Watts Leads on Local Solutions to the Climate Crisis

California's Transformative Climate Communities Program is empowering local communities, including Watts, to take climate actions that contribute a host of related benefits

Attendees at the Healthy Watts Harvest community engagement event in November 2021. Photo Credit: UCLA Luskin Center for
Innovation
Attendees at the Healthy Watts Harvest community engagement event in November 2021. Photo Credit: UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation

UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation has released several reports updating progress at five of the communities that have so far received grants from the Transformative Climate Communities program, a state program funded by cap-and-trade and managed by the Strategic Growth Council. The grants fund the development and implementation of community-defined, neighborhood-level, transformative plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which give rise to other local economic, environmental, and community health benefits.

Watts received a grant for $33.25 million in 2018, and used the money to, among other things, provide 300 residents with home energy efficiency upgrades, including smart thermostats and LED lighting, helping reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and individuals’ energy bills. Ten thousand residents received fresh food that would otherwise have ended up in landfills, reducing both waste and food insecurity. The community has also started planting 2,250 trees, which will cool down streets and sequester carbon.

The TCC brings communities together to identify priorities and decide how they would invest grant money. The program pays for the planning process, including community engagement, workforce development, and anti-displacement plans. Under the program, various cities and neighborhoods have built affordable all-electric, net-zero energy housing near transit, installed solar panels; grown and distributed food on urban farms; and trained future environmental justice leaders, among other programs.

So far, TCC implementation grants have been given to:

  • City of Fresno ($66.5 million)
  • City of Ontario ($33.25 million)
  • The Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles ($33.25 million)
  • City of Sacramento ($23 million)
  • The Northeast San Fernando Valley neighborhood of Los Angeles ($23 million)
  • City of Oakland ($28 million)
  • City of Riverside ($9 million)
  • City of Stockton ($11 million)

In addition, another eighteen communities have received planning grants to help them eventually apply for an implementation grant to take action on the plans they develop.

“The most transformative element of TCC may also be its most foundational: the community engagement and collaborative processes that anchor each neighborhood’s efforts,” writes the Luskin Center. “Plans for economic development and displacement-avoidance, for instance, are developed and implemented in a way that further community partnerships, utilize local knowledge and build capacity. In this way, empowering members of historically under-served communities can catalyze change for the long-term.”

In Watts, for example, the program called Watts Rising built on fifteen years’ worth of community planning that had already taken place in the community. The previous organizing efforts contributed to the community’s competitiveness in the application for the TCC, and have also helped bring in another $168 million in outside funds.

“The TCC award not only brings a significant influx of financial resources to the community,” according to the Luskin Center report, “but also reinforces the cross-sector partnerships that were built before and during the TCC application process.”

The Luskin Center’s annual reports update progress in five of the TCC communities: Fresno, Ontario, Stockton, and the Watts and Northeast San Fernando Valley neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Each report include a short history of each area, maps of the projects, and a detailed list of the plans, programs, and partnerships being utilized by the TCC grants.

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