Louisiana Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments (LA SAFE) Adaptation Strategies
View Resource at https://www.adaptationclearinghouse.org/resources/louisiana-strategic-adaptations-for-future-environments-la-safe-adaptation-strategies.html
Creating and implementing laws, policies, plans, and projects that address affordable housing and nature-based solutions is an important step to increasing community resilience. While local and regional jurisdictions develop plans and policies that meet state and local legal requirements (e.g., sunshine or public meeting laws), simply meeting those requirements may not be enough. This level of engagement, even if well-intentioned, may not go far enough to lead to meaningful and equitable opportunities for engagement that are aligned with what communities expect and need.
The long-term success of solutions may depend on how effectively the solutions support the residents they are intended to serve. This is particularly important when it comes to thinking about the places people call home in response to population and flooding changes to support overall goals of individual and community-wide resilience. One way to make sure these solutions work better for a community is to create meaningful and equitable opportunities for community engagement before, during, and after the implementation of solutions.
To illustrate, many jurisdictions engage communities in discussions around efforts like plans, but not all jurisdictions are implementing best or emerging practice recommendations for what is considered meaningful engagement. For example, policymakers may come into communities seeking approval on nearly final decisions. This could be perceived as “checking the box” on public engagement without adequately asking residents about and understanding their needs and concerns. Additionally, many engagement processes often end once planning is complete. As such, governments could fail to continue working with communities on plans or project implementation or offer updates on progress.
In addition to a need for more effective and long-term community engagement, there is also a general lack of educational and engagement mechanisms for regional and local policymakers to learn about housing and natural resilience from, and how to work better with other stakeholders — and vice versa. New and sustained educational and engagement opportunities can lead to more and stronger partnerships and collaborations. This is one way that policymakers can work together to build bridges between and dismantle silos across sectors and bring people from inside and outside government together to learn from one another and connect.
To craft community-specific, equitable laws, plans, policies, and projects, policymakers should comprehensively understand the needs of the community they are serving. Rather than implementing a “cookie-cutter” approach, approaches for housing and natural resilience must be curated to address a community’s history, culture, and unique issues. The long-term success of tools and strategies is dependent in part on how well solutions address a community’s needs. Engagement must also include a diverse group of community members, especially Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and low-income stakeholders, and others that represent the makeup of the community, to the greatest extent practicable.
This part presents four categories or ways of how regional and local governments can approach affordable housing and natural resilience:
While there are some overlapping considerations for each of these entry points into housing and nature-based processes, it is important to call out each one separately because planning, land use and zoning, and projects can occur together or in distinct tracks. Ideally, cumulative, sequential processes — from planning to land use and zoning to project implementation — can help build on and reinforce one another to maximize alignment.
In contrast, the fourth type of action related to public participation laws and policies is an overarching action that cuts across all of the other three. At the local level, strengthening and enhancing public participation laws and policies at the local level can increase opportunities for decisionmakers to meaningfully and equitably collaborate with communities in the development of plans, ordinances, and projects that address affordable housing and natural resilience.
Plans can set a comprehensive framework that guides how laws, policies, and projects are implemented. Plans go by many names and take a variety of forms. They are developed at different and multiple levels of government and are prepared on multiple geographic scales. Some are legally required and others out-of-cycle or discretionary.
It is critical for policymakers at all levels to center community needs and ideas, especially from BIPOC and low-income communities that are experiencing the first and worst impacts of climate change, throughout all stages of planning and project implementation and design. If a plan is created without diverse community input, then the plan may not effectively address the unique issues and concerns of affected residents.
Working with stakeholders is not just important when a plan is being developed. Policymakers should continue communicating with residents during the implementation of projects and once projects are completed. To achieve this, planners should aim to have community engagement events and meetings before a plan is drafted, while a plan is being drafted, after a plan is drafted, and throughout implementation. Transparent efforts can help regional and local governments to build and maintain trust with community members and increase buy-in from residents and support for proposed housing and resilience projects identified in plans.
Community engagement events should be used as an opportunity for co-developing potential laws, policies, and projects with communities that address everyday and long-term challenges rather than planners proposing ideas and trying to get community buy-in retroactively. Effective community engagement takes effort and is time consuming, but it is an important step to crafting solutions in a plan that actually solve a community’s unique issues. If a plan does not address community needs, then the time and effort to craft it will be wasted. This can be particularly acute given limited resources and staff capacity at the local level.
Once planners host community engagement events, it is important for the planners to stay engaged with those members and keep them updated. This will create opportunities for accountability between planners and participants while also introducing additional opportunities for feedback and trust building. After events, drafters should analyze any evaluative feedback they received during events and decide how they will take that feedback into account to support future efforts. Once drafters decide what feedback they will or will not incorporate, their reasoning should be communicated to residents. This type of transparency shows that every opinion was valued and taken into consideration and can encourage residents to participate in future government processes.
Land Use and Zoning
Creating and updating local land-use and/or zoning ordinances can be used to increase affordable housing options and nature-based solutions in a community. Local governments have the primary authority to regulate land uses in their communities through zoning and floodplain ordinances. Land use is connected to, but also distinct from zoning. Land use contemplates the economic and cultural “human use of land” and the different uses on public and private land.See footnote 1 Conversely, zoning ordinances provide the legal framework that governs the use and development of land in a municipality according to different districts based on the uses that are permitted (e.g., residential, commercial, industrial).See footnote 2 These restrictions can be crafted to promote social welfare and environmental protection.See footnote 3 Some jurisdictions may pursue both or either land use and zoning in shaping development and conservation decisions. Regardless of a local government’s approach, however, the considerations around community engagement and equity are largely the same but may apply on different scales.
Regarding the environment, land-use and zoning designations can be used to promote nature-based solutions. For example, policymakers can establish zoning districts as recreational/open space for public parks and trails, or limit or restrict future development in vulnerable floodplains. Regarding housing, crafting zoning can be an effective way to increase the amount of affordable housing, and shield residents from displacement and development pressures.
Policymakers can use a plan to guide land-use and zoning updates. When this happens, the community engagement takeaways and priorities included in plans can help shape future development and land uses. Land-use and zoning decisions can help policymakers adaptively manage plan updates aligned with community needs and interests.
Land-use and zoning updates can also be proposed on their own outside of a plan. As with planning, land-use and zoning decisions are more successful when communities are engaged throughout both their development and implementation. Community engagement will allow policymakers to better understand the issues that residents are facing and how a legal or policy change may benefit or harm the community. Community engagement will also allow policymakers to be more strategic, inclusive, and thoughtful about the ways to minimize potential inequities.
For example, in 2016, the Oak Leaf Mobile Home Park in the Cully neighborhood of Portland, Oregon was threatened with closure and sale to a residential developer that planned to evict all residents.See footnote 4 In response, Living Cully, a coalition of four community development organizations, sprung into action to protect the park and its residents and developed a campaign to change Portland’s comprehensive plan and zoning laws.See footnote 5 Living Cully organized direct interactions between manufactured home communities (MHC) residents and Portland political officials. Additionally, residents from the Oak Leaf Mobile Home Park and other MHC around Portland gave testimony in front of the city’s Planning Commission to educate Planning Commissioners about these communities and personally combat negative stereotypes of MHC and their residents. Living Cully and MHC invited city staff and officials to visit Portland’s MHC and interact with the residents one-on-one in an effort to underscore the importance of these communities and this type of affordable housing. In 2018, the Portland City Council voted unanimously to adopt the proposed updates Living Cully supported to the city’s comprehensive plan and zoning code.See footnote 6
Portland demonstrates how necessary it is to work collaboratively with residents throughout the entirety of decisionmaking processes. Ultimately, residents will be the people most affected by land-use and zoning changes. Thus, policymakers must include residents to create locally appropriate and effective laws and policies.
Portland also illustrates the value of working with political officials and city staff to provide them with tangible opportunities to directly engage with residents. Here, these community-driven efforts worked to overcome the negative stigmas often associated with MHC to successfully pass inclusive and equitable zoning updates. This can be replicated more broadly beyond the specific context of MHC.
There are different kinds of projects around housing and nature-based resilience that can be designed and implemented in a community. This can include housing retrofits or repairs to the construction of new homes and subdivisions or parks and wetlands management. A project can receive funding and be implemented independent of or as a result of a law, plan, or policy.
Projects have various scales of impact. A project can affect only a few homes, a neighborhood, or an entire local or regional jurisdiction. Even though a particular project may not always be as comprehensive or large in scope compared to a plan, it is still important to engage with and educate residents especially when it comes to people’s homes and environments. For example, Rush River Commons is a proposed privately funded, mixed-use development project in the Town of Washington, Virginia. The proposed plan includes building a community center, office space for nonprofits, and affordable rental housing on a nine-acre property located in the town. The project also includes a plan for restoring the land’s natural wetlands and amenities. Though the project is a privately funded venture, the goal is to have a positive impact on the community. Thus, the team leading the project engaged with the public during the initial planning and design stages. For example, in addition to public meetings, they hosted a “listening tour” and met individually with community members. Over the course of a few months, the team interviewed almost half of the town’s population at the time. The team met with both those who supported and were not in favor of — or had questions about — the project. The team then incorporated the feedback they received into the project’s overall design. Although the scale of this project is relatively small and is privately funded, community engagement was still a critical part of the planning processes.
Credit: The Vision, Rush River Commons, https://rushrivercommons.com/ (last visited June 14, 2022).
Public Participation Laws and Policies
Strengthening and enhancing public participation laws and policies at the local level can increase opportunities for decisionmakers to meaningfully and equitably collaborate with a community in the development of plans, laws, policies, and projects that address affordable housing and natural resilience. As a foundation, the Louisiana Constitution states that “no person shall be denied the right to observe the deliberations of public bodies and examine public documents, except in cases established by law.”See footnote 7 While these types of decisionmaking processes vary by parish, municipality, and agency or department, “they all have opportunities for public comment.”See footnote 8 Building on the foundation in the state's Constitution, Louisiana’s Open Meetings Law “is meant to ensure that decisions by the government are made in an open forum” and “is designed to ensure state integrity and to increase the public’s trust and awareness of its governing officials.”See footnote 9 Specifically, the law requires that for “the maintenance of a democratic society” it is essential that “public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens be advised of and aware of the performance of public officials and the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy . . . .”See footnote 10 Although a state law, Louisiana’s Open Meetings Law applies to public meetings held by regional and local governments.
Generally, these can be interpreted to require that public engagement be conducted before and during processes at the state, regional, and local levels. Given the increasing frequency and intensity of flooding and storm events and ongoing affordable housing challenges, more and different types of equitable community engagement, as elaborated in this objective, are needed to support resilience efforts. As such, parish and municipal governments can consider going further than the base set by the Louisiana Constitution and Open Meetings Law by developing and updating their public meeting laws, plans, and policies. Where legally feasible, this could involve institutionalizing public engagement practices in ways that better encourage and facilitate increased public participation for more and varied types of residents. Potential options include:
The Community Engagement Guide (CEG) is another example of how localities can develop and use public participation models to promote community-centered resilience planning.See footnote 13 The CEG, developed by the District Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) and Georgetown Climate Center (GCC), consolidates best practices for District agencies seeking opportunities to conduct community engagement with residents and stakeholders at the local or neighborhood level. It specifically draws on DOEE’s experience collaborating with residents to implement the District’s climate plans.
In 2017 and 2018, DOEE and GCC worked to establish a community-driven planning process in the far northeast neighborhoods of Ward 7 in Washington, D.C. (“Far Northeast Ward 7”) to inform the implementation of the District’s adaptation and mitigation plans, Climate Ready DC and Clean Energy DC, respectively. The neighborhoods of Far Northeast Ward 7 were chosen after the District’s climate vulnerability analysis showed that the communities surrounding the Watts Branch tributary of the Anacostia River (i.e., Far Northeast Ward 7) face disproportionately more flooding and other risks relative to other parts of the District.See footnote 14 The flood risks in Ward 7 are exacerbated by other socioeconomic factors, such as age, income, health, and food and housing security. Starting in 2017, GCC and DOEE convened an Equity Advisory Group (EAG), comprised of a cross-section of community leaders and residents of Far Northeast Ward 7, who were charged with developing recommendations to inform DOEE’s implementation of Climate Ready DC and Clean Energy DC.See footnote 15
The project team developed the CEG to create a model for other District agencies to apply similar engagement practices in future planning and other District initiatives. The recommendations focused on how District agencies could apply principles of procedural and substantive equity for a more inclusive approach to community engagement, such as framing expectations and partnering with a trusted community organization.See footnote 16
Although the CEG was developed through planning processes that took place at a local scale, the lessons learned can be scaled up to apply to broader planning processes across agencies at the regional and/or state level. While the CEG was not developed in the context of enhancing public participation laws, other local governments can consider using the CEG as a model for how to institutionalize and build on the minimum standards set by public participation laws to achieve more equitable public participation in decisionmaking processes.
Any of these ideas can take place by developing or amending relevant local regulations and/or policy guidance documents. Moreover, any potential actions should be developed in concert with and not separate from residents, especially for an overarching set of engagement principles and standards.
By creating and updating local public participation laws and policies, parishes and municipalities have the power to increase community engagement and make these opportunities more consistent across all types of decisionmaking processes.
Institutionalizing public participation can also happen on a regional scale. Regional entities can look to support local governments in developing regional frameworks with best practices and tips and additional technical assistance resources for community engagement and equity.
Decisionmakers may consider the following crosscutting considerations and practice tips that apply to plans, land-use and zoning changes, and projects:
Create space to learn from and honor people’s lived experiences
Develop informed and transparent processes
Develop community-specific engagement methods
Evaluate and adapt community engagement processes, as needed
Build local capacity
Design various types of interactive activities to facilitate increased and more meaningful engagement
Set a clear timeframe and achievable meeting goals
Allocate sufficient funds and resources to support community engagement processes
Provide support services and resources to facilitate increased participation
Continue engaging with and learning from community members, stakeholders, and policymakers after legal and planning processes end
Stay up-to-date on the issues
These tips are based on priority implementation best practices and considerations most relevant to this specific objective and do not present an exhaustive list for regional and local planners and policymakers. Many of these crosscutting considerations and practice tips are similar to and adapted from those listed in Georgetown Climate Center’s Managed Retreat Toolkit part on Community Engagement and Equity.
It is important to acknowledge that every jurisdiction will be starting from a different place and have a unique local context and needs, among other factors. Therefore, these considerations and practice tips could be adopted individually, collectively, or not at all. It will be up to policymakers to work directly with their communities and other key stakeholders and partners to assess and determine potential tools and approaches to implement this goal and objective.
The summaries below highlight resources and case studies available in Georgetown Climate Center’s Adaptation Clearinghouse that are relevant to this objective. They illustrate how many of the above benefits, practice tips, and planning, legal, and policy tools were or are being evaluated and used in practice in different jurisdictions. To learn more and navigate to the Adaptation Clearinghouse, click on the “View Resource” buttons.
1. Land Use, U.S. Env’t. Prot. Agency, View Source (last visited Mar. 8, 2022). | Back to contentBack to content
2. Jessica Grannis, Georgetown Climate Ctr., Adaptation Toolkit: Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Land Use 19 (Oct. 2011), available at View Source; Indraneel Kumar, Purdue Extension Land Use Team, A Planning and Zoning Glossary 5 (Sept. 2017), available at View Source (Zoning is a “way of putting the comprehensive plan to work. A zoning ordinance contains regulations designed to implement the comprehensive plan. It includes, but is not limited to, permitted activities, setbacks, signs, parking, landscaping, environmental restrictions, density, and site plans. It provides for allowable land uses. Zoning is comprised of districts, ordinances, and the zoning map.”); Black’s Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019) (Zoning is “The legislative division of a region, esp. a municipality, into separate districts with different regulations within the districts for land use, building size, and the like.”). | Back to contentBack to content
3. Land Use, Env’t. Prot. Agency, View Source (last visited Mar. 8, 2022); Planning and Land Use, U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, View Source (last visited Mar. 8, 2022). | Back to contentBack to content
4. Manufactured Housing Parks Zoning Proposal, Living Cully, View Source (last visited Nov. 20, 2021). | Back to contentBack to content
5. About Living Cully, Living Cully, View Source (last visited Nov. 20, 2021). | Back to contentBack to content
6. Manufactured Housing Parks Zoning Proposal, Living Cully, View Source (last visited Nov. 20, 2021). | Back to contentBack to content
7. La. Const. art. XII, § 3. Back to contentBack to content
8. Public Participation, La. Envtl. Action Network, View Source (last visited Mar. 11, 2022). | Back to contentBack to content
9. La. Legislative Auditor, Open Meetings Law 5 (Feb. 2021), available at View Source; La. Rev. Stat. § 42.11–42.28 (2022). | Back to contentBack to content
10. La. Rev. Stat. § 42.12 (2022). Back to contentBack to content
11. St. John the Baptist Parish’s Coastal Management Plan calls for a coastal zone management education and outreach program that trains staff to speak at local civic and educational events, make agency educational materials, maps, and other tools available, and create volunteer opportunities. Back to contentBack to content
12. Working Group on Legal Frameworks for Public Participation, Making Public Participation Legal (2015), available at View Source. | Back to contentBack to content
13. Dep’t of Energy and Env’t & Georgetown Climate Ctr., A Guide to Community Centered Engagement in the District of Columbia: A Partners for Places Equity Pilot Initiative (2018), available at View Source. | Back to contentBack to content
14. Convening an Equity Advisory Group on Climate Resilience and Sustainability in the District of Columbia, Georgetown Climate Ctr. (Nov. 8, 2018), View Source. | Back to contentBack to content
15. DOEE’s partnership with GCC was supported by a facilitation consultant, Skeo Solutions, and an independent evaluator who assessed the engagement process. This collaboration enabled DOEE to work directly with community members to understand how best to implement strategies for addressing flooding risks in ways that support other community priorities (e.g., jobs, public safety, housing), promote social and racial equity, and build on community knowledge. Back to contentBack to content
16. Importantly, the recommendations also addressed removing obstacles to public participation, such as by: establishing convenient meeting locations, dates, and times; offering childcare, transportation assistance, interpretation services, food, and/or financial stipends; determining what “representative” means and how to include a range of perspectives; using multiple methods for spreading the word; and bringing in established and emerging voices, and voices that are often left out. Dep’t of Energy & Env’t & Georgetown Climate Ctr., A Guide to Community Centered Engagement in the District of Columbia: A Partners for Places Equity Pilot Initiative 12, 25–27 (2018), available at View Source. | Back to contentBack to content
Read Previous Section Read Next SectionBack to top