2014 Grants Challenge

Connecting Voices Building Power: Resident Led Community Planning

ACT-LA is bringing Angelenos together to vision a well connected Los Angeles through transit and healthy neighborhoods.


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

ACT-LA is bringing Angelenos together to vision a well connected Los Angeles through transit and healthy neighborhoods.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a region of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

Central LA

East LA

South LA

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South Bay


What is your idea/project in more detail?

ACT-LA will make LA the best place to Connect because we will develop a cadre of Angelenos with skills and ability to shape the future of development around transit. Los Angeles is undergoing a significant transformation with an aggressive light rail expansion and growing movement of getting people of their cars and using active transportation. The investment in public transportation will have a direct effect to the built environment and if directed well can support improvement 6 of the 8 LA2050 indicators, in particular housing, health, environmental quality, and social connectedness.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

ACT-LA seeks to advance a citywide transit equity campaign that will ensure the new transit system will work as planned – encourage healthy lifestyles, lowering environmental and climate impacts, and driving economic opportunity that benefits everyone in Los Angeles including those communities already located around transit corridors.

Currently, ACT-LA has a community working on developing curriculum to build collective resident leadership. The sessions are being held in various neighborhoods throughout the city along with community transit tours. ACT-LA membership groups bring people together at a neighborhood level and are working to build resident relationships across neighborhoods to develop a citywide policy which will enhance the unique character of each neighborhood while providing for the necessary neighborhood improvements. With the support of LA2050 we will build on our work and expand the platforms in which residents can be involved in the campaign.

ACT-LA will build popular momentum for equitable transit development by:

1) Having resident organizing committees in at least three council districts.

2) Hosting quarterly community transit tours for residents and elected officials.

In addition to creating the spaces for in person dialogue and discussion and increase opportunities for residents to connect, ACT-LA will:

1) Develop and implement a marketing and communications plan to increase knowledge of transit oriented development.

2) Host at least two twitter parties as a space to gather qualitative data for the transit oriented development policy.

3) Increase the use of social media to engage supporters and allies in the policy development.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CONNECT today? In 2050?

Imagine a Los Angeles where residents are coming together to dialogue and develop solutions with the intention of solving the most challenging issues facing Los Angeles. Spaces where competing interests are put on the table and worked through to create policies which will support the people in most need. Through this project and the work of our coalition partners ACT-LA is working to transform how decision making is made in Los Angeles. We are creating spaces for people who have been cast to the sidelines of government processes to engage.

An ACT-LA value is that all people have the right to participate in the political decisions that affect their lives, and the low-income communities and communities of color who ride our buses, live along our rail lines, and work in our businesses should have priority in deciding our future. We believe in strong leadership development for those who are most affected by decisions. This starts with key member organizations who have an engaged based of community residents. Those member organizations have regular convening for their constituents to engage in educational, skill building and strategy sessions.

Whom will your project benefit?

ACT-LA will benefit all Angelenos by creating space and momentum for a citywide equitable transit development policy. Our coalition is turning the trickle-down theory upside down by having the heart of the community engagement efforts focus on the most vulnerable populations. By engaging, strengthening, and fostering opportunities for the largest segment of Angelenos, we believe we will make Los Angeles a better place for everyone.

We will be focused on connecting people who live around transit and use transit in discussions of how transit development can support a healthy environment for everyone. Our primary constituents through our member organizations are low-income renters of color. Los Angeles’ highly transit-impacted neighborhoods are 96% or more people of color. In Los Angeles, workers earning less than $25,000 use transit more than twice as often as higher earners and make up 75% of all riders. Our member organizations are deliberate in organizing and reaching all ages, gender and sexual orientation. Our base includes families with young children, young adults, and seniors.

ACT-LA’s members work with low-income community members who depend on a strong public transportation system to reach work, recreation, home and other daily needs. More transit options such as rail stops and improvements in bike and pedestrian infrastructure can help these residents only if they are able to remain living around these amenities. ACT-LA members have seen firsthand the effects of smart growth policies being enacted without equity in mind: resident displacement, business destruction, increases in eviction, loss of affordable housing, and a host of other related issues connected to transit impacts. It is because of these first-hand experiences at the neighborhood level that ACT-LA members have come together to encourage passage of a Citywide equitable TOD ordinance that will help prevent displacement and maintain and strengthen the economic and cultural fabric of these communities.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Alliance for Community Transit-LA (ACT-LA) was formed by organizations in Los Angeles with policy advocacy, grassroots organizing, and community economic development expertise to unite separate neighborhood voices into a citywide voice for equitable transit investment. In 2010, we hosted two summits where over 40 organizations from diverse sectors participated including representation from labor, community organizing, environmental justice, transit equity, and affordable housing developers. Founding organizations remain active host committee members today and the coalition has 22 active member organizations.

Since its inception, ACT-LA has served as the primary vehicle for regional collaboration amongst grassroots organizations and advocacy organizations to convene around the intersection of transportation, housing, public health, and environmental issues in Los Angeles. Three areas critical to our existing and continued success are:

• Coalition values: ACT-LA spent time developing values for our work and all member organizations sign on to the values. We use them in our program and policy development as well as how we operate as a coalition.

• Strong internal communication: Ensuring all members are informed and connected to the work is critical to successful collaboration.

• Holding the whole: Each partner brings strengths and different areas of focus. As a coalition we hold everyone’s priorities and work to move issues together because of their interconnectedness.

How will your project impact the LA2050 CONNECT metrics?

Median travel time to work

Number of public transit riders

Government responsiveness to residents’ needs (Dream Metric)

Transit-accessible housing and employment (the share of housing units and percentage of jobs that are located within a half-mile of transit) (Dream Metric)

Total number of social media friends (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

Our project will have a positive impact on the following metrics: 1) Median travel time to work, 2)Number of public transit riders, 3)Government responsiveness to residents’ needs (Dream Metric), 4) Transit-accessible housing and employment, and 5)Total number of social media friends.

ACT-LA’s project ultimate goal is to have an equitable transit oriented policy enacted by the city. This policy would support having affordable housing near transit, keeping core transit riders near transit and improving the overall environment for residents. The project engages residents directly with government officials and demonstrates a democratic process of developing policy. By engaging people in virtual spaces we would increase friends through social media.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

Success in our project is the increased level of community participation and the advancement of our campaign platform. Our ultimate goal is to have the City of Los Angeles adopt a citywide equitable TOD ordinance with this project positioning ACT-LA to have the ordinance during the timeline of this project. For this project the following three areas we will be tracking through our work:

-Increased endorsements for the campaign to a total of 75.

-Increase follower on twitter by 50% with at least 75% of them joining in the twitter parties.

-At least 100 residents participate in the in-person activities.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

ACT-LA members have extensive track records of neighborhood, regional, and statewide wins in their respective areas of expertise. The groups have also worked with each other in different formations as well as part of other collaborations. A recurring theme was a loss of connection to neighborhood work as transit oriented development policy was being developed at all levels and resources aligned to support those policies. From our collective experience, a lesson learned was the loss of community residents in the policy development process. This is why our project focuses on engaging residents, deepening their knowledge on issues and making the spaces to discuss areas that can be perceived as conflicting.

In addition, our experience in implementing and analyzing campaigns has also showed us the need to reach supporters beyond our membership, building popular discourse on the issues we are working to impact. The current environment of mass media and use of social media provides an opportunity to reach and connect more residents.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

Internally, ACT-LA spent the previous twelve months developing a transit equity campaign platform on housing, transportation and economic development. We wrote a white paper explaining our policy proposal and plan a release in Fall of 2014. We also launched a website, hosted social media actions and communications training. Additionally, we supported our member campaigns such as engagement with the Los Angeles Housing Element and advancing our campaign platforms in the West Adams, South and Southeast Community Plans.

We have laid a strong foundation for our policy work, built a diverse coalition, and are deepening the network of residents across neighborhoods working on this issue. ACT-LA’s success in the last twelve months has positioned us to take the next step to reach a greater scale of contact with Angelenos across the city through in person and virtual spaces.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

For this project the two major barriers we anticipate are:

1) Having messages which resonate with population at large for the campaign and with the support of the LA2050, we will hire a Marketing and Communications consultant to work with the coalition in developing the messages and materials.

2) Having city council members strongly support equitable transit and neighborhoods. The overall project aims to address this challenge by building a large scale cohort of residents which can talk about the issues and engage councilmembers to support equitable transit oriented development.