Press Release New Reports: “Comprehensive” State Grant Program Helps Awardees Advance Climate Action, Respond to COVID-19


UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation’s Evaluations Highlight Early Benefits to Disadvantaged Communities Funded by Transformative Climate Communities

Sacramento, Calif. – Participating in a "comprehensive” State grant program bolstered the ability of some of California’s most under-served communities to swiftly identify residents’ changing needs and respond to them quickly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Reports released this week by University of California Los Angeles researchers responsible for evaluating the California Strategic Growth Council’s (SGC) Transformative Climate Communities Program (TCC) find that participating communities’ pandemic “responses were bolstered by TCC-funded community engagement plans and leadership opportunities to tackle community goals around climate action, resiliency, and more.”

The reports released this week by UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation document the second year of implementation progress at three TCC sites – Fresno, Ontario, and Watts/South Los Angeles – and the first year in the Pacoima/Sun Valley neighborhoods of Northeast Valley Los Angeles. The UCLA research team closely studies TCC to identify best practices and lessons learned. In a companion article to the reports, Luskin highlights that the TCC funding, along with “the local knowledge, partnerships, and established trust that TCC partners have in their communities allowed them to identify changing needs and respond quickly during the pandemic.” For example, over the past year, the TCC awardees have distributed food directly to residents, built new affordable housing units, and taken action to prevent the displacement of vulnerable residents.

“Communities know best how to solve their problems,” said Jessica Buendia, Acting Executive Director of the California Strategic Growth Council. “The Transformative Climate Communities Program design prioritizes residents’ knowledge. We understand that engaging members of historically disadvantaged and under-served communities in planning and decision-making can catalyze lasting and ongoing positive change that promotes health, economic opportunity, and resilience in the face of climate change.”

The California Legislature established TCC in 2016 to enable Disadvantaged Communities (as defined by CalEnviroscreen) to at once reduce pollution, strengthen local economies, and improve public health by envisioning, planning, and implementing community-driven suites of projects and plans. TCC awards also help communities build capacity and social infrastructure, and pilot new models for community oversight of planning and community development. In their reports, the Luskin research team wrote that they “are not aware of such a comprehensive, community-driven, and place-based climate action program anywhere else in the world."

“We can learn a lot from these living laboratories for holistic climate action,” said J.R. DeShazo, Director of the Luskin Center for Innovation and principal investigator on TCC studies. “For one, we’re seeing how the ingredients of community engagement, leadership, and capacity building necessary for transformative change over the long term also support community resilience today during the pandemic and its economic fallout.”

Since 2018, SGC has invested over $227 million in TCC implementation grants in 8 communities and over $3 million in TCC Planning grants in 18 communities across California. Cap-and-trade dollars, through California Climate Investments, have funded the first three rounds of the program, which SGC administers in partnership with the California Department of Conservation. Governor Gavin Newsom’s California Comeback Plan released May 14 proposes $420 million for TCC implementation and planning grants over three years. If approved by the Legislature, these funds would make TCC available to at least 15 more Disadvantaged Communities in California.

“With Transformative Climate Communities, we’re advancing an innovative model for community investment, and the key to successful innovation is making frequent adjustments based on sound evaluation,” said Saharnaz Mirzazad, SGC’s Deputy Director of Community Investment and Planning, who has overseen all three rounds of TCC. “As we look to future rounds of TCC, the Luskin Center for Innovation’s annual reports provide a wealth of quantitative and qualitative information that enables us to improve the program’s effectiveness on an ongoing basis.”

Read the full evaluation reports on the Transformative Climate Communities page of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation website. Sacramento State University in 2022 will release an evaluation report on the first year of progress on a TCC implementation grant in Sacramento.

Read a few key highlights from the Luskin Center for Innovation’s reports, which cover the period from January 2018 to June 2020, below:

  • Transform Fresno ($66.5M Round 1 TCC Investment, 2018) broke ground on keystone infrastructure projects: The Monarch @ Chinatown affordable housing near the High-Speed Rail station and Yosemite Village Permaculture Garden and Urban Farm Incubator in Southwest Fresno.
  • Watts Rising ($33.25M Round 1 TCC Investment, 2018) redistributed 251,000 pounds of food directly to residents, and provided critical food distribution during the COVID-19 pandemic through multiple community farm and resident outreach projects.
  • Ontario Together ($33.25M Round 1 TCC Investment, 2018) neared completion of 100 new TCC-funded affordable units, and built 75 new leverage-funded affordable units; in addition, Ontario protected 1,697 mobile home units by implementing rent caps, and opened 985 landlord-tenant and 299 fair housing cases to prevent displacement in the TCC-investment area.
  • Green Together: Northeast San Fernando Valley ($23M Round 2 TCC Investment, 2018) established partnerships and a governance structure to ensure meaningful community engagement and accountability; and began work on all leveraged projects and transformative plans.

Media Contact

California Strategic Growth Council:
Sandra Lupien, (916) 634-3359,