Our recent report dug deeply into how communities are equitably engaging communities in their economic development practices. Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs) are just one of the many tools and mechanisms that we highlight. The Sacramento City Council recently approved a $50 million community benefit partnership agreement (CBPA) for Aggie Square, a $1.1 billion innovation district that is a public/private partnership between University of California Davis and Wexford Science & Technology, a developer of university-based innovation districts. The innovation district will be located at Sacramento’s UC Davis Medical Center Campus and be a hub of research, innovation, and education. The CBPA provisions create an affordable housing fund with a minimum of $50 million for the Stockton Boulevard corridor, including funds for anti-displacement programs; prioritize local residents for entry-level and higher-wage jobs and provide training pathways to those jobs; improve biking, walking, and transit access around the campus; and provide community access to space such as one for ongoing cohorts for under-represented entrepreneurs.

But Sacramento will be taking it a few steps further due to reaching a recent lawsuit settlement agreement with Sacramento Investment Without Displacement (SIWD) over Aggie Square’s lack of attention to gentrification. This couldn’t have come at a better time. Mayor Darrell Steinberg announced the settlement just prior to the City Council’s vote on the Aggie Square CBPA, stating that the City commits to two key outcomes:

  1. SIWD and broader community will be active and consistent partners with Wexford and the City to implement the CBPA. 
  2. Mayor Steinberg will be bringing forward an ordinance that the City will commit to a CBA process and product that is responsive to the affected neighborhood and neighborhoods for any future projects involving significant City investment. 

Our report’s in-depth Portland case study shows how CBAs are used to increase economic opportunity and equity in workforce and contracting as well as develop practical strategies to address historic inequities. Prosper Portland, the local economic development organization, and the City have CBAs alongside Community Equity and Inclusion Plans and Community Opportunities and Enhancement Programs to cover different types of development. 

Sacramento’s equitable approach to Aggie Square development should help it overcome many of the issues facing other innovation districts. Detroit’s Innovation District lacked neighborhood inclusion, and Boston’s only engaged the community for support of the project and not in the decision making. Leadership in development projects need to include equitable and inclusive opportunities for stakeholders not traditionally at the table and to engage the local community in assessing their priorities an creating such economic development projects, as Fresno DRIVE and Atlanta’s Economic Mobility Plan address.