Since 2003, when Working Partnerships led the effort to win San Jose City Council approval for the _concept of Community Benefits_ [Link: PDF of “Labor pushes policy changes: more public input sought on projects”], we have been at the forefront of efforts to create an enforceable doctrine for the use of public funds.  More importantly, our efforts have reframed the debate on the use of these funds.  Ensuring that use of public funds benefits communities through a systematic process, a concept once strongly resisted by some interests, is now understood as a central concern in any major spending decision by the City. Since that time, we have been seeking ways to incorporate the community benefits concept into specific development processes.

Working Partnerships USA sees an opportunity for residents to influence development through the land-use planning process.  By gaining seats for community representatives on planning taskforces, and engaging in research, policy development, grassroots outreach, and coalition building, we have been able to advocate for living wage jobs, affordable housing, access to health care, expanded public transit, and other vital services for working families, standing up for community interests even when no government funds are directly involved.  This allows us to not only expand the concept of community benefits beyond the use of public funds, but also to show that these standards can be applied in a way that does not cause undue harm to developers or businesses.

With our efforts to secure affordable housing, health care, and other community needs in Coyote Valley, Working Partnerships USA and our allies are creating a new model for applying community standards to local development.
Read more in Shared Prosperity and Inclusion: The Future of Economic Development Strategies in Silicon Valley

Coyote Valley
A major focus of Working Partnerships’ accountable development work lies in Coyote Valley – a massive urban reserve in southern San Jose that is slated to add 70,000 new residents, 50,000 jobs, and 25,000 units of housing. Working Partnerships USA holds a seat on the Coyote Valley Specific Plan Task Force, where we have played a key role in advocating for smart and equitable growth.

Through our work on the Task Force combined with the support of community allies, Working Partnerships USA has successfully advocated for the City Council to set aside 20% of the planned housing as affordable, a commitment that will create 5,000 new affordable units for San Jose. The challenge before us now is to ensure that those units are priced to be available to families at all income levels.

In May 2006, Working Partnerships presented its affordable housing proposal to the Coyote Valley Task Force. The proposal divides up the 5,000 affordable units into 30% for extremely low income families (the lowest income category), 30% for very low income families, 25% for low income and 15% for moderate-income.  It calls for developers to fully finance all the moderate income units and 750 of the low income units, and to contribute approximately $170 million in land dedication and fees to pay for funding units for the lowest income residents. The proposal was well-received by the Task Force.  Our next step will be to secure the City Council’s approval.

In addition to advocating for deeply affordable housing, accessible public transit, and preservation of open space, Working Partnerships is breaking new ground with our plan for incorporating the health care needs of Coyote Valley’s lower-income residents into the planning process. When our analysis of the development’s projected population revealed a need for two new community health clinics, we made it a priority to include the construction and funding of those clinics in the Coyote Valley Specific Plan.

In January 2006, the Coyote Valley Task Force tentatively approved the concept and financing plan for two affordable health clinics, after two years of advocacy by Working Partnerships USA and allies. The city is now poised to set a first-of-its-kind precedent for a development of this scale by incorporating community health needs directly into the land use planning. As part of the Health Care Focus Group created by the Specific Plan Task Force, Working Partnerships USA will keep working to secure a continuing commitment and final approval by the San Jose City Council.
Read more about our health care work

As Coyote Valley planning moves forward in the next year, Working Partnerships USA will advocate for a comprehensive transit system, preservation of open space, and quality jobs for working families. Working Partnerships USA’s leadership on the Coyote Valley Task Force has provided us a platform to engage other members in dialogue around smart growth and social equity.  Through our leadership in the Coyote Valley smart growth coalition, we have learned more about environmental concerns, and helped environmental groups understand how social equity fits into the smart growth picture.  Reaching beyond the Coyote Valley project, this alliance creates a stronger unified front of progressive organizations in Santa Clara County.

Coyote Valley Resources:

Addressing the Demand for Health care Services in Coyote Valley
September 2005
Link to PowerPoint presentation

Affordable Housing in Coyote Valley
May 2006
Link to PowerPoint presentation

Building a Healthy Coyote Valley: A Proposal for Community Health Clinics
September 2004

Transportation Justice
Protecting public transit from cuts and expanding service is a major priority for Working Partnerships. Some 40,000 low income working adults in Santa Clara County rely on buses to get to work, to school, and to the grocery store.  It is crucial that we maintain the transit network upon which families depend; that we expand access to transit from all neighborhoods and for elders and people with disabilities; and that new housing and jobs development be built to take advantage of public transit routes. Yet the Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority (VTA) has faced financial challenges ever since the dot-com bust, repeatedly raising the specter of raising fares for those who can least afford it and cutting transit service to the people who need it most.

In 2006, a coalition of transit advocates led by Working Partnerships USA won a commitment from VTA to maintain and expand bus routes and paratransit, doubling the increase in bus services that VTA had originally planned.  However, the June 2006 defeat of Measure A, a county tax measure intended to help restore VTA’s funding, has exacerbated the agency’s fiscal difficulties.  Working Partnerships USA’s challenge now is to design policies and build coalitions to defend access to public transit, promote effective new models including bus rapid transit and niche marketing, and maintain the vital family-supporting jobs provided by this industry, all in the face of limited resources. We are currently engaging with advocates, transit workers’ unions, and policymakers to work towards creating a more sustainable and reliable financial support program for VTA.
Read about our previous successes in moving towards transportation justice

The Tax and Fiscal Policy Project
The Tax and Fiscal Policy Project is a statewide collaboration between grassroots organizations determined to improve the economic well-being and political capabilities of low income constituencies, working families, and people of color through a pragmatic tax reform agenda that restructures California’s broken tax and fiscal system and unites a set of values and vision.  In addition to Working Partnerships USA, the Tax and Fiscal Policy Project group includes Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE) in Los Angeles, Urban Habitat in Oakland, and California ACORN statewide.

The state of California, with the nation’s largest economy and population, also faces one of the most uniquely challenging political environments of any state.  The state’s sheer size and range of interests make policy problems unusually complex, so that a solution to one issue may spawn larger difficulties elsewhere.  The pace of change in this high-tech, high-turnover culture often makes potential reforms obsolete before they can even be proposed.  And the diversity of the population along income, age, ethnic and geographic axes has effectively prevented the development of broad consensus in support of large-scale change.

These factors combine to enforce a near-perpetual stalemate in statewide politics.  Nowhere is this reflected more clearly than in the constant budget battle being fought in the Legislature and on the ballot, which has created and now perpetuates a dysfunctional tax and fiscal system.  In consequence, funding for California schools lags well behind other states, transportation infrastructure lacks hundreds of billions in needed investment, and the health delivery system for the uninsured teeters on the brink of crisis. Moreover, state government as a whole experiences a chronic structural fiscal imbalance.

The Tax and Fiscal Policy Project’s goal is to break this stalemate by developing new proposals to reform the fiscal system and building a statewide coalition for reform that crosses traditional political boundaries. In May 2006, Working Partnerships USA published An Historical Analysis of Tax and Fiscal Propositions in California, 1978-2004, providing an unprecedented and comprehensive analysis of factors leading to the success or failure of every tax and fiscal ballot measure since Proposition 13 in 1978.

Read more about the Tax and Fiscal Policy Project’s work to date.
_Download a PowerPoint presentation on this project._  [Link: Focus Areas>GAR>Publications and Resources>TFP PPT#]

The Partnership for Working Families
Working Partnerships seeks to support replication of accountable development strategies and policies through the Partnership for Working Families_ (PWF). PWF is a network dedicated to assisting local organizations throughout the country to build “policy-action centers” with the resources and expertise to support progressive community coalitions.  The Partnership helps community groups design a vision for building power by growing and strengthening coalition members, and uniting community, progressive forces, and labor around common values and issues.

As a founding member and anchor organization for PWF, Working Partnerships provides ongoing technical assistance to these emerging community organizations in winning living wage, community benefits, and other policies to hold government accountable to working families. Ongoing projects to which Working Partnerships USA is providing assistance include:

  • Transit-oriented development in Sonoma County, CA, led by the Sonoma-based community group New Economy Working Solutions (NEWS)
  • Advising Georgia Stand Up on participating in land use planning processes to gain greater social equity in the development of Atlanta’s Beltway transit project
  • Helping Community Labor United in Boston identify new projects

Read about our other statewide and national projects


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