In October 2020, R+A released our R+A Racial Equity and Justice Commitment Platform with nine specific actions that we committed to implementing as a firm. Below is an update on the status of each action.
1. Standardize our equity and justice lens by systematizing equity analysis and developing equity and justice goals, policies, indicators, and outcomes that prioritize health, safety, and sustainability for BIPOC communities and others who experience injustices.
R+A developed a standardized approach for SB 1000 existing conditions analyses that inform environmental justice elements of general plans. This approach incorporates many health equity and environmental justice indicators that exceed State requirements. We shared our work on SB 1000 at the 2022 California APA Conference.
R+A has developed a social vulnerability index (SVI) to estimate climate impacts on frontline communities and vulnerable populations. The SVI is informed by recent peer-reviewed research on climate equity and is now standardized to be applied across all of R+A’s climate projects.
In partnership with the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority, R+A finalized a SB 1000 Toolkit that launched publicly in summer 2023. It includes detailed guidance on example health equity and environmental justice policy language for general plans.
2. Acknowledge the role as planners, designers and researchers in contributing to and creating the inequities we see in our communities today. This includes actions such as lifting up exclusionary land use and zoning practices, evaluating community safety policies in comprehensive plans, and describing historic exclusionary practices like redlining and its impact on the current environment.
R+A has consistently and intentionally lifted up issues of historic racial inequities. For example, as part of the general plan in Culver City, R+A led public educational forums that highlighted the role of local redlining and exclusionary land use practices on racial inequities, which then informed community visioning and draft policy frameworks.
3. Always ask the questions of “Who does this benefit?” and “Are BIPOC community members disproportionately impacted? How?” when developing our community engagement events, policies, plans and evaluations.
As part of incorporating a racial equity lens into projects, R+A has consistently highlighted disproportionate burdens impacting BIPOC communities and disaggregated data and developed policies and recommendations to reduce racial inequities. For example, as part of the evaluation of San Francisco’s Sugary Drinks Distributor Tax (SDDT), R+A developed a public data dashboard displaying the amount of SDDT funding allocated to specific programs and services. Another dashboard shows the demographics of SDDT-funded programs’ participants and employees to track if the funding is being distributed to those most targeted by the beverage industry.
For the evaluation of the Clipper START pilot, which reduced public transit fares for lower-income residents in the 9-county San Francisco Bay Area, R+A collected and analyzed survey and focus group data from program participants. To ensure that the perspectives of BIPOC program participants informed recommendations for if and how the program should be continued at the end of the pilot period, 6 of the 10 focus groups were conducted in languages other than English and 2 were conducted with women in the program. Additionally, 80% of evaluation end-point surveys were completed by BIPOC participants.
4. Identify short- and long-term actions that communities can take to prioritize resources and funding in impacted communities. This will be done through diverse engagement practices, partnering with community based organizations, and reviewing and recommending alternate approaches to budgeting.
R+A has worked with clients on institutionalizing racial equity within their organizations and agencies and identifying short- and long-term actions to equitably distribute resources to impacted communities through projects such as South San Francisco’s Commission on Racial and Social Equity and the Marin Community Health Improvement Plan.
5. Amplify and support the voices and lived experiences of BIPOC residents and others who have suffered injustices through rigorous listening, outreach, and analysis to ensure diverse community voices are engaged in decision making.
R+A has worked with clients and partners to elevate the voices of BIPOC residents and other historically marginalized populations. For example, as part of San Jose’s COVID-19 Recovery Task Force, a Lived Experience Group of residents most impacted by the pandemic, and with a decision-making role, was developed to help gather a more diverse and in-depth set of community-driven recommendations.
In East Palo Alto, R+A is developing a robust community benefits program as part of the Ravenswood Business District Specific Plan update. The community benefits program is based on extensive feedback from community members and NGOs that occurred over a 2-year period. The program ties community benefits, such as affordable housing, job training, community and discounted spaces for local businesses, to the allocation of office and R&D development rights.
6. Bring BIPOC partners onto our projects to lift up their voices and expertise. This includes expanding partnerships with local DBEs and small BIPOC firms, subcontracting with community-based non-profits, and compensating (non-elected) community members to assist with engagement to BIPOC residents.
R+A has developed a statewide list of local Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) and small BIPOC firms to partner with as part of our marketing and proposal efforts.
Additionally, R+A has subcontracted with community-based non-profits and/or compensated community members to support with engagement and provide local expertise for projects such as Ventura’s Climate Action Plan and the Santa Clara County BRACE Leadership Academy.
If you know of or are affiliated with small BIPOC firms interested in partnering with us, please contact us at: email@example.com. We are continuing to grow our partnerships with small BIPOC firms over time.
7. Donate and provide pro bono resources to impacted communities. This includes annual donations, matched donations, and supporting cities with grant applications.
R+A provides annual donations to community-based non-profit organizations that are advancing equity and inclusion and fostering positive change in communities across California.
Since 2020, over $36,000 was donated to BIPOC-led and BIPOC-serving organizations including:
Bike East Bay
Black Lives Matter
California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc.
Chinese Progressive Association
Communities for a Better Environment
Equal Justice Initiative
Friends of the LA River
Leadership Council for Justice and Accountability
8. Focus recruitment on BIPOC planners and researchers by building relationships through targeted networking and marketing efforts.
R+A continues to conduct focused recruitment and hiring of BIPOC planners and researchers as positions become available. Over the last three years, R+A has hired several BIPOC planners and researchers.
9. Continue to build staff capacity related to racial equity and justice and acknowledge privilege through reflection sessions, professional development, and ongoing discussions.
R+A has organized a series of ongoing internal trainings for staff to build capacity and to reflect on the role planners, designers, and researchers have had in contributing to racial inequities and how to address them in our work. Staff identified action items to deepen our racial equity work. These action items are currently being implemented. For example, R+A has developed internal tools to help staff incorporate racial equity and justice lens more systematically across our projects.