Building Healthy Communities from the Ground up

Sydney Fang, 2019 Green Zones Policy Fellow

This summer CEJA hosted our first ever Green Zones Policy Fellow, Sydney Fang. Sydney is currently pursuing dual Masters degrees in Public Policy and Urban Planning at the Harvard Kennedy School, and is Editor-in-Chief of the Asian American Policy Review. We thank Sydney for all of her incredible work from policy advocacy to protect CEQA and advance AB 1628 to helping facilitate workshops focused on SB 1000 implementation and planning for healthy communities.

During her time at CEJA, Sydney developed greater advocacy skills and more fluency in California’s legislative process. Sydney produced research on various Green Zones bills and met with Legislators’ offices to advocate in support of CEJA’s priority bills. She was also instrumental in CEJA’s work to challenge a number of CEQA streamlining bills that would have weakened EJ communities’ ability to have a stronger voice in local land use decisions. Most notably, Sydney provided powerful testimony during an Assembly Labor & Employment Committee hearing to oppose a CEQA streamlining bill that could have led to a number of environmental and economic challenges for low-income communities of color. Sydney also supported AB 1628 (R. Rivas) that will enhance California’s definition of environmental justice to include the meaningful engagement of impacted communities, among other rights.

Sydney gained greater insight on how state-level EJ policies can be implemented at the local level through CEJA’s SB 1000 Community Training for the cities of Manteca and Lathrop in the San Joaquin Valley. Through this workshop in partnership with Catholic Charities’ Environmental Justice Program, Sydney facilitated an interactive “Spectogram” activity to engage local residents in conversations around what it means to experience environmental justice or injustice in their own neighborhoods. Participants shared their personal stories and learned how to translate those concerns into General Plan recommendations through SB 1000. Sydney reflected that it’s important to observe how state policies play out locally, especially in contexts where residents haven’t had an opportunity to be involved in local land use decisions. As she explained, “Communities are vital to realizing the goals and objectives of the policies.”

Sydney supported CEJA’s Congreso by providing logistical support and coordination for the day, including for a workshop on Green Zones best practices. For Sydney, our 2019 Congreso was a powerful day of action that illustrated what it means to convene an inclusive event, one in which community members are empowered as changemakers within places of power that often remain exclusive.