It’s the one year anniversary of Southern California’s groundbreaking SCS/RTP, so I made the pilgrimage to Palm Desert for SCAG’s annual gathering to see how the Sustainable Communities Strategy is playing out in California’s largest and most diverse region.
The General Assembly brings together hundreds of elected officials every May. The event is usually held in the Palm Desert area, where the constant hum of air conditioners, the roar of fast-moving cars, and the endless artificial green oases provide a surreal setting for conversations about sustainability.
But SCAG staff upped the surreal factor when their band “Staff Infection” performed at the event. The band played a catchy jingle called “SCS/RTP” (lyric sheet attached), and there was a special guest appearance by SCAG’s Vice-President and Kris Kristofferson impersonator Carl Morehouse.
Aside from dancing with elected officials, advocates spent our time in Palm Desert discussing SCS implementation. In the year since the adoption of the SCS/RTP, it’s clear that SCAG’s leadership continues to recognize the plan as a success. Throughout the 2-day event, speakers from all persuasions talked about the success of the SCS/RTP and the collaborative partnerships it established.
This is all wonderful, but the key question for advocates is whether – and how – SCAG will ensure the SCS/RTP gets implemented. How will SCAG ensure that limited funds are spent on projects that support the plan’s goals to reduce VMT, improve public health and facilitate transit-oriented development?
When the SCS/RTP was adopted, advocates successfully pushed for the creation of subcommittees to focus on implementing key aspects of the plan. These subcommittees have been meeting for the last 6 months to develop specific recommendations and next steps for implementation. ClimatePlan partners Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership, Move LA, NRDC, Coalition for Clean Air and American Lung Association have served on these subcommittees to help ensure they are steering in the right direction.
Their recommendations were unveiled at the General Assembly this week. Key recommendations coming out of the committees include:
– Support active transportation planning and implementation
– Improve data and information, particularly in the realms of public health and sustainability
– Establish methodology for prioritizing regional projects and investments.
These recommendations are still quite broad and need further discussion and refinement. However, we are glad to see they’re heading in this direction, and we’re encouraged by SCAG Executive Director Hasan Ihkrata’s pledge to keep this process moving forward. By next May, he says that SCAG staff will be prepared to report on what progress has been made toward achieving the SCS/RTP.
But the real highlight of the event was seeing NRDC’s Amanda Eaken receive a President’s Leadership award from SCAG for her incredible contributions to the SCS/RTP process. Congratulations Amanda!