Creating New Cities: Solving California’s Housing Crisis through Environmental Considerations, Community Engagement, Economic Prosperity, and Voter Engagement.

Communities For a New California

Creating new cities could help California solve its housing crisis. But the process is often stalled by endless lawsuits over environmental concerns.

Xochitl Cortez works with youth to develop them into environmental justice leaders at Frontline Catalysts. She says students in these neighborhoods are learning about climate change and air pollution.

Bringing Valley Residents Together

Residents living in rural areas can often feel disconnected from each other. This can be especially true when it comes to their local government, which may not have a good understanding of the issues that matter most to residents or how to address them.

Paula Fugman, a 45-year Round Valley resident, sensed “dismay, angst, and disillusionment” as she watched her roadsides get littered with trash. So she recruited a group of neighbors to take action as stewards, cleaning up more than five miles of the community’s roadways.

In a town hall meeting last week, California Forever CEO Jan Sramek pitched his vision for a new city in Solano County to a packed room. His company has spent years quietly snapping up farmland in the area around Travis Air Force Base, with the goal of creating a new city that could include homes, businesses, schools and jobs. But locals are skeptical, concerned that more urban sprawl could harm sensitive ecosystems and exacerbate already-strained water supplies.

Economic Prosperity

As California rebuilds its economy, it must ensure that its prosperity reaches all of its people. Despite the state’s generous social safety net and a variety of business subsidies, many low-income Californians are locked out of opportunities to work or start businesses. This is often due to government regulations that limit economic mobility and exclude those who lack the connections or resources to navigate complex systems.

The drive for jobs and economic growth must also be matched with future-looking investments in public infrastructure and social services. Otherwise, communities like Chico will struggle to welcome climate migrants if they do not have the housing, education and other resources to support them. The state has made a good start by investing billions in regional economic development through the Community Economic Resilience Fund (CERF). But much more needs to be done.

Community Health

Community health involves addressing the multiple facets that make up a person’s well-being. It encompasses many different areas like education, nutrition, transportation, housing and economy. Taking these factors into account helps to build sustainable, positive health outcomes.

By providing medical, dental, and mental healthcare services alongside support services such as insurance (Medicare or Medicaid enrollment), translation, and transportation, community health providers can address the underlying factors that often lead to the need for expensive emergency care.

Historically, the concept of community health has been seen as a subset of public health, with an emphasis on local action and decentralization. However, some have argued that such formulations can reinforce the idea that medicine is simply a part of the larger social and structural determinants of health. In order to be effective, community health must engage with communities and empower people to become advocates for themselves. This is a critical aspect of achieving equity in access to healthcare.

Voter Engagement

The goal of voter engagement is to encourage, educate, and motivate eligible voters to participate in the democratic process by voting. A well-informed electorate is better able to identify and support candidates and issues that represent their interests.

Providing useful, nonpartisan information about elections, candidates, and choices takes on greater importance in off-cycle years like 2023 when lack of knowledge is often the top reason cited for not voting. Strategies like distributing educational materials and hosting town halls help dispel misconceptions that voting is difficult or doesn’t make a difference.

Educating young people is also an effective way to build a long-term culture of civic participation. Research shows that encouraging youth to vote early in their lives can set them on a path of lifelong civic participation. RQI’s free, state-by-state “Why Vote?” tool is one such tool and has been used by a wide variety of organizations to engage youth in local elections and ballot initiatives.

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