ClimatePlan’s CivicSpark fellow, Nicole Cheng, recently facilitated a webinar discussion entitled “Using Collaborative Planning to Address Compounding Crises.” Over the past year, Nicole has been working on ways for planning departments throughout the Bay Area to better integrate land use and water supply planning. Over the year of research and engagement, it has become clear that climate change and the pandemic have amplified existing challenges around integrating water and land use in planning. But, there are also opportunities for transformational change in the way that agencies, advocates, and communities can work together to create more resilient, equitable communities throughout the state.
The webinar had a great lineup of panelists, including Thomas Niesar - Water Supply and Planning Manager at Alameda County Water District (ACWD), Zoe Siegel - Director of Climate Resilience at Greenbelt Alliance, and Clarrissa Cabansagan - Director of Programs at TransForm.
Here is an outline of the webinar and time stamps associated with it.
- Panelist introductions: 5:00-7:18
- Summary of the challenges: 8:06-32:17
- Barriers to collaboration/opportunities: 32:17 - 47:37
- Audience Q and A: 47:37- 1:02:36
During the webinar, panelists discussed affordability issues they’re seeing in their work. The discussion ranged from affordability issues around water supply and transit, to housing, land use, and climate policy. In summarizing current challenges, the panelists noted that agencies working in various sectors, and at various levels (local, regional, state) are still very siloed. Each panelist stressed the importance of communication flow and collaboration among agencies and advocates.
The panelists also underscored the importance of building housing in the right places in order to address the compounding crises we’re facing from climate change and the pandemic. Intentional land use planning will mitigate effects on water supply, address challenges in the transportation sector, and address California’s housing affordability crisis. Each panelist also identified opportunities to improve land use planning. These opportunities include participating in General Plan updates and local housing element updates. Advocates, water utility staff, city staff, regional planners, and residents should ensure they are communicating with each other and neighboring jurisdictions.
Below are more specific takeaways from this great conversation.
Housing and Water Supply
One of the biggest findings is how planners, city and regional staff members, and elected officials, need to take water supply into consideration as they plan for housing development (or any kind of development) throughout the state. ACWD’s Thomas Niesar highlighted that water supply and water supply management are only going to get more expensive. One of the reasons is because there is limited water supply, compounded by drought conditions throughout the state. The cheapest supply available, surface water, is already over-allocated. This means that it will be harder for cities to develop without considering water supply and consulting with water managers earlier in the process. (For right now, the status quo is that cities tell water suppliers about future development, and water suppliers will try to find water if they don’t have enough supply in their demand projections).
Transit, Housing, and the Climate Crisis
TransForm’s Clarrissa Cabansagan highlighted some of the hidden costs associated with the cost of driving, noting that the cost of driving is often hidden in the cost of housing. She cited a study conducted by Santa Clara University; it finds the cost of parking can be $1700 per year, which adds 17% to a person’s rent. With the entire state facing a housing affordability crisis, Greenbelt Alliance’s Zoe Siegel explained that addressing the housing crisis is part of Greenbelt Alliance’s approach to address the climate crisis. As she states, housing policy is climate policy; where you plan housing and what type of housing matters. Planning housing, specifically infill housing, closer to jobs can bring many benefits. One of them is that there are less greenhouse gas emissions because residents are driving less. In 2018, transportation accounted for 40% of greenhouse gas emissions. Manager Niesar highlighted that investing in transportation that limits these greenhouse gas emissions to 2045 target levels will be better for water supply. Director Siegel also highlighted that addressing this housing crisis is important to addressing the racial inequality we are seeing today.
Collaboration Among Agencies and Advocates
Each panelist identified limited communication among agencies and advocates as a barrier to collaboration. As mentioned before, cities and water suppliers need to communicate more on the limitations of water supply in the region. Water suppliers can clarify, and cities can seek to understand what can be barriers to obtaining more water supply and how this impacts development.. They also can work together for more water efficient development. For the transportation sector, transportation advocates and agencies have many opportunities to better work together and represent the multi-modal ways that Californians can move about the state and breathe more easily with cleaner air from less emissions.
Ultimately, this webinar underscores that no one organization or agency can do this alone. In order to address the compounding crises from the pandemic and climate change, advocates, legislators, city staff, and water utilities, need to take an intersectional approach in land use planning and strengthen collaboration. And the key to do that is to expand on existing connections between land use, water, and transportation.