Bill to Ensure Diversity in California Insurance Passes First Senate Committee

SB 534 Would Require Largest Insurers to Report Supplier Diversity and Governing Board Diversity

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 510-926-4022 (office), 415-846-7758 (cell)

SACRAMENTO – Today the Senate Insurance Committee passed legislation to promote diversity in California’s insurance industry, SB 534, introduced by Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena). The measure, which was supported by testimony from the California Department of Insurance, members of the department’s Insurance Diversity Task Force and The Greenlining Institute, would require the largest players in the state’s $310 billion insurance industry to report on their level of contracting with businesses owned by women, people of color, veterans and LGBT individuals. It would also require insurers to report on the diversity of their governing boards and set goals for supplier and board diversity.

“SB 534 will ensure that California’s insurance providers think about diversity when they make procurement decisions and choose their boards of directors,” said Greenlining Institute Health Equity Director Anthony Galace. “California leads the nation in diverse-owned businesses, which creates the ideal environment and opportunity to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion among insurance companies and other large businesses.”

Data collected by the Department of Insurance in 2017 showed that 80 percent of major insurers’ governing board seats were held by men while just 12 percent were held by people of color. Of nearly 2,400 total board seats, only 14 members self-identified as LGBT, while 13 percent of insurance companies reported zero women and 35 percent reported zero persons of color on their boards.

SB 534 is modeled on a number of prior, highly successful diversity initiatives based on reporting and transparency, which have stimulated large increases in corporate contracting with California’s diverse businesses. The bill now moves to the Judiciary Committee.

For further background on the bill, see Anthony Galace’s blog post.

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THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE
A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute

greenlining.org
@Greenlining

Bill to Ensure Diversity in California Insurance Has Senate Hearing Today

SB 534 Would Require California’s Largest Insurers to Report Their Supplier Diversity and Governing Board Diversity

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 510-926-4022 (office), 415-846-7758 (cell)

SACRAMENTO – This afternoon the Senate Insurance Committee will consider legislation to promote diversity in California’s insurance industry, SB 534, introduced by Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena). The measure, also strongly supported by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara and The Greenlining Institute, would require the largest players in the state’s $310 billion insurance industry to report on their level of contracting with businesses owned by women, people of color, veterans and LGBT individuals. It would also require insurers to report on the diversity of their governing boards and set goals for supplier and board diversity. The measure is modeled on a number of prior, highly successful diversity initiatives based on reporting and transparency.

WHAT: Senate Insurance Committee hearing on SB 534

WHO: Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena); Department of Insurance Senior Deputy Commissioner and Legislative Director Michael Martinez; President/CEO of Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, Inc. and Department of Insurance Diversity Task Force member Linda Akutagawa; Golden Gate Business Association board member and Department of Insurance Diversity Task Force LGBT representative Jay Greene; Greenlining Institute Health Equity Director Anthony Galace; members of the committee

WHERE: State Capitol, Room 112

WHEN: Wednesday, April 10, 1:30 p.m.

For further background on the bill, see Anthony Galace’s blog post.

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THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE
A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute

greenlining.org
@Greenlining

 

Bill to Maximize Clean Energy Benefits Has 1st Hearing Wednesday

AB 961 Would Require CPUC to Consider Benefits Like Cleaner Air, Improved Health, Jobs in Underserved Communities 

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 510-926-4022 (office), 415-846-7758 (cell)

SACRAMENTO — On Wednesday, April 10, the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Energy will take up a bill to require the California Public Utilities Commission to consider “non-energy benefits” – impacts like job creation and improved public health – when evaluating clean energy projects. Environmental justice advocates consider it essential for the state to look beyond direct, energy-related impacts and consider the many other benefits that clean energy projects typically bring to underserved communities, which often struggle with high pollution levels and a lack of economic opportunities.

WHAT: Assembly Committee on Utilities and Energy hearing on AB 961

WHO: Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes, Greenlining Institute Energy Equity Legal Counsel Madeline Stano, Self-Help Enterprises West Goshen Community Member, Lucy Hernandez

WHERE: State Capitol, Room 437

WHEN: Wednesday, April 10, upon adjournment of the Communications and Conveyance Committee (approximately 1:30 p.m.)

For further background on the bill, see Madeline Stano’s recent blog post.

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THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE
A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute

greenlining.org
@Greenlining

 

Assembly Health Committee Passes Bill to Boost Diverse Small Businesses

AB 962 Would Track Major Hospitals’ Contracting with Businesses Owned by Women, People of Color, Veterans and LGBTs  

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 510-926-4022 (office), 415-846-7758 (cell)

SACRAMENTO — Today the Assembly Health Committee approved AB 962, introduced by Assemblymember Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood) and coauthored by Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland). The bill uses reporting and transparency to encourage California’s $230 billion hospital industry to boost its contracting with businesses owned by people of color, women, veterans and LGBT people.

“I am very excited that AB 962 passed out of health committee today,” Asm. Burke said. “It is crucial that we continue to encourage increased diversity in our state across all levels. Promoting economic opportunity for our diverse businesses has benefits that extend well past the hospital-supplier relationship because when our diverse businesses benefit, we all benefit.”

“Hospitals are uniquely positioned to build relationships with the communities they serve by partnering and contracting with diverse businesses,” said Greenlining Institute Health Equity Director Anthony Galace. “The data provided by AB 962 will enable California to leverage the expansion of the state’s health sector to benefit small businesses that employ people of color, women, LGBT people and veterans.”

The measure, sponsored by The Greenlining Institute, is modeled on a successful program overseen by the California Public Utilities Commission, which over three decades has sparked massive increases in contracting with Minority Business Enterprises by California’s regulated utilities, as well as a similarly successful program that was administered by the Department of Insurance.

AB 962 now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. For further background on the bill, see Anthony Galace’s recent blog post.

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THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE
A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute

greenlining.org
@Greenlining

 

Whose Renaissance Is It?

Teaching Tolerance
By Jay Ehrenhalt

When Chris Dolgos noticed upscale boutiques cropping up in Rochester, New York’s trendy South Wedge neighborhood, he knew there was more going on in his city than just gentrification.

Rochester’s downtown revitalization allowed Dolgos, a longtime resident of the area and teacher at Genesee Community Charter School, to wander through coffee houses, salons and eclectic gift shops; his sixth-graders could visit new ice cream stores and sample organic produce at the Rochester Public Market with its brand-new, state-of-the-art, indoor pavilion. But, at the same time, Dolgos’ class knew about residents having to move out of their homes because they could no longer afford to live in their neighborhoods.

“People want to live in the South Wedge or the East End,” relays Dolgos. “It’s displacing people who’ve lived there for so long because landlords are realizing they can jack up the rent.”

The rents had been low because Rochester, much like Detroit and other Rust Belt cities, had been a city in decline. Once a hub for manufacturing giants like Xerox, Kodak and Bausch + Lomb, the industrial center declined in the last two decades of the 20th century as companies downsized. The city lost many major businesses, jobs and much of its population. But, more recently, Rochester’s medical, arts, communications and education sectors have attracted millennials back to the city. Its downtown population has more than doubled in the last 15 years.

While Dolgos welcomed downtown’s newfound prosperity—what some have dubbed an “urban renaissance”—he continued to wonder about Rochester’s other neighborhoods. He decided to explore the idea with his students.

“We talked about the downtown renaissance: the new restaurants, the stores, our expanding children’s museum with its proposed nearby affordable housing units,” he says. “The city of Rochester is doing a lot of big things, but it always comes back to, ‘Are we doing enough for the people who need it the most?’”

What followed was a year-long expedition into Rochester’s renaissance, which Dolgos and his co-teacher, Alexis Stubbe, devised at their EL Education school. The project, partly supported by a Teaching Tolerance Educator Grant, explored how the city has reinvented itself after decades of economic downturn. Students investigated the ways the city’s renaissance has included some residents while simultaneously excluding others. “Our students are perfectly poised to examine the neighborhoods they call home, identify what works and what doesn’t in their communities, and collaborate with local and national experts to make sure our city’s renaissance is an inclusive one,” Dolgos explains.

Exploring Barriers and Bridges

To better understand their community’s identity, the class investigated their own identities—and those of their fellow residents. Dolgos and Stubbe framed their expedition as an inquiry into the question, “Whose renaissance is it, Rochester?”

The entire project was centered around the theme of “barriers and bridges”: barriers being anything holding back individuals and communities, and bridges being anything bringing them together.

The class launched into a three-mile walking tour through neighborhoods in their city. They took note of physical barriers like railroad tracks and the Inner Loop, a 1950s freeway expansion project that cut swaths of residential zones off from downtown and cleaved the city in two. Students also noticed experiential barriers like homelessness, gun violence and poverty. At the same time, the class pointed out bridges—physical ones, like the Erie Canal aqueduct, and metaphorical ones, like public art, community gardens and murals.

Students noticed disparities in neighborhoods’ amenities right away. As Dolgos recalls, “They posed a lot of questions like, ‘Why are there soup kitchens here?’ ‘Why are these corner stores filled with this kind of food?’ ‘Why is there garbage on the ground here, but not in another part of the city?’ Kids picked up on these things and asked about who’s getting the benefit and who’s being taken advantage of.”

Rowan Nordquist, one of Dolgos’ sixth-graders, reflects on growing up sheltered from much of the city’s poverty and crime: “Once you step outside my neighborhood, you see the real world. I was basically living in a reality where everything was perfect, but now I’m moving out into the real world. … I had not seen it before. It’s really different.”

Dolgos and Stubbe wanted to explore the notion that cities, just like people, have malleable, fluctuating identities. To do so, they integrated the Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards into their curriculum, organizing their syllabus around the Standards’ four anti-bias domains: Identity, Diversity, Justice and Action. The lessons began with an inward investigation of identity and progressed in sequence through the last three domains. (Learn more about the Identity domain in PD Café on page 15.)

“The standards helped us to focus on questions of who we are as people and do we really understand ourselves,” Dolgos remembers, “because before we can understand the people living on the west side or the north side of the city, we need to know who we are and where we come from.”

To further explore the topic of personal identity, the class collaborated with teaching artist Almeta Whitis. This is where support from the TT grant came into play. Whitis, a storyteller with literary arts nonprofit Writers & Books and former performing arts professor, helped students compose monologues of self-expression. Rowan, for example, depicted a tumult of inner struggle. In his monologue, titled “I Am a War Inside,” he wrote, “A battlefield exists inside me. It is a war to balance my heart and mind.”

The Story’s in the Numbers

The course expanded outward, delving into the identities of the school, students’ communities and, finally, into their city. To examine the next two domains of the Social Justice Standards—Diversity and Justice—the class reviewed demographic data for Rochester and explored how the numbers told the story of a community.

Students discussed literacy, poverty and health disparities across demographic groups. They examined the statistics behind redlining—duplicitous tactics employed by the banking and real estate industries to keep people of color out of certain neighborhoods or to keep them from becoming homeowners. The class discussed how discriminatory practices segregate communities by income and race.

“We looked at poverty rates and census data about where the poverty rates occurred,” recalls Dolgos. “The kids could see a correlation between poverty and race. They said, ‘Why is it like this?’ ‘How’d it get like this?’ There are a lot of things that people talk around, but nobody wants to address the root causes of poverty and systemic, institutional racism.”

Dolgos, Stubbe and their students examined the report Hard Facts by ACT Rochester—an organization dedicated to community problem-solving—to dig deeper into the enduring link between poverty and race.

Ann Johnson—ACT Rochester’s director and a guest lecturer in Dolgos’ classroom—explained that, while nationally African Americans earn just 62 cents for every dollar their white counterparts earn, in Rochester it’s only 48 cents.

“How could we be so different from the United States when, as a region, we’re pretty similar? We looked at the life cycle of a person, from infant mortality to reading and unemployment rates,” Johnson says. “We found that people of color do not have the same results throughout their life as their white counterparts.”

Once they got a good handle on the problems, the class began thinking about solutions. They met with community members devoted to removing achievement barriers for all Rochesterians. Kevin Kelley, a city planner, spoke with students about the city’s next development proposal, the comprehensive Rochester 2034 plan. Kelley and the students reviewed the successes and challenges of Rochester 2010: The Renaissance Plan, and discussed the tension between planning for the future of all city residents and working with limited available resources.

Listening as Learning

Students next set out into the city. They spoke with Rochester residents about the strengths and challenges of their surroundings. Sensitive to entering communities that were not their own, students made sure to keep respectful listening top of mind. “You don’t make judgments; you don’t take action. You’re just listening,” Dolgos explains. “We have to listen to people’s stories and honor their truth.”

From Rochester, students then embarked on their “Four Cities” tour, splitting up to visit Oakland, Detroit, Pittsburgh and New Orleans—all places experiencing recent urban renaissances. They met with community organizations to learn about their inclusive, equitable urban planning efforts. “The big word about that was equity,” says sixth-grader Rowan. “You have to fit everyone’s needs.”

In Oakland, for example, students met with staff members from The Greenlining Institute, a policy, research, organizing and leadership initiative for racial and economic justice.

Staff spoke with students about advocating for urban environments where communities of color thrive and race does not present a barrier to economic opportunity.

Painting a Positive Picture

The class capped off their year-long expedition with a city-wide art project, painting four murals across the city. They collaborated with guest artist Shawn Dunwoody, a lifelong Rochesterian and activist focused on community-based forms of urban development. Dunwoody connected students with business proprietors who had planted their roots in Rochester decades prior.

The students sought community input for the murals’ designs and messages, and students from four different schools even pitched in to help paint. Every mural featured an affirming message, including one from abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who once lived in Rochester: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

At Genesee Charter’s Exhibition Night, attended by community members, students’ families and a representative from city hall, the class presented their findings in a multimedia storytelling presentation featuring their project’s interactive website. The site includes photos from the mural project, student journalism, insights from the Four Cities tour and recommendations for how the city can foster an inclusive and equitable urban renaissance. They titled their presentation “Whose Renaissance Is It? A Closer Look at Rochester’s Renewal.”

Looking back, Rowan characterizes his experience of the year-long expedition as “eye-opening.” “Before this project, I had blindfolds on,” he recalls. “But then during the project, they lifted the blindfolds off of my face.”

If We Want To See More EV Adoption, We Need To Educate The Masses

Clean Technica
By Carolyn Fortuna

Even with clear benefits and increasing availability, there are consumers who are hesitant to switch to electric vehicles. What are the factors that create or inhibit momentum toward EV adoption? That is exactly the question that a group of UK researchers posed as they attempted to determine how consumers felt about EVs. The resulting study shows that key barriers to EV adoption include strongly held ideas about infrastructure and higher costs — mostly due to a lack of education about EVs.

Key Findings about EV Awareness and Perceptions

What did respondents think about EVs in general? 53% of individuals who took the survey did not know that an electric car can be charged from a domestic socket. Also, people from all age groups considered electric cars to be “expensive.” Here are some interesting stats that emerged.

  • Although 4 out of 10 could name Tesla, the next best known EV brand was BMW, listed by just 18%. Other brands struggled to get above 15% in EV name recognition.
  • 31% of the survey group believe that electric vehicles need more infrastructure that provide recharge time (42%). This is like a 2018 AAA survey also determined that 58% of consumers said they wouldn’t go electric because they feared running out of charge while driving.
  • All age groups consider the EV expensive: average car spending is £14,000, with the average cost of an electric vehicles falls around £32,000. What participants failed to understand is that the true price of a vehicle includes the lifetime costs of owning and operating it. A study by the Electric Power Research Institute, for example, showed electric vehicles performed in many cases better than conventional vehicles, due to cheaper fuel and lower maintenance cost.
  • Only 11% of all respondents claimed to be happy to pay upwards of £35,000 for an EV.
  • The study found that EV misconceptions are still rampant, with over half of the audience (53%) not knowing you can charge an EV with a normal household plug. This is consistent with the 2018 AAA survey in which 63% of those surveyed cited that there are not enough places to charge as a reason they were unsure or unwilling to choose an electric vehicle as their next car.
  • 20% were not aware that tax benefits were available to those buying electric cars. One in five of the audience didn’t know that EV drivers in the UK don’t pay Road Tax.
  • Two thirds also didn’t know that the battery gets help charging every time an EV driver hits the brakes
The Demographics of EV Adoption

The data above is the result of a survey of 2,000 UK drivers in a nationally representative study. Three distinct purchasing groups emerged in the research:

  • 18-24 year olds who are open and interested in EVs.
    • 2 out of 3 are interested in EVs.
    • Fewer than almost 9/10 say they wouldn’t consider an EV purchase.
    • Style of an EV is all-important to over half of them.
  • 25-54 year olds are not averse to EVs, but they do have distinct concerns. This audience is most likely to choose the EV compromise of a hybrid.
  • 55+ year olds who are significantly harder to convince:
    • Over half of over 55s (54%) term EV technology as experimental.
    • 7 out of 10 deem it unproven.

Even with improvement in EV technology, less than a third (28%) would consider buying an EV.

Lower running costs (63%) and being better for the environment (64%) were the biggest benefits for two thirds of the audience overall, with the latter being most important for an under 25 audience and the former for the over 25s. However, performance isn’t an issue, with just 20% saying they believe performance be a barrier to purchase.

The survey did focus on the private purchase of electric cars rather than on other EVs such as light electric vehicles or commercial vehicles. It also did not include questions about modes of EV use such as car- or ride-sharing.

Approaches to Educating Consumers about EVs

A comparison of research about EV perceptions points to 5 distinct elements of awareness available through information and tools:

  • general information,
  • cost comparison,
  • public charger locations,
  • incentives, and
  • model availability.

What are some of the existing EV consumer awareness programs that are showing promise?

National Drive Electric Week is a nationwide event to increase awareness and highlight benefits of electric vehicles across US cities. Three non-governmental organizations (Plug-In America, the Sierra Club, and the Electric Auto Association) serve as the national team to support the various events across the country. In addition, many local organizations and individuals work together at the grassroots level to bring the full range of events to local communities. This event continues to increase in scale each year.

The EV Experience Centre is essentially just a storefront in a typical shopping mall that is stocked with plug-in vehicles from 6 different manufacturers, all sorts of charging equipment, and, most importantly, 10 EV Gurus who have been specially trained on all of the vehicles and chargers in the store.

The GoEVCity Policy Toolkit helps cities to develop engagement and partnership programs to expand public awareness and education in order to increase public understanding of EV feasibility and benefits.

The Greenlining Institute offers the “Electric Vehicles for All: An Equity ToolKit” is specifically designed to provide tools, tips, and resources that will help make EVs accessible to underserved communities. The toolkit’s chapters are broken out into sections that highlight information and lessons learned from current models in California like the Charge Ahead California Initiative (SB 1275, De León).

Final Thoughts

Moving forward, car companies are going to have to do a lot more than announce — ta da! — that they’re releasing a new model electric vehicle. Instead, they’ll have to have a marketing strategy that includes significant investment in widespread consumer awareness education that focuses on the benefits of EVs while also shattering the myths that surround all-electric transportation.

Range anxiety continues to be of concern to current owners of gas-powered vehicles as they think about driving an EV. Part of this is due to the current basic framework of EV chargers. This fear can be easily demystified with information and guidance.

In the same way that dealers for years have been offering incentives to customers through free hotdogs and ice cream, balloons, and giveaways, dealer awareness activities that welcome potential EV buyers must be developed. Well-trained sales staff. Electric vehicle showcases. EV clinics. Guided test drives. Current EV owners who serve as mentors. Workshops in charging, both at home and on the road.

And communities can help, too. Awards in recognition of individuals, organizations, or businesses that play an important role in advancing electric mobility. Formal youth EV education. Company fleets that include EVs for wider exposure. Initiatives that link electric vehicle awareness programs to tourism.

The incentives need to be modified, too, so that 3 distinctive age and life stage groups feel as if their concerns are being alleviated. This approach does start with different strategies and messaging but must also clearly address the risks and unknowns that the average car owner has to overcome before taking the step to an EV.

Such explicit edutainment approaches give today’s car companies the chance to showcase new products and possibilities. Anytime a company gets to rejuvenate its product line and reinvent itself, the company flourishes. This mindset is necessary for EVs to take their necessary place in a zero emissions transportation future.

It’s time to “educate the masses,” as the following poetry slam narrative argues.

Economic growth Eludes East Oakland, and Business Owners Ask City for More Help

San Francisco Chronicle
By Sarah Ravani

Every morning, Howard Oliver walks a few steps from the front door of his East Oakland home to get to his office. His garage — once used by his father to entertain his golf buddies — is now the base for Oliver’s environmental services business.

Next door, Ricardo Leon is surveying the floor-to-ceiling stacks of auto parts in his living room, tucked between photos of his family, before he loads his own truck to sell to companies throughout the Bay Area.

A few blocks away, several women sit under an umbrella on the sidewalk and sell cups of coffee. And by lunchtime, another of Oliver’s neighbors lugs a cart outside and sells homemade barbecue. His neighborhood near the San Leandro border is a perfect example of what Oliver calls an “informal economy.”

As significant swaths of Oakland bloom with new development — from a 40,000-square-foot market hall under construction in Jack London Square to several beer gardens and restaurants that opened in North Oakland within the past three years — East Oakland is a neighborhood removed, pockmarked by small operations searching for a way to grow.

The juxtaposition between the ways most of Oakland is flourishing compared with parts of East Oakland isn’t lost on owners of the neighborhood’s small businesses, both permitted and unofficial. A new $216 million bus and rapid transit system under construction along International Boulevard is expected to usher in revitalization in East Oakland. In the meantime, city officials said they are working to support existing businesses to transform East Oakland into a booming economy that can help the city thrive as a whole.

But for business owners in the area, those promises feel empty. Resources aren’t making it to East Oakland, they say, and many small businesses are unable to grow.

Oliver suggested a stimulus package to help beleaguered small businesses, combined with assistance in finding storefronts in consumer-friendly areas. The city should also hold events that showcase East Oakland’s businesses, he said.

“You need to follow through on something if you want to change something,” said Oliver, whose East Bay Indoor Environmental cleans up water damage and tests for mold and air-quality issues inside homes. “The city of Oakland has a horrible reputation with its follow-through game. We lose things here, we don’t gain them.”

Newly elected City Councilman Loren Taylor, who represents part of East Oakland, blames stagnation in the area on a lack of vision.

“Vision implies we are hearing from everybody. I see a series of working sessions that need to happen,” he said. “A series of input forums and listening sessions. It has to be informed by the community, but we also have to work closely with those who have been in urban planning and economic planning in the city.”

Taylor included that proposal in his priorities for the next two-year budget cycle, which the City Council will approve this summer.

Slow development in East Oakland follows a history of redlining, divestment of certain parts of the city through land-use and zoning policies, said Marquita Price, urban and regional planning officer for East Oakland Collective, a community organization.

“Because East Oakland is basically populated with a demographic that has been divested in by the city for decades, resources have not been properly distributed in this area,” she said. “There are a lot of people that do have talent out here and are not getting the opportunities.”

That divestment is apparent in the boarded storefronts along International Boulevard — a hub for merchants decades ago — and the lack of banks and grocery stores, Price said.

The city’s poverty rate has remained at about 20 percent for the past decade, higher than the national rate of 15 percent, illustrating growing income inequality, according to city data. One of Oakland’s Economic Development Strategy 2018-20 objectives is reducing poverty and increasing the living wage for black and Latino households. Most of these households are found in East Oakland, said Mercedes Gibson, an economic equity fellow embedded in the city from the Greenlining Institute, a public policy and research nonprofit.

In central and East Oakland, 93 percent of residents are people of color and the median household income is $43,000 a year, according to city data. Fifty-five percent qualify as low-income households. In Eastlake and Fruitvale, the demographics are similar, and together the neighborhoods house nearly half of the city’s 412,000 residents.

For the city as a whole, median household income is $58,000. Seventy-three percent of residents are people of color and 39 percent are low-income.

“The disparity is apparent. Tech is moving in, people are interested in Oakland, investors are coming in with money in a way that I’ve never seen before. The city is acknowledging there is a disparity going on and they want to support people-of-color businesses,” Gibson said. “It’s not about freezing these neighborhoods in time, but how can the neighborhood change with the wave coming? How can we have investment without displacement?”

The city offers a variety of services to help small businesses. Entrepreneurs can go downtown to the Business Assistance Center to learn about starting a business in Oakland. Additionally, the city makes available a list of commercial spaces for lease or sale, guidance through the business-permit process, referrals to financing, legal, marketing and human resources services. Facade grants are also available to business owners in parts of East Oakland.

But for residents, getting access to these services is difficult, Price said.

“The public transit is not affordable for the people in this area that make less than $20,000 a year,” she said. “Most people have to choose, do I want to eat or do I want to get somewhere?”

East Oakland Collective is working with various community organizations and city department staff to bring some of those services from downtown to the area through the Black Cultural Zone. A goal of the zone is to create a space to incubate small businesses operated by African American East Oaklanders.

Meanwhile, the city’s effort lies in understanding how many home-based businesses like Oliver’s and “side hustles” exist in East Oakland and what their needs are, Gibson said.

“The city is going to have to come out of their offices, put on their tennis shoes and get in the ’hood if they want to affect anything,” Oliver said.

Gibson has been doing that by going to different neighborhoods’ meetings and working with organizations like East Oakland Collective. Still, she acknowledges that any change coming to East Oakland is going to take time, but there’s hope.

“Even the city doing this kind of work is nuanced,” she said. “Equality and equity is a new word here. We are still exploring. This is a track that I think is important.”

Bill to Boost Diverse Small Businesses Has 1st Hearing Tuesday

AB 962 Would Track Major Hospitals’ Contracting with Businesses Owned by Women, People of Color, Veterans and LGBTs

Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Director, 415-846-7758 (cell)

SACRAMENTO — On Tuesday, April 2 the Assembly Health Committee will consider AB 962, introduced by Assemblymember Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood) and coauthored by Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland). The measure would use reporting and transparency to encourage California hospitals – a $230 billion industry in the state – to boost their contracting with businesses owned by people of color, women, veterans and LGBT people. The measure, sponsored by The Greenlining Institute, is modeled on a successful program overseen by the California Public Utilities Commission, which over three decades has sparked massive increases in contracting with Minority Business Enterprises by California’s regulated utilities, as well as a similarly successful program that was administered by the Department of Insurance.

WHAT: Assembly Health Committee hearing on AB 962

WHO: Assemblymember Autumn Burke, Greenlining Institute Health Equity Director Anthony Galace, members of the committee

WHERE: State Capitol, Room 4202

WHEN: Tuesday, April 2, 1:30 p.m.

For further background on the bill, see Anthony Galace’s recent blog post.

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THE GREENLINING INSTITUTE
A Multi-Ethnic Public Policy, Research and Advocacy Institute

greenlining.org
@Greenlining

 

The Green New Deal: What It Would Mean for Transportation

Autoblog
By Jim Motavalli

The big question: How would we pay for it?

The Green New Deal is long on vision but skimpy on details. It calls for a sweeping overhaul of America’s transportation system and the replacement of fossil fuels with zero-emission energy, but doesn’t say much about what such a system would look like. Or how we could pay for it.

But maybe the vagueness is by design. It’s simply a target we’re going to have to reach, advocates say, given climate change imperatives. The key transportation winners in the legislation, as introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., are “zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing,” “clean, affordable and accessible public transit” and “high-speed rail.” Not much is said about supporting ridesharing, bike lanes, carpooling or telecommuting, all seen as ways to take cars off the road. (In reality, ridesharing may be doing the opposite.)

The bill calls for “overhauling transportation systems in the U.S. to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as technologically feasible.” That last provision is, obviously, subject to debate. What’s feasible isn’t always affordable, or politically viable.

Almost none of this New Deal’s proposals could pass in the current Congress, even in watered-down form, but 2020 could change the political balance. So what would the Green New Deal mean for transportation?

A lengthy summary of the bill posted by supporters (in this case, specifically the Green Party) calls for a “complete phase-out of fossil fuels, fracked [natural] gas and nuclear power,” with a transition to “100 percent clean energy” (presumably a mix of solar and wind) by 2030. It calls for replacing “non-essential individual means of transport with high-quality and modern mass transit.” And it adds that “it will be necessary to electrify everything else, including transport, heating, etc.”

Remarkably, there are very few credible studies that look at how the planet could actually get to a zero-emission energy economy — especially without natural gas or nuclear power. The latter two sources provide baseline energy, meaning they’re always “on.” Wind and solar are both intermittent, which means to keep the lights on we’d need a national grid that can move electricity quickly around the country. And, of course, that doesn’t exist.

One of the few existing plans, cited in the Green New Deal, is from Mark Jacobson, a professor at Stanford, and Mark Delucchi, a research scientist at the University of California, Davis. “Our plan calls for millions of wind turbines, water machines and solar installations,” they said in Scientific American. “The numbers are large, but the scale is not an insurmountable hurdle; society has achieved massive transformations before.”

They’re not kidding about large numbers — their plan imagines 3.8 million large wind turbines, 90,000 utility-scale solar plants, 490,000 tidal turbines, 5,350 geothermal installations and 900 hydroelectric plants. Getting there by 2050, as the plan imagines, would require a united planet with a common goal, and zero NIMBY opposition (such as derailed the Cape Wind Project in Massachusetts).

The World Wildlife Federation agrees that a renewable energy economy is an achievable goal, but over “the next four decades.”

But even these ambitious plans fall afoul of the relentless imperatives of a warming world. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said last year we have about a dozen years to reduce greenhouse emissions and avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change. Transportation (accounting for a third of those emissions in the U.S., less globally) is making progress, but nowhere near what the Green New Deal envisions. The 361,307 battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles sold in the U.S. last year were less than 2 percent of the 17.27 million cars and trucks sold. With more EV models on offer and increased range, global consultancy McKinsey and Co. thinks EVs’ percentage of the total vehicle market could grow to a whopping 14 percent by 2030.

So the Green New Deal imagines a great leap forward, from a slow, voluntary shift to electrified transportation to a swift, mandated one. “We need to act fast and mobilize, and we have no other option but to set these targets if we’re going to avoid climate chaos,” Hana Creger, environmental equity program manager for the Greenlining Institute, told Autoblog. “We know it’s ambitious, but the level of ambition of the Green New Deal for transportation is absolutely on point, given the scale of the problem.”

Creger thinks we can learn from California, which makes up half of U.S. EV adoption and 32 percent of its renewable energy. She adds that the state’s EV subsidies are equitable (a big part of the Green New Deal), providing rebates targeted at low-income earners.

The conservative Heritage Foundation is, not surprisingly, skeptical. “Do you want the federal government to control what kind of car you drive and what kind of energy you buy?” it asks. “Because the end goal of the Green New Deal is to eliminate the use of coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear and the internal-combustion engine.”

Heritage writes that these sources currently “provide 83 percent of America’s electricity and 92 percent of the transportation fuel market. So the costs of a green transformation would be astronomical.”

They would indeed, but left unsaid is that the costs — economic and otherwise — of catastrophic climate change would be far greater.

One of the key issues here is choice. Americans have it, and so far they’re choosing SUVs over EVs. And while the nation’s public transit system is expanding rapidly, it’s still a big challenge in a country that’s as spread out as the U.S. (especially when compared to Europe). Creger acknowledges this. “Perhaps in cities we’ll see enhanced public transit, walking and biking, and in rural and suburban areas more of an emphasis on electric vehicles,” she said. So far, though, EVs have been challenged in rural areas because of range issues.

Public transit never pays for itself out of the fare box, and in some places that basic fact has been used to stop projects in their tracks — and is a constant threat to the national rail network, Amtrak. High-speed rail has also been hurt by cost overrun projections and shut down, even in California under the ultra-liberal new governor, Gavin Newsom.

At last count the Green New Deal had 90 co-sponsors in the House, all of them Democrats. As legislation, it doesn’t have much chance of becoming law. As constituted, the bill is a progressive wish list, with provisions on everything from supporting family farming to “repairing historic oppression of indigenous peoples” and cleaning up hazardous waste sites.

Ocasio-Cortez and Markey want Americans to dream bigger dreams, to raise their expectations. Most of the auto industry actually is planning for a switch to electric vehicles, though few would think that transition will be completed as early as 2030. Some analysts worry that if the U.S. lags on EV leadership, the automotive center of gravity will shift to other countries.

In reality, what is likely to happen is that electrification will accompany a market-driven shift to ACES — cars and trucks that are autonomous, connected, electric and, of course, shared. In that scenario, Americans won’t actually own cars, and vehicle choice will shift to fleet buyers. If that scenario unfolds, and many believe it will, tailpipes will disappear without a mandate, and consumers will be thrilled with their new mobility.

Affordable public transit for all and a national network of high-speed rail? That might have to wait for a while.

Inside California’s Community Solar Experiment

Greentech Media
By Kevin Stark

Contracts are being written, but big questions remain about how the community solar market will take shape in the state.

The California Public Utilities Commission has approved two sweeping programs in recent years to spur community solar construction in the state, but the market has yet to gain real traction. Solar developers are now scrambling to organize projects as these programs advance and new opportunities crop up.

“There is not a community solar market yet, but we’re about to experiment with it in a real way,” said CPUC Commissioner Martha Guzman Aceves, in an interview with GTM.

California is a leader in U.S. solar development, but the state has deployed few community solar projects so far, with a little more than 100 megawatts of mostly one-off projects built to date. Community solar has not found fast footing in the state. Today, there are still virtually no up-and-running community solar projects within California’s investor-owned utility territories, which make up the majority of the state.

That’s a problem, as millions of people across California rent their homes or are otherwise unable to install rooftop solar. Community solar provides an access point for these people.

“There are a lot of obstacles to get on the roof to install solar when you don’t own it,” Guzman Aceves said. “At the most basic level, our plan gets to a significant population in California that would never have access. This is a really good thing, in that regard.”

The first program, adopted by the CPUC in January of 2015, is dubbed the Enhanced Community Renewables program. Under that policy, which was created by Senate Bill 43, developers market community solar directly to customers as an electricity product. Customers can buy a share of a local solar project directly from the developer and then receive credit for avoided generation costs from the utility. The program is one slice of the state’s 600-megawatt Green Tariff Shared Renewables portfolio, but there is no specific carve-out for community solar.

At present, just over 7 megawatts’ worth of projects are under construction or seeking approval through the Enhanced Community Renewables program:

  • In Sheep Creek near Victorville located in Southern California, developer Jaton is working on a 3-megawatt solar farm in Southern California Edison’s territory territory. Jaton formed in 2016 and seeks to take advantage of the state’s community solar programs.
  • In Campo, a town along the Mexico border, ForeFront Power is developing a 2.4-megawatt project with San Diego Gas & Electric.
  • In Fresno County in Northern California, ForeFront is working with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) on a 1.656-megawatt project.

While the going is rough, ForeFront is emerging as a key developer in California’s fledgling community solar programs. In 2018, PG&E put out a call for community solar proposals, and ForeFront submitted 11 projects that exceed 37 megawatts of power, all of which have the potential to come online in the future. In a public letter dated February 4, 2019, the utility noted that ForeFront’s projects were “selected for award and continued participation.”

One issue with the Enhanced Community Renewables program is that the solar comes at a premium, rather than offering customers savings, because these projects don’t qualify for net metering credits. PG&E started offering community solar at a premium in 2015, and it’s taken years to see any real action.

Disadvantaged communities solar tariff

Last June, the CPUC approved a second program, the Community Solar Green Tariff, that opened a pipeline for another 41 megawatts of community solar. The tariff stems from a provision of the 2013 bill AB 327 — sometimes called the “rate reform bill” — that requires growth of the solar industry in what the state calls “disadvantaged communities.”

The program creates a 20 percent bill reduction for people who live in areas with lots of air pollution and poverty and who want to participate in community solar. The projects must be located within a 5-mile area of their home. Solar developers and utilities operate with traditional power-purchase agreements.

In Southern California, SCE is well positioned to take advantage of the new tariff. Nearly half of the neighborhoods that qualify for this new program are within its territory, according to the utility.

“We found that our existing solar penetration is in this area already,” said Jessica Lim, SCE’s principal manager of product management, customer products and services. “That is where most of the solar projects are coming, from and customers can benefit from the savings in that area.”

SCE estimates that it can service 5,200 customers with the 18 megawatts allotted to the utility under the program.

Community-choice programs

The Enhanced Community Renewables program and the Community Solar Green Tariff program aren’t the only pathways to deploying solar in the Golden State.

Last year, SCE proposed a suite of community oriented solar programs to address some of the other programs’ pitfalls. Customers with Sacramento Municipal Utility District can already participate in a separate community solar program. Local organizations that procure power for residents, the community-choice aggregators (CCAs), are also developing their own initiatives.

Guzman Aceves said the CCAs aren’t burdened by the same regulatory restrictions as utilities. “The CCAs can do something quicker, theoretically, and that’s a good thing,” she said. “They have a lot more flexibility.”

When it comes to the Community Solar Green Tariff, however, CCAs could create a pain point.

SCE’s territory in particular includes many “disadvantaged communities” that qualify for the program, but a lot of these communities overlap with CCA territory, which could create problems if the local groups pursue their own community solar programs. PG&E has less overlap between its qualifying neighborhoods and the CCA service area within its territory, which means that it might be in a position to move more quickly, according to Guzman Aceves.

“One message I have for the CCAs and the utility is to make sure to work together on these types of projects,” Guzman Aceves said. “Do not make it be another five years of pointing fingers at each other, but [rather] see this as an opportunity for collaboration.”

Program constraints

Regulators are currently reviewing proposals under the Community Solar Green Tariff, which is expected to come online in the second quarter of 2019.

Proposal backers believe that building solar within polluted neighborhoods will reduce air pollution, but some developers complained that the program’s constraints are too tight and might limit growth.

Brandon Smithwood, policy director for the Coalition for Community Solar, said: “You’re asking developers to find a place where you have enough customers and where you can interconnect to the distribution grid. There are only so many places on the grid that you can practically plug into. And then this adds the requirement that all of your customers have to be in a small geographic area around the projects.”

He added that the CPUC’s new community solar contracts are a good sign, but they don’t guarantee that anything will be built.

“Whether these programs can work at all is still an open question,” Smithwood said. “Then, I think it’s clear that they’re not scalable. You have very complicated programs that don’t really fit in with the megatrends of the state.”

Instead, Smithwood argues that community solar can be used as a way to expand and experiment with successor programs to net metering. “That’s a way to create a community solar program that’s not these individual programs that have a ton of really complex requirements and restrictions,” he said.

Guzman Aceves expressed concern about introducing a net energy metering (NEM) structure for community solar because of what she called a rise in predatory actions by electricity service providers.

“There is a gaming that can occur with NEM that can’t occur with a fixed tariff,” she said. “It’s not all developers that use that approach, but it is happening with the NEM structure, particularly in low-income communities, monolingual and elderly households, and that’s a real big problem.”

SCE’s suite of community programs

Last September, SCE asked regulators to approve a slate of community-oriented clean energy options. At the time, it acknowledged that the current program for community solar wasn’t working very well.

It crafted an alternative set of programs. Altogether, SCE’s proposal generates 181 megawatts’ worth of new projects, with a 45-megawatt carve-out for low-income participants. The utility estimates the suite of programs could serve more than 82,000 customers.

With one initiative, SCE could aggregate customers for community solar projects itself, rather than solicit a developer or a community-based organization to do that work through contracts.

“Today, with our current program, we don’t really have a direct role in the formation of a community solar project,” Lim said. “We facilitate a solicitation process for the market. With this new program, assuming it is approved, SCE will be right in the middle. We’ll be the connector with customers and with communities.”

“Community solar is an important part of our clean energy future,” Lim said. “For us, it’s still in its infancy.  We just want to grow this program and try to be innovative in how we approach this by emphasizing disadvantaged communities.”

CPUC officials are currently reviewing the proposal, and approval is not guaranteed. In a memo, officials questioned whether SCE could end its existing program without violating regulations.

CCAs and community solar

East Bay Community Energy, an Alameda County-based CCA, is developing a program that the group’s top executive Nick Chaset calls “a version of community solar more tailored to local governments.”

The idea is to pair city loads with renewable generation. If the program can scale, it will be be accessible to all of the group’s customers.

Chaset said that unlike the CPUC programs, there would be no third-party project owner. Instead, the city would contract for the project directly through the CCA.

Customer demand would be the only cap on the program’s growth. Projects could be built locally or located farther away.

“What differentiates this concept from a standard 100 percent renewable energy product is temporal commitment,” Chaset said. “Municipalities commit for a longer period of time, and that’s what gets the project built in the first place.”

“We are a community-owned provider,” he said. “In some ways all our solar is community solar.”

Energy and equity

Grid Alternatives, one of the largest nonprofit solar installers in the U.S., is also moving into community solar in Southern California.

It is working with SCE, the Greenlining Institute, and other policy and advocacy organizations on a pilot initiative called the Clean Energy Access Working Group. The goal is to create community solar projects that are designed, led and owned by local groups.

While still in development, one potential site is in Compton on land owned by Ujima Housing Corporation, a nonprofit group, according to SCE.

Michael Kadish, Grid Alternative’s executive director for the Los Angeles area, said it’s important for community solar projects to provide customers with real financial savings, and the group is exploring additional community solar options. “We’re accustomed to saving people 80 percent on their energy bill,” he said. “That’s the level of benefit we’re looking to provide.”

The group recently hosted a conference on the subject in Los Angeles. The meeting explored successful models from across the country and pathways to improve programs in California.

“Community solar is interesting and holds potential for us, if you understand our mission,” Kadish said. “We care about bringing the benefits of renewable energy to underserved communities where most people are actually renters.”

Community solar holds potential for a lot of stakeholders in California. The challenge has been and will continue to be finding ways to harness that opportunity.