Residents Speak Up to Shape the Future of the San Joaquin Valley

ClimatePlan is delighted to share this guest post with you from our partners at the Leadership Counsel:


Investments in roads, sidewalks and transit have bypassed many Coachella Valley towns.

By Phoebe Seaton, Co-Founder and Co-Director, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability

On May 6, residents from across San Joaquin County gathered in Fresno for a wide-ranging conversation with leaders from nonprofits and public agencies. The goal? Better planning, better governance and better investments for the health and well-being of San Joaquin Valley’s residents.

Opportunities for change

Together, we set out to identify opportunities and levers for change in land use, transportation, water management, capital investment and community engagement.

The event was co-hosted by a great team: Catholic Charities, Diocese of Stockton; the Center for Race, Poverty & the Environment; American Farmland Trust; ClimatePlan; PolicyLink; the California Equity Leaders Network; UC Davis Center for Regional Change; and Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability.

Speaking from experience

Community members’ voices were front and center at the event. The day opened with a bilingual presentation by residents about the many ways land-use and transportation policies impact their communities.


Residents came together to build a long-term movement for stronger communities and a stronger San Joaquin Valley.

They described seemingly intractable barriers to health and opportunity: unresponsive public officials; communities split by arbitrary political boundaries rendering them half city and half county; two hour bus trips to the nearest post-secondary school; concentrated industrial pollution in lower-income neighborhoods; and entire communities simply running out of water.

Yet the conversation quickly turned positive, noting strategies that have succeeded in winning change: tenacious involvement in decision-making processes, and emerging collaborative relationships among public agencies, residents and other stakeholders.


Tackling the barriers

After a day-long discussion — conducted in both Spanish and English — participants committed to action on key opportunities. These will help to eliminate barriers that have long kept lower-income residents of the San Joaquin Valley from realizing the promise of healthy neighborhoods, access to jobs, and access to education.

Residents chose these opportunities for action:

◦ Advocate for Cap and Trade and Active Transportation investments that create healthier and stronger communities in the San Joaquin Valley through local and statewide campaigns.
◦ Track local fiscal programs and policies — such as tax measures and budget priorities — for their responsiveness to lower-income neighborhoods.

◦ Engage in implementation of the State’s new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
◦ Ensure that investments from the water bond support health and opportunity in lower-income communities.

Land use and transportation:
◦ Foster strong implementation of Sustainable Communities Strategies, such as efforts to map the needs of disadvantaged communities.
◦ Engage in planning processes such as housing element and general plan updates in each city and county.
◦ Enhance transit opportunities that work well for both rural and urban communities.

◦ Support sustained, diverse and meaningful engagement in local and statewide decision-making.

Many thanks to all who participated. We look forward to working together on these campaigns to create a thriving San Joaquin Valley.

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