Urban Habitat Highlights
Please join California League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, our partners, and local leaders for a provocative conversation about the health and well-being of your family and community.
Join us in Oakland, Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego or Sacramento to learn more about CLCVEF’s 2012 Latino Environmental Poll. Through a panelist-audience discussion of our new Latino environmental poll, we will explore what the findings mean for California’s future and what you can do to help protect our air, land and water in the Bay Area.
The forums are open to the public and will announce the results of our ground-breaking survey of Latinos’ environmental attitudes and concerns. Discussions will include an overview of statewide survey results as well as a deeper examination of local results with a panel of regional advocates. Together with these experts from and advocates for California’s Latino communities, we will analyze specific implications and next steps for protecting the environment and public health.
The Golden State’s tremendous diversity will be the key to its future economic success—if its leaders take action to increase fairness and opportunity. Equity is not only a moral imperative—it is also an economic one.
These are the key messages of the new report California’s Tomorrow: Equity is the Superior Growth Model, authored by PolicyLink and the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE). The report was released at a legislative briefing earlier this month hosted by PolicyLink and the California Legislative Tri-Caucus, and was attended by legislative staff and nearly 40 advocates from all parts of the state.
Below is a reflection on the report from Urban Habitat President & CEO Allen Fernandez Smith:
Urban Habitat fully supports PolicyLink and PERE’s core finding in the California Report that to create a prosperous California, we must address current systemic inequities, avoid creating new ones, and serve residents of all races and incomes equally.
Habitat staff, board members, allies, and over 2000 equity advocates
from across the country gathered recently at the Equity Summit 2011
convened by PolicyLink in Detroit. There, we saw firsthand the
consequences of decades of displacement and disinvestment on such a
proud city. We heard from an array of advocates and analysts about the
challenges facing Detroit and numerous other regions across the country.
We delved into the current economic crisis and saw how people of
color—the fastest growing segment of U.S. population—are taking the
We came away better informed and energized to take on the daunting task of moving our nation toward a more fair distribution of resources and decision-making power, and into a more equitable growth agenda. (See RP&E 18-2) We are looking forward to sharing those discussions and advancing that agenda at the Social Equity Caucus' annual State of the Region Conference in the Bay Area in April 2012.
As part of Forum's "Our Changing Communities" series on the results of the 2010 census, we take a close look at Oakland.
Fernandez Smith worked most recently as the Executive Director of the California School-Age Consortium (CalSAC), a statewide, non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the professional development of youth workers across California through high-quality trainings, policymaking, and advocacy. As President of the Board of Directors and then as Executive Director, he led the organization in developing and implementing a multi-year strategic plan that culminated in a realignment of CalSAC's mission, vision and staffing.
Q. Looking back on your nine years at Urban Habitat, what makes you most proud?
I am most proud of the successful transition of Urban Habitat (UH) from an organization focused on process to one focused on having impact on a regional scale. In 2005, UH and its allies secured $300 million for the Lifeline transit program, which is the part of the Regional Transportation Plan that addresses the needs of people who depend on public transit for their mobility. This was the first time money was targeted to this program. In 2009, an additional $400 million was secured.
I am also extremely proud of the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI). There are two ingredients vital to institutional change: getting the right leaders into the right places and creating a vocal base that consistently demands change.
Urban Habitat’s Connie Galambos Malloy Tapped for California’s New Citizens Redistricting Commission
“I’m honored to be chosen as a Commissioner,” Galambos Malloy said. “I will strive to collaborate with my colleagues, and with the public at large, to fulfill the intent of the California electorate: ensuring that our state’s electoral system provides representation for all. Our work will be vital in protecting civil rights and securing a voice for each of us--and someday for our children--in the political process.
I know that you understand the importance of the work that Urban Habitat does to ensure that all Bay Area communities have access to a clean environment, family supporting jobs, affordable housing, and reliable public transportation . Your tax deductible contribution will allow us to build a strong base of individual donors who share Urban Habitat’s commitment to building a more equitable Bay Area. Our continued effectiveness is only possible with the help of allies and good friends like you. We invite your support for our local, regional and national efforts to build power for low-income people and communities of color. Click on the donate button to make a pledge in any amount. Visit our donations page to become a monthly sustainer or use the donate button to make a one time gift of any amount.
For Urban Habitat, 2010 is shaping up to be a
big year as many of the programmatic seeds planted and cultivated over
the past 20 years bear fruit.
In the first successful action of its kind in the nation, Urban Habitat helped organize a coalition that filed a civil rights complaint to stop $70 million in stimulus funds from being allocated to the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC)—an unfair $500-million transit project. As the coalition demanded, the funds will be shifted to Bay Area transit agencies to help avert service cuts, fare hikes, and layoffs that will affect hundreds of thousands of people. The complaint, filed with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) by the nonprofit law firm Public Advocates on behalf of Urban Habitat, TransForm, and Genesis, charged the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) agency with failing to take into account the needs of communities of color and low-income communities when planning the OAC project. (See story on page 34.) We are now moving to broaden this civil rights victory to other communities around the country and to persuade Congress to incorporate easier access to Title VI civil rights remedies in the Federal Surface Transportation Authorization Act.
In a major affordable housing victory, on March 12, 2010, Alameda Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch ruled in favor of a suit brought by Urban Habitat that the City of Pleasanton’s housing cap violates state law. In the first ruling of its kind, the court ordered the city to meet its share of affordable housing. Urban Habitat is now working with Public Advocates—the law firm that filed the case—to ensure that Pleasanton zones for this new affordable housing near reliable public transit. Following up on the court ruling, Urban Habitat has been organizing with other housing advocates to sway the city council to accept Roesch's verdict. We’ve also been fielding calls from people in other cities who are working to use the ruling as leverage in their own communities.
This year we also witnessed the graduation of our first cohort of the Social Equity Caucus Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute. Designed to identify, train, and support low-income people and people of color for boards and commissions service in the San Francisco Bay Area, the leadership institute prioritizes boards and commissions seats that influence equity in terms of transportation, development, housing, jobs, and the environment. All 10 of our graduates are now seated on priority boards and commissions, such as planning commissions in Oakland and Richmond, and housing, parks, and transit boards. We are now interviewing the next group that will be entering the program and working with commissioner-advocates from around the region and state, including first-year program alumni, to equip our cohort with the best possible information and skills for advancing equity in the Bay Area.
20 years of Race, Poverty & the Environment
This year marks the 20th anniversary of our journal Race, Poverty & the Environment and the 21st for Urban Habitat. We began this project in partnership with the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation’s Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment and since 2004 have been the publisher. We are committed to continuing the vision of a magazine that presents a framework for achieving racial and social justice and fulfilling the founding editor’s goal to “strengthen the networks between environmental groups and working people, people of color and poor people.”