Federal Grantees Convene in D.C. to Spur Conversations on Sustainable Communities

What does it take to make a sustainable community? That has been the question, planning challenge, and implementation goal for the Northeast Los Angeles Riverfront Collaborative (NELA RC) and 142 other HUD-DOT-EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities (PSC) grantees across the nation, in the past three years.

This month, at the third annual grantee convening led by the HUD Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, regional planning and community challenge planning grantees came together to share the progress on their planning, best practices, and spur on conversations on how to implement their visionary ideas for their communities.

HUD secretary Shaun Donovan gives the final keynote speech to the 143 Partnership for Sustainable Grantees.

A point of innovation for the grantees continued to be the original vision of the grant program -- to go beyond baseline understandings of sustainability that are only concerned with green and ecological aspects of the term. As a point of departure, the grantees were challenged with thinking about their plans and place-based projects in relationship to the people who live and who will migrate into their geographies. This framework focused on the following six livability principles developed by the PSC:

  1. provide more transportation choices
  2. promote equitable, affordable housing
  3. enhance economic competitiveness
  4. support existing communities
  5. coordinate and leverage federal policies and investment
  6. value communities and neighborhoods

This framework signaled a daunting task for the multiple disciplines, agencies, practitioners, and communities: that they would need to work interdisciplinary to deliver plans that speak to these six pillars of livability and sustainability. This continues to be the challenge locally, as the NELA RC and its multidisciplinary team of city agencies, non-profits, private sector developers, universities, and public media develop a Vision Plan and Economic Development Implementation strategy for the northeast L.A. River area, including the neighborhoods of Atwater Village, Cypress Park, Elysian Valley, Glassell Park, and Lincoln Heights. Nationally, the same sentiments and goals of working across sectors resonated with the grantees that packed the atrium of the Department of Transportation federal building.

The PSC initiative is not only a program with its own goals, but an experimentation in social innovation that has forced its many grantees to learn what partnership and sustainability is to them, as they were immersed in the guts of place-based and community-driven planning.

The NELA RC asked some of the fellow grantees "What does it take to make a sustainable community?"and they shared their thoughts in the photos below.

Photos: George Villanueva

About the Author

George Villanueva is currently a PhD Candidate at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, with a research focus on civic engagement, spatial justice, and sustainable urban development.
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