What is Senate Bill 1000 (SB 1000), also known as the Planning for Healthy Communities Act? Why is it so important for communities in California? What are some ways to implement SB 1000 in general plans and with the planning process?
With SB 1000’s five-year anniversary around the corner, Raimi + Associates presented two special sessions focusing on SB 1000 during the recent 2022 California APA Conference in Anaheim, CA to answer some of these questions.
During the first session, A 101 Introductory Workshop to SB 1000, R+A presented an overview of the background, methodology, and practical examples to implement the Planning for Healthy Communities Act (SB 1000), as well as its implications for comprehensive planning. The team also presented a demonstration for attendees to learn how to identify Disadvantaged Communities using CalEnviroScreen 4.0 and other sources data. The workshop attracted over 50 attendees, many of whom were planning directors, planning managers, and interested scholars coming from across the State.
Adopted in 2016, SB 1000 began to be implemented in 2018. Since then, R+A has helped many jurisdictions meet their SB 1000 requirements. R+A has gone further than just meeting basic requirements outlined by SB 1000. In multiple jurisdictions, our team has identified ways to integrate general plan goals, policies, and actions that address critical environmental justice issues in the most impacted communities. As shown in the diagram below, R+A has developed a streamlined data analysis process to identify preliminary qualified Disadvantage Communities based on the SB 1000 Guidelines. The screening analysis is a three-step process, each building upon the previous step:
CalEnviroScreen Analysis (Method 1): Identify census tracts with a score at or above the 75th percentile on CalEnviroScreen 4.0. These areas would automatically qualify as Disadvantaged Communities.
Low-Income and Disproportionate Pollution Burden Analysis (Method 2): Identify low-income census tracts, defined as having a median household income that is at or below 80% of the statewide or the respective County’s median income. Once a census tract has been identified as low-income, further narrow to those that have disproportionate pollution burden, meaning that they are at or above the 75th percentile on any individual pollution factor within CalEnviroScreen 4.0.
Community-Specific Analysis (Method 3): Incorporate and analyze community-specific data in addition to the step 2 results and examine for additional pollution burden and associated health risk factors.
During the second APA session, Law and Order: SB 1000 Edition, R+A moderated a panel of environmental justice attorneys and practitioners to share their thoughts and experiences related to the implementation of SB 1000. Panelists included 1) Jennifer Ganata, a Senior Staff Attorney at Communities for a Better Environment, 2) Ashley Werner, the Directing Attorney at Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, and 3) Erik de Kok, the former Deputy Director at OPR. The session also attracted about 60 people from a variety of backgrounds.
The 2022 California APA Conference was a great opportunity to reflect on the lessons learned to date and identify areas for improvement moving forward, especially from a legal and regulatory perspective. R+A kicked off the session with an overview of the State’s legal requirements for SB 1000 and high-level guidance recommended by the Office of the Attorney General through its comment letters to jurisdictions. Before diving into the panel discussion, each panelist provided a brief description of their SB 1000 work. Jennifer and Ashley shared their experiences advocating and holding jurisdictions accountable for full implementation of SB 1000, including in the City of Huntington Park and County of Fresno, respectively. Speaking from a broader standpoint, Erik shared his experience working with jurisdictions across the State on the creation of environmental justice elements and the development of OPR’s SB 1000 Guidelines.
Finally, R+A facilitated a dynamic discussion, with extensive audience participation, on the legal nuances of SB 1000 and recommendations for strengthening the reach and impact of SB 1000. Major themes that emerged from the discussion include:
There was a strong consensus that SB 1000 provides an opportunity to take an intersectional approach to comprehensive planning. Environmental justice closely connects with other general plan requirements, including climate action planning and Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing. If a jurisdiction implements SB 1000 along with their housing element and climate actions plans, then they can efficiently and holistically address multiple related issues at once.
Similarly, engagement as part of the SB 1000 implementation process should be integrated with other ongoing engagement, for example for housing elements or more broadly for general plan updates. Panelists identified this strategy as a good practice because it connects environmental justice with other issues addressed in planning and leads to more complete and integrated engagement.
For the policy development phase, panelists cautioned planners with an over-reliance of “may” in general plan language. The use of “may” is typically not interpreted as strong enough language and “may” is not enough to achieve SB 1000’s objective of improving health outcomes. Instead, use language that leads to policy that can be enforced, tracked, and measured.
Although SB 1000 does not currently have a regulatory deadline, there is interest by legislators and the advocacy community to pass legislation creating a deadline for SB 1000’s implementation as well as to clarify key pieces of the law. Additionally, panelists anticipate that SB 1000 will eventually connect with CEQA, and there will be case law for stricter enforcement of environmental justice policy language in general plans.
Based on our experience leading both sessions and the audience’s energy and interest, R+A has an opportunity to continue to share learnings and partner with key stakeholders to advance environmental justice and health equity in planning.
If you’d like to get in touch with us about this work, including receiving an SB 1000 training or a copy of the materials, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.