Paper (Long-form)

Disrupting the knowledge and power imbalance in community benefit agreement negotiations

Abstract: 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 virtually all remain benefits. 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 medical campus with assets of $2.4 billion. 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 projected construction costs).

This report is a product of self-funded independent research and was not prepared at the request, nor for the benefit of, any individual or organization. This is draft paper. When it is final it will either be presented at a conference or submitted for peer review to an academic journal. 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.

About the Author

Dr. Bill Farley holds a Ph.D. in public policy and administration from the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Southern California Price School of Public Policy. His Ph.D. studies concentrated on urban and regional studies and his dissertation is titled “The Just Host: Addressing the wage structure problem in the tourism industry.” His research interests include urban theory, local economic development, social equity and economic history. His research is published in refereed economic development, political science and history journals. Prior to his work as an independent scholar, he headed the strategic planning and real estate acquisition programs for Southern California Edison (EIX) and Granite Construction (GVA) and led the economic development division for the City of Sacramento. He also served on planning and redevelopment commissions in San Marino and Sacramento, California, and taught graduate courses in public policy, program evaluation and public finance at USC’s Price School.