Advancing Equitable Development – Viewpoints from Municipalities

03/08/2021 4:48 PM | Cinnamon Thompson (Administrator)

The Southern California Development Forum (SCDF), an organization that provides networking opportunities for those in the real estate community, hosted a panel discussion about justice, equity and inclusion in the real estate industry in January of this year. 

Chris Rhie, associate principal of Buro Happold, an international consultancy of engineers and consultants, served as the moderator for panelists from the Mayor’s Office of Oakland, the planning department for the City of San Diego and the City of West Hollywood. Chris began the conversation by asking what it means to have equitable access to physical spaces.

Equitable Transportation  

Warren Logan, policy director of mobility and interagency relations for the Mayor’s Office of Oakland, is focused on advancing racial equity in transportation. To help the city connect people from their homes to jobs, Logan wants to expand access to different types of transportation that include bicycling, scooter riding and light rail transit. 

“The goal is to advance mobility justice, to change the way that we move around the region and to restore some of the really racist harms and injustices that prevailed by putting freeways where they work,” said Logan. “In Los Angeles for example, you can track where all of the lowest income people were located, based on where the freeways were placed.”

Lindsey Horvath, mayor of the City of West Hollywood, is working to bring an extension of the Crenshaw rail into West Hollywood to connect the two communities. Horvath’s team is also creating a new social justice task force, which will be comprised of residents, business owners, community members and stakeholders. To help create an equitable policy to access West Hollywood.

Housing Stability For All 

Nancy Graham, development project manager of the City of San Diego’s Planning Department, believes that the city will not have equity until everyone owns a home. Graham’s department, which is working diligently to build as many homes as possible, understands that the development community needs a lot of regulatory flexibility to respond to constantly changing markets. The city is allowing developers to choose the height of the property near transit and the number of units. 

James T. Butts, mayor of the City of Inglewood, has placed a 3 percent cap on rent increases per year and a moratorium on evictions to help residents stay housed during the pandemic.

Horvath is also supporting renters in West Hollywood. “I think we are the first and maybe the only city in the country to incorporate the idea of stabilizing rents,” said Horvath. “People were really looking to protect housing and I think we're seeing housing as a primary issue of equity.” 

Shifting Demographics 

Logan recognizes a shift in the demographics in Oakland. He claims that Oakland’s black and brown neighborhoods used to center in the downtown area, but now, Logan is seeing those residents move to places farther away.  

Graham is also seeing residents moving farther out of San Diego and her team is trying to make sure that jobs follow the new housing.

Equity With A Budget  

San Diego has spent about 10 percent of its budget on social services for its most vulnerable community members. Before COVID-19, San Diego had $100 million in reserves, which was about its annual budget.

“You have to be nimble with your budget and plan to make sure that you can weather a very difficult storm like COVID-19 because the people who are at the margins are even further marginalized and more at risk,” said Graham.  

Equity In The Real Estate Industry 

The architecture, engineering and construction industries can help advance equity. Logan is constantly pushing contractors and subcontractors to hire people from Oakland. 

In West Hollywood, Horvath is encouraging larger development projects to include public space on private land. 

“If you make land more open, you start building community,” said Horvath. “You can make a better project if you bring equity onto the table.”

Feel free to use these equitable strategies to support your community.

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