With 2022 coming to an end, we extend a sincere thank you on behalf of everyone at SCAG. As we continue to work together to achieve our unified goals, the region is looking toward a brighter future because of our collaboration.
To reach our regional goals, we need a holistic plan to elevate the Southern California region. We kicked off the process for Connect SoCal 2024 – the 2024-2050 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy in 2022. Three new subcommittees were formed to support plan development: Next Generation Infrastructure, Resilience and Conservation and Racial Equity and Regional Planning. These subcommittees comprise elected officials who are members of SCAG’s Regional Council and Policy Committees and bring unique and valuable perspectives to provide guidance on priorities and strategies for Connect SoCal 2024. SCAG also began the process to prepare the draft Connect SoCal 2024 Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR), with the release of the Notice of Preparation for the PEIR in October 2022.
A strong plan allows us to achieve attainable solutions to address some of the region’s biggest challenges. In 2022, several steps have been taken to improve mobility in Southern California. We approved the 2023 Federal Transportation Improvement Program, which contains approximately 2,000 projects in the SCAG region, programed at $35.9 billion over a six-year period. SCAG also advocated for an increase in funds from California’s Active Transportation Program, and succeeded in increasing the share of funding that we will administer to regional programs from $138 million to $361 million. Our Go Human campaign promoted safe communities as well as low-emissions transportation options with the Go Human Safety Pledge and projects and partners through the community mini-grants.
Another major hurdle our region is facing is the housing shortage. This past year, we gained critical momentum for our efforts to address the housing crisis through innovative solutions to reduce barriers to creating housing. Through the ongoing $47 million Regional Early Action Planning (REAP) 1.0 grant program SCAG funded eight cohorts of a Housing Policy Leadership Academy, where stakeholders attended ten monthly sessions that gave an in-depth understanding of the challenges and opportunities of delivering more housing in the region. The leadership academy was accompanied with four housing policy forums that brought up to 300 people together at each forum to discuss new housing legislation, homeownership and financing options. In July 2022, our Regional Council approved the REAP 2.0 Program Development Framework, which highlights core objectives, program areas and the schedule for allocating funds for REAP 2.0, which, once approved by the state, will allow SCAG to administer approximately $246 million across the SCAG region to accelerate housing production. For more information on REAP programs, visit scag.ca.gov/reap2021.
As our region changes each year, we must continue to grow and adapt. In October 2022, our Regional Council formally affirmed the drought and water shortage emergency in the region and called on jurisdictional partners to join in addressing that crisis by unanimously adopting a resolution committing to work towards a clean, safe, affordable and reliable water supply for Southern California. SCAG also affirmed our commitment to bridge the digital divide and began work on the Broadband Action Plan, which outlines steps we will take to provide digital accessibility and in turn foster an equitable, prosperous and resilient region for all residents. This plan is expected to be released in early 2023 and will be available at scag.ca.gov/broadband.
Regional challenges can’t be addressed without action. In 2022, SCAG advocated for the needs of Southern California’s diverse and growing communities. This includes 15 meetings with our State and Federal Legislative Delegation to discuss budget and legislative asks for the region. From these meetings, there were several legislative and budgetary victories – through our advocacy partnerships we helped secure $575 million in funding for the Infill Infrastructure Grant Program and $1.05 billion for the Active Transportation Program. SCAG’s efforts also provided additional flexibility for local cities and counties working to complete their Housing Element updates and secured a federal earmark to conduct a comprehensive highways to boulevards study for our region. For more information on SCAG’S legislation and advocacy work, visit scag.ca.gov/legislation.
A robust inventory of tools can help when tackling challenges. In February 2022, we launched the Regional Data Platform, a revolutionary system for collaborative data sharing that levels the playing field for local jurisdictions by supporting transparent and collaborative community planning. A number of new regional reports and toolkits debuted in 2022. For instance, the REAP funded Other to Residential Toolkit – a step-by-step guide for policymakers and agency staff on innovating and expanding housing options through converting underutilized sites into residential – and the Development Streamlining Guidelines – guidance materials that provide technical assistance to jurisdictions seeking to streamline the entitlement and approval process of housing development. Additionally, SCAG published the Racial Equity Baseline Conditions Report, which identifies long-standing regional inequities to help us plan for a healthier, more sustainable and economically resilient region.
Most importantly, 2022 was a year of gatherings. We convened in-person for the first time in three years at the 57th Annual Regional Conference and General Assembly to work together to get to the heart of how we can foster change in Southern California communities. We hosted our 33rd Annual Demographic Workshop virtually, where a lineup of leading experts weighed in on what’s in store for post-COVID Southern California. Later in the year, we met again in person at our 13th Annual Southern California Economic Summit where the SCAG Regional Briefing Book, a comprehensive understanding of our economic landscape and the SoCal Economic Trends Tool [beta], an interactive display of key economic indicators, were released.
None of these accomplishments would be possible without our partners. Thank you for a great year, and we look forward to working with you in 2023. Happy New Year from all of us at SCAG!