Infrastructure, Inclusivity & Opportunity: Building the places we live, work and play is a matter of equity

Brian PraterFebruary 13, 20170 Comments

In Boyle Heights, a predominantly Latino community in East Los Angeles, decades of freeway construction have boxed in much of the neighborhood, limiting residents’ access to opportunities and turning the area into a “toxic hot spot” by concentrating pollution in the neighborhood. Children living in Boyle Heights have asthma hospitalization rates nearly twice the state average. Among community development, grassroots organizations and the public and private sectors, there is a growing recognition that the way we build our cities and regions must address racial and economic equity, health and environmental concerns in an integrated way.

We’re at a critical moment in our country when large investments in infrastructure, transit, housing, health and preparing for the challenges of climate change are coming, or are already underway. At the national level, it has been estimated that we need to invest $3.6 trillion on infrastructure by 2020. Locally, in the 2016 elections, voters approved billions of dollars in public funding for infrastructure projects through city and state ballot measures.

Today, the Strong, Prosperous, And Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC) announced the initial six regions that will each receive $1 million of direct grant and technical assistance funds over the next three years to support their local initiatives: Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Memphis and the San Francisco Bay Area. Collectively, the SPARCC sites will also have access to an estimated pool of $70 million in financing capital, as well as $14 million in additional programmatic support.

The first six SPARCC regions are Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Memphis and the San Francisco Bay Area.

SPARCC is a $90 million initiative to amplify local efforts and ensure that new investments in the places we live, work and play lead to equitable and healthy opportunities for everyone. It is an initiative of Enterprise Community Partners, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the Low Income Investment Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council with funding support from the Ford Foundation, The JPB Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The California Endowment.

Over the next three years, the SPARCC partners and funders will support local efforts toward equitable investments and policy change through grants, technical assistance, data analysis and communications. For example, Mile High Connects (MHC) in Denver is a broad partnership of foundations, community nonprofits and businesses, that aims to take advantage of the completion of the regional transit system and the city’s new aggressive climate goals to prevent gentrification and displacement, while supporting thoughtfully-designed, transit-rich, climate-aware neighborhoods. In Memphis, the Memphis Partners for Resilient Communities will work to ensure that as major new investments in North Memphis – such as the Crosstown Concourse, the expansion of the St. Jude campus, and the build out of the Wolf River Greenway – are made, they improve equity, health and environmental outcomes for all residents.

Today, more than ever, the solutions we need to improve the places we live, particularly for people of color and low income communities, have to be driven locally and regionally.

Today, more than ever, the solutions we need to improve the places we live, particularly for people of color and low income communities, have to be driven locally and regionally. SPARCC is propelling innovative local groups who are bringing together community residents, the public and private sectors and local government to make sure that new infrastructure investments help make their communities places where everyone thrives.

How we build the places we live, work and play is a matter of equity. The way transit systems are designed and cities are mapped out can either connect more communities to jobs, schools, green spaces and child care or cut them off from resources. We hope you’ll follow the progress of the sites over this three-year initiative and support our efforts to ensure that we all benefit when everyone thrives.

You can learn more about SPARCC at www.SPARCChub.org or sign up for the newsletter here.