Executive Director’s Monthly Report, March 2024


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Regional Early Action Planning Grant Program of 2021 (REAP 2.0) Advocacy Updates 

Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget announced on Jan. 16 includes $300 million in cuts to the Regional Early Action Planning program of 2021 (REAP 2.0) that will result in approximately $123 million in cuts from SCAG’s $246 million REAP 2.0 program.  

SCAG issued a hold on sub-allocation projects while working to assess impacts of the proposed cuts. Given the delays and impact caused by the proposed budget, adjustments will need to be made to SCAG’s REAP 2.0 program. Staff plans to bring an informational item to the Executive Administration Committee in April to discuss priorities and processes for reshaping the program. 

In the meantime, SCAG encourages the Governor to reconsider these cuts and submitted an official letter to state legislators and the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee. SCAG will continue to advocate to preserve REAP 2.0 at the 2024 Legislative Summit in Sacramento and during the state budget process. SCAG has also prepared a grantee toolkit, with template letters and other share-able information, for partners to assist in this advocacy. 

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Proposed Disapproval of South Coast Air Quality Management District’s 2019 Contingency Measure Plan  

According to a Consent Decree issued in January 2024, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to take action by July 1 on the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) 2019 Contingency Measure Plan for the 1997 federal ozone standard. This plan covers the South Coast Air Basin, which includes all of Orange County and urban areas within Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. 

On Feb. 2, the EPA published a notice of proposed disapproval of the air plan, which will set in motion a 24-month highway sanction clock for AQMD to address underlying issues in the plan. If the issue is not addressed within the 24-month period, highway sanctions and a federal air plan would be imposed in the South Coast Air Basin, impacting the ability of nonexempt highway capacity projects in the region to receive federal approval or funding. 

SCAG provided comments on the substantial negative consequences of the EPA’s proposed disapproval and requested an extension of the March 4 public comment period deadline to allow careful analysis of the implications for the SCAG region. EPA granted this extension, and the comment period deadline is now April 3. SCAG and county transportation commissions are preparing a letter outlining the significant implications of the disapproval and recommending that EPA consider full approval of the plan, conditional approval that supports meaningful partnerships, or partial approval that provides a realistic and short pathway to resolve the underlying issues. 

EPA and AQMD representatives have been asked to provide a status report on the proposed disapproval at SCAG’s monthly Transportation Conformity Working Group meetings. SCAG will continue to evaluate potential impacts of highway sanctions. 

Early Bird Registration Is Open for the SCAG Regional Conference and General Assembly 

Early bird registration is open for SCAG’s 59th Annual Regional Conference and General Assembly at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa in Palm Desert on May 2-3. Don’t miss this event, which brings together elected officials and policymakers, as well as business, community and civic leaders, from across Southern California to collaborate on the future of mobility, communities, the environment and the economy. 

Early bird registration saves $150 on the price of admission. Register online before March 29 to lock in the savings. Hotel rooms at conference rates are also available on a limited basis. Rooms can be booked directly from the registration page. 

For additional details about the event, visit the 2024 Regional Conference and General Assembly website. Please contact update@scag.ca.gov with any questions. 

2024 Scholarship Program Call for Applications   

Applications for the 2024 SCAG Scholarship Program are open. The program offers a $4,000 scholarship for up to nine high school or community college students from the SCAG region interested in pursuing planning or public service‐related careers. Applications are due electronically on March 22. More information is available is available on the SCAG website

SCAG Joint Policy Committee Recommends Connect SoCal 2024 for Approval 

The Joint Policy Committee, at its March 7, 2024, meeting, recommended the proposed final Connect SoCal 2024 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy (RTP/SCS) including the associated proposed final transportation conformity analysis, and the Connect SoCal 2024 proposed Final Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) to the Regional Council for approval and certification.  

This decision came after a staff presentation summarizing comments from the public review periods. During public review, SCAG hosted 15 elected official briefings and three public hearings on the draft RTP/SCS, receiving 53 comment letters on the draft RTP/SCS and 33 comment letters on the Draft PEIR.  

SCAG staff are currently in the process of updating the draft Connect SoCal 2024 in response to comments. A direct response to each plan comment will be included in the proposed final Connect SoCal 2024 Public Participation & Consultation Technical Report. Response to PEIR comments will be included in the proposed Final PEIR. 

The proposed final Connect SoCal 2024 will be available on the SCAG website on March 28. The Regional Council is set to consider certification of the Final PEIR and adoption of the final RTP/SCS, including the associated final transportation conformity analysis, in April 2024.   

Regional Council Approves Draft Comprehensive Budget for Fiscal Year 2025 

At its March 2024 meeting, SCAG’s Regional Council moved to approve SCAG’s Draft Comprehensive Budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2024-25, including the Draft Overall Work Program (OWP). The framework for developing the FY 2024-25 Draft Comprehensive Budget is SCAG’s multi-year Strategic Plan, which focuses on the agency’s vision for improving the organization and its operations.  

The Regional Council’s vote also authorized the release of the FY 2024-25 Draft OWP for a 30-day public review period from March 7 to April 8. Comments may be submitted by completing the comment form or emailing nguyenk@scag.ca.gov

At the close of the public comment period, the FY 2024-25 Final OWP will be submitted to the Regional Council for approval on May 2. The General Fund Budget and the Membership Assessment will also be submitted to the General Assembly for approval in May. 

Call for Applications: Surface Transportation Block Grant, Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality, Carbon Reduction Program 

The deadline to submit project nominations for the federal fiscal year 2023 through federal fiscal year 2026 Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG), Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ), and Carbon Reduction Program (CRP) solicitation is March 29 at 5 p.m. County transportation commissions are coordinating with eligible entities within their counties to prioritize and submit project nominations. Local agencies should confer with their respective county transportation commissions for county-specific application deadlines.  

In April, SCAG will review all county transportation commission project nomination packages and score projects according to criteria outlined in the STBG/CMAQ and CRP Guidelines. Once the recommended project lists are developed, the CMAQ and CRP lists will be shared with local Air Quality Districts and Caltrans. Final award recommendations will be presented to the SCAG Regional Council for approval in June 2024. Once projects are approved, agencies may program their projects into the Federal Transportation Improvement Program and obligate funding. 

For more information on STBG/CMAQ/CRP funding and project eligibility, visit SCAG’s STBG/CMAQ and CRP websites. 

Presidential Priorities Discussion: Goods Movement 

The March 7 Regional Council meeting featured a panel discussion on key issues and opportunities for goods movement in Southern California. Participants included Lena Kent, general director of public affairs for BNSF Railway; Ross Lane, government affairs leader for the Arizona & California Railroad Company; Salim Youssefzadeh, chief executive officer for WattEV; and Stephane Fosso, director, fleet technology and electrification for Sysco Corporation. Video of the panel discussion will be available on the Regional Council video archive

Toolbox Tuesday on Data Tools and Research from the Latino Policy and Politics Institute  

The second Toolbox Tuesday session in the ongoing Equity series was held on Feb. 27, highlighting Data Tools and Research from the Latino Policy and Politics Institute. Participants learned about the Latino Data Hub, a new, free data resource developed by UCLA’s Latino Policy and Politics Institute (LPPI) that can create customizable data visualizations, highlighting population disparities based on race, ethnicity, citizenship and gender, among other metrics.   

Jie Zong, manager of the Latino Data Hub, and Mariah Bonilla, community coordinator of the Latino Data Hub, provided an overview of the Latino Data Hub, including a demonstration of how to use the tool to find and visualize data by detailed race and ethnicity at the county level. In addition, Misael Galdámez, senior research analyst of the Latino Data Hub, presented relevant LPPI research on economic opportunity and social mobility, including Latino-centered planning. Resources and a recording of the session can be found on the Toolbox Tuesday website

SCAG Mobile Workshop Tours Esri and Metrolink Arrow Service 

SCAG Regional Council President Art Brown led a delegation for a tour in Redlands on March 1. Immediate Past President Jan Harnik and Regional Council members Damon Alexander, Clint Lorimore, Marisela Nava and Frank Yokoyama, as well as policy committee member Daniel Ramos, joined the delegation.  

The tour kicked off at the Esri headquarters with an introduction by CEO and founder Jack Dangermond. Esri is the global market leader in geographic information system (GIS) software, location intelligence, and mapping and is a partner in SCAG’s Regional Data Platform. 

The mobile workshop concluded with a stop at the Metrolink Arrow Service Downtown Station where the delegation learned about the new Arrow passenger rail service, its impact on the region and how it models for the future of zero-emissions rail in the United States. 

SCAG Participates in CALCOG Regional Leadership Forum & Pricing Panel 

SCAG Executive Director Kome Ajise, Chief Operations Officer Darin Chidsey, Chief Government & Public Affairs Officer Javiera Cartagena, and several SCAG staff attended the 2024 California Association of Councils of Governments Regional Leadership Forum in Monterey, Calif. The conference centered on state issues and regional solutions including gas tax replacements and pricing policies, zero emissions vehicle efforts, vehicle miles traveled, artificial intelligence and Regional Early Action Planning. Guest speakers included California Assembly Transportation Chair Lori Wilson. 

SCAG Executive Director Kome Ajise joined a panel on pricing alongside leaders of metropolitan planning organizations, councils of governments and state agencies. The conversation focused on maximizing transportation system efficacy, gas tax replacements like mileage-based user fees and ensuring equitable solutions for all Californians. 

SCAG Tours the City of Adelanto 

In February, SCAG Executive Director Kome Ajise toured the City of Adelanto by Community, Economic and Human Development Committee Member Mayor Gabriel Reyes, Energy and Environment Committee Member and Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Reyes, City Manager Jessie Flores, city engineer staff and consultant Dr. Gil Keinan.  

The tour included an overview of Adelanto’s challenges, such as need for flood mitigation and infrastructure, pedestrian safety and access restrictions. There were also tours of local industry, including Clark Pacific, one of the nation’s leading design-build manufacturers of prefabricated building systems, and site tours of two cannabis manufacturing buildings representing the leading industry in Adelanto. To conclude the tour, the entire city council joined the group for dinner. 

SCAG Shares Knowledge at Esri City & County Planners Workshop  

SCAG staff attended the Esri City & County Planners Workshop on Feb. 12 to discuss how to leverage local planners’ data and ArcGIS mapping tools to visualize place-based information and analyze spatial data. Esri demonstrated how planners use ArcGIS to understand demographic data, analyze sites for suitability, model transportation outcomes, assess environmental impacts and more. ArcGIS plays an important role in land use planning, demographic analysis and transportation planning. Esri walked planners through key GIS concepts, including a hands-on ArcGIS Urban Workshop. 

SCAG Shares Knowledge at University of Southern California Spatial Sciences Institute’s 2024 Geospatial Summit  

SCAG staff attended the USC Spatial Sciences Institute’s 2024 Geospatial Summit on Feb. 23. The summit provided an opportunity to gain insights on GIS industry trends and opportunities that include workshops, student ArcGIS StoryMap presentations, panel discussions with industry professionals and networking. SCAG staff showcased Connect SoCal, SCAG Data/Map Books and the RDP for attendees. 

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