The Regional Council also approved 27 proposals as part of the Last Mile Freight Program, providing resources to pilot innovations that will advance the region’s Accelerated Electrification strategy to de-carbonize or electrify vehicles including those within goods movement.
For more than ten years, SCAG’s Sustainability Awards have recognized exemplary work by highlighting excellence in sustainable planning and projects in the SCAG Region, and this year was no different.
While our SoCal Greenprint implementation was put on pause, many other actions prioritized by the Regional Council in Climate Action Resolution 21-628-1 moved forward, including the completion of the Regional Climate Adaptation Framework to support local jurisdictions’ climate planning work, including a library of model policies and a matrix of climate adaptation strategies and actions that can be utilized by jurisdictions with the flexibility to address the specific hazards and potentially impacted infrastructure and community assets in their locales. To share these resources and the challenges faced in Southern California, SCAG staff attended the Climate Change Adaptation Lab hosted by the Scottish Government, the Californian State Government, Adaptation Scotland and European Institute of Innovation and Technology Climate Knowledge and Innovation Community as part of COP26 in November 2021.
As our region, state and country work to create cities that are more equitable and sustainable, the pandemic highlighted the inequity of our broadband capabilities. Bridging the digital divide is a major policy goal so we can better support our children, small businesses and communities. We also unveiled the Inclusive Economic Recovery Strategy – more than a year in the making – to fortify Southern California’s role as a global economic powerhouse while bridging equity gaps and creating new opportunities across the region’s broad demographic spectrum. Additionally, we were proud to adopt our first-ever Racial Equity Early Action Plan to guide and sustain SCAG’s regional leadership in service of equity and social justice.
Engagement and transparency are key priorities for SCAG. Convening regularly with our Regional Council, policy committees and our annual General Assembly allows us to maintain regular communication with our members and stakeholders. We have asked for active feedback on the Draft 2022 Public Participation Plan, as the update to the plan allows SCAG to better reflect input as well as ensure compliance with state and federal regulations. We also remain committed to our open-source data, including our regional data platform, as well as the accessibility of our digital tools.
We are grateful for the safety and health of our staff as we look forward to 2022. Happy New Year from all of us at SCAG!