In December 2021, Civic Edge began working with Permit Sonoma on community engagement focused on Sonoma County’s 2022 update of the housing element of its General Plan. The housing element is one of seven mandated elements of the general plan under California law and must be updated on a set schedule. In 2022, the County of Sonoma was scheduled to update its housing element, with the stated goal of establishing policies and programs that will support adequate housing for residents of all income levels.
Our team collaborated closely with Permit Sonoma staff to focus the engagement on equity priority communities whose input has been underrepresented in past housing elements and other policy processes. Together, we agreed on the primary importance of amplifying the lived experiences of historically marginalized and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities. To connect with equity priority communities in a deep and meaningful way, Civic Edge formed partnerships with local community-based organizations (CBOs) that serve, organize, and represent those communities. To provide different opportunities for partnership - and to avoid CBOs sacrificing their own operations to participate - Civic Edge set up a multi-tier program for CBOs to promote surveys and/or co-organize focus groups.
Questions for the online survey and digital and in-person focus groups focused on putting people first by providing space for participants to share about their lived experiences. Outreach to CBOs, including building on existing Permit Sonoma relationships and establishing new contacts, focused on strengthening a rapport with community leaders as a strong foundation for future collaborations. Engagement on the housing element brought forward feedback from the following equity priority groups: Latino/Latinx/Latina, Black/African American, houseless/homeless/housing-insecure, farmworkers, domestic workers, day laborers, seniors, and people with disabilities.