The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development awarded ZEVe- Award to 2019-20 CivicSpark Climate Fellows!

Natalie Arreaga, Amanda Caswell and Vannesa Reyes Salazar, CivicSpark 2019-20 Climate Fellows at the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)

On February 3, 2020, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO Biz) awarded Natalie, Vannesa and Amanda a ZEVe- Award. GO-Biz is honoring 6 local ZEV champions throughout California for their leadership and dedication to improving the ZEV infrastructure approval process. The Fellows moved bureaucratic mountains to evaluate the Electric Vehicle Charging Station (EVCS) permitting status of every jurisdiction in Southern California, supporting GO-Biz research efforts to evaluate the State’s progress on Assembly Bill 1236 compliance. AB 1236 states that all local jurisdictions are required to adopt an ordinance for streamlining and expediting EVCS permitting, as well a checklist of all requirements needed available online.

The Fellows successfully tracked down ordinances, checklists, and all relevant information about EVCS permitting across the 6-county, 191-jurisdiction SCAG region, the largest MPO in the country. Where no online information was to be found, they took the extra step of directly contacting planners and building officials, leading to many enlightening conversations and sharing of resources. Speaking to city staff, Fellows were made aware of the obstacles local jurisdiction’s face with lack of capacity but also the excitement amongst the SCAG constituents not only for electric cars but the potential of hydrogen cars as well. The Fellows highlighted GO-Biz’s Electric Vehicle Charging Station Permitting Guidebook, and the upcoming EV Permitting Workshop at SCAG, during their outreach to offer additional support to city staff. Their work is invaluable in making sure that Southern California is ready for the millions of ZEVs that will soon be on the road.

The Fellows next effort will be to update SCAG’s Green Region Initiative (GRI), which maps sustainability progress across the SCAG region. The GRI currently maps 11 Topics and 28 Indicators, ranging from the Affordable Housing Indicator in the Built Environment Topic to the Water Conservation Indicator in the Water Topic. They will expand upon and improve the GRI through the inclusion of their research on AB 1236 compliance, updated sustainability policy data such as Adaptation Planning, and the addition of a disadvantaged communities (DAC) layer to all GIS maps within the GRI.

The Fellows look forward to seeing GO-Biz’s completed Plug-in Electric Vehicle Charging Station Readiness map. This map tracks California’s EVCS permitting status progress by categorizing and color-coding jurisdictions as “Streamlined” (green), “Partially Streamlined” (yellow), and “Not Streamlined” (red). Currently 366 jurisdictions within California have been evaluated by GO-Biz and mapped, with only 16.9% deemed “Streamlined.” The Fellows look forward to following the State’s efforts to advance ZEV implementation across the state and watch California become entirely green. 

Fellows came together to serve communities across the state for 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us that we are ultimately measured not by where we stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but by the stands we take during times of challenge and controversy.
More than 50 years after his passing, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words ring true today. They remind us that moral leadership doesn’t require a person to be in elected office or hold a position of power. Instead, exercising moral authority simply requires the will to do the right thing. Standing on the shoulders of civil rights leaders before him and working in concert with a generation of activists, Dr. King helped transform how our country saw itself and our future….”

Governor Gavin Newsom.
Governor Proclamation — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, State Holiday
January 15th, 2020

In remembrance of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and in solidarity with our communities in California, every year CivicSpark Fellows celebrate the nationwide MLK Day of Service by partnering with local nonprofits and NGO’s and get their hands dirty working on different community projects across the state!

Fellows take center stage at 2020 edition of the California Environmental Assembly.

Joined by dozens of CivicSpark Fellows that congregated in Sacramento to participate in the symposium, Alexandra Lehman, Kiara Ryan and Laura Emmons discussed their views on a more sustainable future. Touching on topics as wide ranging as transportation, environmental and economic inequality and personal resilience strategies like improv dancing, they made for an incisive and exciting Emerging Leader Panel at the 2020 edition of the Planning and Conservation League‘s California Environmental Assembly.

Right to left- Moderator Julia Kim, Panelists Ali Lehman, Kiara Ryan and Laura Emmons.

The California Environmental Assembly addresses the state’s most important environmental policy issues. The 2020 edition was held on Saturday, January 25th, and focused on fostering the multi-stakeholder collaboration needed to fight climate change and build community resilience. Expert panelists from local and State agencies, community based organizations, companies, and law firms joined in to pitch their big ideas on how to solve the most pressing issues of our time.


Become a CivicSpark Partner!

We’re looking for partners who want to assistance with their environmental or social equity research, planning and implementation projects from our highly motivated emerging leaders.
Applications will be accepted in waves, with the first priority deadline on February 14th, the second is April 3rd.
Visit our websitedownload a flyer or sign up for a 1-hour informational webinar to learn about CivicSpark’s 5 year track record of helping California communities tackle their biggest challenges while fostering the next generation of leaders and what it takes to become a CivicSpark partner!

Become a CivicSpark Fellow!

CivicSpark’s early application period for Fellows is open until February 29, 2020. We are looking for candidates who want to gain real-world experience, launch a social purpose career, and make a lasting impact!

Apply now to be part of the movement!

Learn more about CivicSpark by attending an Informational Webinar or visiting

Questions? Check our Fellow FAQ page or email

Regional Digest

Fellow Spotlight

Question of the Month“How do you give back to your community? Why is service important to you?”

Alfonso Ramirez | Sac – NorCal
“I consider my community to be my hometown in the city of Compton, California. And while I cannot really give back to my community at the moment, when I was living in the area, I contributed by engaging in community advocacy work. The work of the advocacy group was focused on community empowerment. We provided resources to residents who didn’t really know much about the way that local government works, and our work really highlighted the importance of being active voices for our community. This type of work was very inspirational, it fueled my passion to continue to work with community members and eventually weave my way into local government work. Service is important to me because it is all about changing lives and making a difference for a community. My service year experience thus far is a prime example of how “small work” can really have a significant impact when looking at the bigger picture.” 

Dominique Dashwood | San Diego
“I was given the opportunity to serve as a fellow in my hometown, Encinitas. This fellowship provides me with a new perspective on my community concerning climate and waste issues, which are important to me. Since returning home, I began volunteering with a local non-profit, focused on food recovery and giving back my community concerning food security and sustainability issues. Community Service has always been influential in my life, as it allows me to make long-lasting relationships with others who share similar passions while engaging meaningfully towards bettering the community.”

Vanessa Reyes Salazar | GLA
“My family, mentors, and community have given me so much of their wisdom, resources, and time. Their commitment to me has shaped me into who I am today. That is what service means to me, sharing and committing my time and resources to the benefit of others, my community especially. I practiced service during undergrad through mentorship and volunteering at Huerta Del Valle, a local community garden. Now, I continue practicing service by volunteering at the budding West Adams Farmers Market and upcoming volunteer mobilization project with the Garden School Foundation.”

Partner Spotlight

Tell us about your project, what makes you excited about it?

Shanon Fiala | Coastal Program ManagerSan Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission

“In BCDC’s planning division, I manage a team of planners who are working on a wide variety of long-range projects to improve the region’s preparedness for sea level rise. These include amendments to the San Francisco Bay Plan to adapt our policies to include best available science and best practices; amendments to the Suisun Marsh Protection Plan to continue to protect the west coast’s largest brackish wetland; and amendments to the San Francisco Waterfront Special Area Plan to guide the resilient redevelopment of historic piers. Finally, our Civic Spark Fellow, Amber Leavitt, is creating guidance for Bay Plan Climate Change policies to provide technical assistance to permit applicants.

I am excited about my team’s service focus. My program priorities are driven by the needs and issues identified by our regulatory division, by permit applicants and other stakeholders, and by local governments. I particularly enjoy the process of scoping a project with my team members; providing input as they conduct research, including stakeholder interviews; drafting policy based on the research and vetting those draft policies with stakeholders; editing and polishing staff reports and presentations; then presenting our staff recommendation to our Commissioners. The end result represents a balance of stakeholders’ interests that will improve BCDC’s permitting process.

The two Bay Plan amendments that our Commission recently adopted will improve the resilience of the Bay Area’s natural and built environment. One amendment added policies regarding environmental justice and social equity. As a result, BCDC permits will consider whether projects conducted meaningful community involvement and whether those projects will result in disproportionate impacts in communities that have been historically impacted. The other amendment altered BCDC’s policies, which were originally created to prevent haphazard filling of the Bay, to allow larger volumes of fill for projects that aim to protect ecosystems from rising sea level.” 

State Corner

California Energy Commission is looking for local partners for it’s recently launched platform Empower

Join Empower

The California Energy Commission recently launched Empower, a collaborative online platform built for anyone with an interest in cleantech innovation. If your community is interested in piloting new technology, reducing energy costs, or improving air and water quality, Empower Innovation is a good place to learn about solutions that can meet your needs. On Empower Innovation, local governments can connect with potential cleantech partners, explore hundreds of funding opportunities, and peruse curated resources and tools. 

Click here to sign up, create an organization profile, and join the growing cleantech network today!

California Department of Housing and Community Development has resources to help cities and counties accelerate housing production!

In 2017, the legislature passed a housing package that included Senate Bill 2, 2017, which established the first permanent source of funding for affordable housing. 50% of the first year of funds were used to create a planning grant program that helped cities and counties prepare, adopt, and implement plans and process improvements that accelerate housing production.
The over-the-counter period to apply for a SB2 planning grant closed on December 20, 2020. The state received 491 applications from cities and counties throughout California. The program allowed cities and counties to receive funds in a non-competitive manner to ensure equitable distribution to every region in the state.
If you are curious about what cities applied for, what the applications looked like, how much funding was disbursed, and the progress being made towards implementing these grants, visit the Planning Grants and Local Housing Strategies Map.The Planning Grants and Local Housing Strategies Map includes:

  • Best practices and links to ordinances for housing policy strategies (Local Housing Strategies Tab)
  • Copies of grant applications (Grant Application Status Tab)
  • Grant funding information by region (Grant Funding Tab)
  • And More!

For more information please contact:

Upcoming Events

2020 California Adaptation Forum:August 18 -20, 2020 | Riverside, CA
The biennial California Adaptation Forum gathers the adaptation community from across California and beyond to foster knowledge exchange, innovation, and mutual support to create resilient communities and tackle our state’s most pressing climate change challenges. The Forum offers a series of engaging plenaries, sessions, workshops, tours, networking opportunities, and more to support our transition from adaptation awareness and planning to action on the ground.
CivicSpark Fellows and Alumni can apply for volunteer opportunities! For more information regarding volunteer opportunities send an email to You will receive further instructions within the weeks following your inquiry.Find more about the California Adaptation Forum here!