Around the State in 24 Days: 2020 ClimatePlan Listening Sessions (Part I)

In February and March of 2020, ClimatePlan staff, in collaboration with key regional and state partners, hosted seven hosted “listening sessions” and network mixers across California. We wanted to hear firsthand about the work and priorities of our network partners: where are you gaining ground? What challenges are you facing? What can be done at the network level to support your most important priorities?

To get to those questions, and the inspiration for the listening sessions, we started from our first principles - our network’s strategic priorities: drive transformative policy change, amplify community voices, and build bridges across issues and geographies. In order to ground those priorities, we continually work to ensure that the ClimatePlan Network is connected and aligned around the creation of more sustainable and equitable communities. Grounding, in this case, means getting out into where our partners are and hearing directly from them about their own work and goals and also getting an honest take on our own emerging policy actions

Background and Goals
Working from our strategic priorities, we identified three goals for the listening sessions:

  1. Elevate community voices
  2. Build greater network cohesion and connection
  3. Better understanding of local and regional needs to provide greater support

The idea for listening sessions was in response to rethinking how we’ve connected with partners for strategic input in years past. For most of ClimatePlan’s history, we’ve convened an annual retreat with staff, steering committee members, and key regional and state partners. These retreats produced new directions and priorities, allowed advocates from different sectors to share perspectives, and built connections between partners. But traveling to another part of the state and devoting two full days to the work was beyond the means of many of our community-based partners, and we wanted to find a way for them to have the opportunity to share their experiences and priorities as well. Taking our own advice we often share with agencies, we opted to “go to where the people already are” and listen to what they had to tell us.

Where we went and what we heard
Over the course of 25 days, ClimatePlan staff traveled in teams of two to six regional centers and the capitol, hosting listening sessions in San Diego, Sacramento (regional partners), Oakland, Fresno, Modesto, Los Angeles, and Sacramento (state partners). With strong partnership at the local and regional level, each listening session highlighted the unique needs and opportunities of that region. We spoke with advocates from 58 organizations, and heard their unique perspectives as well as their shared vision for their regions. Participating organizations represented all five ClimatePlan regions and included transportation, housing, land use, conservation, equity, environmental justice, and labor advocates.

San Diego

Top Regional Priorities: 

  • Transportation:
    • Create a strong Regional Transportation Plan / Sustainable Community Strategy
    • Developing a regional local Green New Deal
    • Changing our car-centric culture though measures like e-bike incentives

Key Highlights and/or Takeaways: 

  • Labor has an important voice; center their concerns around workforce development and just transition. 
  • San Diego local and regional organizations are very focused on identifying how to change the culture of car dependency.
  • Incentives around e-bikes and/or other active transportation (scooters, etc) for commuters could be one way to start shifting how people get around. 


Top Regional Priorities: 

  • Community Engagement: 
    • Robust, consistent community engagement is the goal
    • What does community engagement look like?
    • How do organizations ensure that community engagement is done well? 

Key Highlights and/or Takeaways: 

  • Several grassroots organizations from the Sacramento region attended; these organizations represented various issue areas and sectors, including faith-based groups. 
  • Once the listening session was finished, organizations continued the dialogue about how to work together to create better, more robust community engagement. 


Top Regional Priorities: 

  • Transportation: 
    • Bay Area mega measures (FASTER Bay Area and Voices for Transportation) 
  • Climate:
    • Climate Resilience bonds at the state level (including SB 278) 
  • Housing
    • Upzoning and value capture solutions 

Key Highlights and/or Takeaways: 

  • There was a lot of diversity in the room, both in terms of issues and race. 
  • Organizations seemed to have shared goals around transportation, housing, and climate.


Top Regional Priorities: 

  • Transportation: 
    • More must be done to uplift the needs and concerns of rural communities 
  • Land Use: 
    • Sprawl development is still a challenge in this region; need to work together to address it
  • Natural and working lands: 
    • Higher prioritization on agricultural mitigation in general plans, along with stronger justice lens on farm work and efforts to shift power

Key Highlights and/or Takeaways: 

  • There is a lot of opportunity in the Central Valley, but also significant challenges; coordinated community-driven technical assistance could be beneficial. 
  • The Central Valley is more rural than other regions; it is important to be inclusive and elevate the needs of rural communities at the state level. 

Los Angeles

Top Regional Priorities

  • Housing: 
    • Developing more funding programs (or providing more funding) to programs like the Affordable Housing Sustainable Communities Program or Transformative Climate Communities that fund integrated housing, climate, and transportation projects
    • Invest in solutions that elevate integrated planning, build transit oriented development, and create equitable upzoning. 
    • Strong, coordinated implementation of Measure W (safe clean water program), H (homeless initiative), A (safe, clean neighborhood parks) and M (LA County transportation sales tax measure)  

Key Highlights and/or Takeaways: 

  • It was good to see existing partners face-to-face, and also meet new partners. 


Top Regional Priorities: 

  • Land Use: 
    • Create a strong, community-driven general plan in the City of Modesto
  • Community Engagement:
    • Build robust local leadership, and increasing community capacity to engage on local and regional boards and commissions 

Key Highlights and/or Takeaways: 

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) data in the region brought a well-rounded perspective to the listening session. 
  • The listening session was a great opportunity for deepening and strengthening relationships between ClimatePlan and local partners. 

Sacramento (for statewide partners)

Top Statewide Priorities: 

Key Highlights and/or Takeaways: 

  • There was collective agreement from statewide partners that a significant shift in transportation funding and policy need to happen if California wants to meet its climate, equity, and health goals. 
  • Statewide partners were interested in long-term visioning and collective messaging efforts.

Next Steps: SOAR Analysis and Integration

Over the last few weeks, staff has been focused on distilling what we heard from our network partners into a SOAR (strengths, opportunities, aspirations, results) analysis that we’re using to update our emerging policy actions to more closely align with what our partners priorities and goals. We’ll be sharing a second blog soon that will highlight the SOAR analysis and our updated emerging policy actions. In the meantime, we invite you to visit our online presentation that we shared with our steering committee to learn more about the listening session findings.

Our Strategic Direction


get updates