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Posted on: July 21, 2022

CivicSpark fellows at SJCOG helping to make region better for the future

Hillary Nguyen Pham (center) and Angela Carranza at Rise 'N' Ride event.

Stockton natives Angela Carranza and Hillary Nguyen Pham are leaving their marks on San Joaquin County.

They spent the past 11 months working alongside San Joaquin Council of Governments (SJCOG) planners on housing issues, clean transportation, and long-range planning as part of the agency’s first-ever partnership with CivicSpark. Their work will help shape the region for years to come.

“Angela and Hillary have each brought their homegrown talents to SJCOG and helped to catalyze some key regional transportation projects in San Joaquin County,” SJCOG Executive Director Diane Nguyen said. “During their fellowship, they sharpened skills they will use for the rest of their careers and gained valuable experience they might not have had otherwise.  Likewise, their local knowledge of the community and enthusiasm to connect with residents elevated the quality of work products at SJCOG. They each set out to make a difference in the community in which they lived and I say they certainly did that.”

Hillary Nguyen Pham (left) and Angela Carranza.SJCOG will continue working with CivicSpark fellows to address community resilience issues such as climate change, housing, water management and mobility. Carranza will return for another 11-month CivicSpark session with SJCOG, while Nguyen Pham will attend UC Berkeley to continue graduate studies in city and regional planning.

“Having that experience of seeing how an actual metropolitan planning organization works and being in the government-public sector will be very helpful for me in the future,” Nguyen Pham said. “After grad school I’m hoping to do work similar to what I’m doing now, but as a planner.”

Carranza and Nguyen Pham both worked on a case study on youth engagement in planning and SJCOG’s Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Community Strategies (RTP/SCS), a long-range vision and investment plan that takes a comprehensive look at the county’s future transportation needs. It does that while also considering future population growth and housing needs, and economic, environmental and public health goals. Carranza worked on RTP/SCS’ housing chapter and community outreach.

“Most of my time at SJCOG was working on housing activities,” Carranza said. “That’s where I spent most of my time. I really enjoyed the research aspect of the whole project.”

She also worked on the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) Stakeholder Workshop, Regional Early Action Planning 2.0 workshop, Community, Diversity, and Displacement Study, San Joaquin Regional Housing Virtual Symposium, Regional Resiliency Implementation Plan and Adaptation Guidance, and SJCOG’s Public Participation Plan Update. She also helped in researching whether a regional housing trust fund could help increase affordable housing options in the region and a consultant is now conducting a feasibility study.

Nguyen Pham worked on RTP/SCS’ Environmental Justice, Title VI, and Social Equity Report, outreach materials and events, maps, and the design and format of the plan. 

“I was really proud of working on the environmental justice report,” Nguyen Pham said. “That gave me a lot of technical and analytical skills. I really wasn’t expecting them to give me that assignment and that was really rewarding.”

She also worked on Alternative Fuels Vision Plan (AFVP) Procurement Process, which meant looking at the current infrastructure for alternative fuels and potential future needs. The work could be a step toward reducing vehicle emissions and improving air quality in the region.

For Carranza and Nguyen Pham, the takeaways of the CivicSpark experience will have personal long-term impacts.

“I think involving everyone at the table is really important,” Nguyen Pham said. “It’s important to understand everyone’s perspective on how they want the county to be for the future.”

She said community members were very vocal about what they liked and what they didn’t, and often expressed a desire to become more involved in the process.

Carranza said she received new perspectives on how federal laws are created and plans are carried out. 

“It takes so many months and so much planning and meeting with people to get their input,” she said. “Just knowing that makes me feel as if there is so much behind-the-scenes work in local government that becomes the steppingstones for a lot of the everyday functions of getting to work, transportation and housing.”

CivicSpark is a Governor’s Initiative AmeriCorps program that provides local public agencies the resources to address community resilience issues such as climate change, housing, water management and mobility. The program is operated by CivicWell, formerly the Local Government Commission, in partnership with the state’s Office of Planning and Research and California Volunteers.

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