Negotiating Community Benefit Agreements

Under the Current Project tab I have added two sections: one for an essay and the other for a conference paper. Both come from the same research and focus on disrupting the knowledge and power imbalance in community benefit agreement negotiations. The draft essay is complete and available for download. The essay is close to final and contains editorial content not found in the paper. The essay may appear in journals or trade publications. The conference paper is longer, contains an extensive section on methods and will be completed by the end of the year. Sections of the paper are provided in a web-based format here. My intention is to add additional case studies to round out the research and subject the paper to peer-review.

These are draft work products which shall be provided to journals or conferences. It is not appropriate to cite this work for other academic papers without noting its status. I anticipate updates to the contents of this paper as I receive comments from peers. Citations will be added over the next several weeks. Below is the draft abstract for the conference paper.

Paper Abstract

Disrupting the knowledge and power imbalance in community benefit agreement negotiations

This is the first in a series of case studies concerned with the information exchange between proponents of high-profile projects and communities preceding the production of community benefit agreements (CBAs). The study starts by testing the premise of various rational actor theories that information sharing is constrained in planning processes to advance the self-interests of project proponents, and then considers how the lack of transparency impacts community benefit agreement negotiations. The test is accomplished with a series of steps: establishing an economic baseline for the proponents and community, documenting initial economic benefit claims by project proponents, identifying any gaps in this information, and finally, though formal public records requests, constructing a complete and accurate record of economic benefits generated by the project and measuring the actual amount which was shared through the executed CBA.

The first case is the Aggie Square project sponsored by the University of California, Davis (UCD) and the City of Sacramento in the Oak Park neighborhood – a historic minority community suppressed by a century of State-sponsored economic barriers. The findings are that 1) UCD and city staff shared approximately 60% of the relevant economic data with their governing boards and the public, 2) only 12.5% of potential shareable economic benefits were incorporated by the City and UCD into the final CBA for the adjacent community– with UCD’s Medical Campus receiving most of the remainder. The conclusion is that incomplete information sharing likely contributed to the allocation of most of the shareable economic benefits away from the community and to UCD’s existing $2.4 billion medical campus. To help communities establish a CBA request early in the planning process a metric is identified based on this case. This metric sets nine percent (9%) of construction costs of a proposed project as the target value to be negotiated into a community benefit agreement (the CBA for Aggie Square is approximately 1% of the the projected construction costs).

Essay Abstract

Addressing the Persistence of Jim Crow in Urban Planning: Strategies for communities to negotiate equitable community benefit agreements

State sponsored economic barriers prevented Black Americans from building home equity following the post-World War II economic boon. While many of those historic barriers have been eliminated, new, more subtle barriers continue to be placed in front of communities of color. Thought leaders, from both academic and professional ranks, have called for social equity and the distribution of economic benefits be considered during planning processes – with community benefit agreements the mechanism of choice to deliver these benefits. In this case study, the information exchange between the City of Sacramento, the University of California, Davis, and a historic Black community during development of a $1.6 billion university expansion project is analyzed along with the proposed distribution of shareable economic benefits from the project. The study found that only 60% of the $83 million in potential shareable economic benefits from the first phase of the project were disclosed to the community, and just 12.5% of all potential shareable benefits were included in a community benefits agreement. Strategies and tactics are offered to address issues with the information exchange between proponents and communities and to strengthen the negotiating position of communities of color when working with project developers on community benefit agreements.

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