Phyllis Tuchmann, Executive Director, ULI Orange/County Inland Empire, was recently interviewed about the new Strike Team. The interview was featured on the internal District Council blog!
What prompted you to start the Strike Team program?
ULI focuses on important national, long-range issues, like Community Development and Mobility, but at the local level there are new laws and policies that impact members now or cause uncertainty in the future. We didn’t have a structure in place to rapidly assemble, study and respond to these changes.
To address this, our Advisory Board proposed creating “strike teams.” The idea is that a task force of ULI members volunteer to work on a specific, timely issue and create a strategic outreach and communications plan that will guide our membership and the industry. Strike Teams will tackle issues that will sunset and the teams last only as long as they need to.
How are the Strike Teams organized?
The team is led by a full member who appoints 10-15 members, all of whom have expertise in the issue they’re studying. This isn’t for people looking to learn about an issue. Strike team members must attend the first meeting and commit to doing a task. Right now, everyone has to be a ULI member, but we think it could potentially be a good opportunity to create partnerships with nonmembers and other organizations.
It also has an expiration date. We expect each team to have three to four months of intensive work and then dissolve.
Are there any “rules of the road?”
Participants are not allowed to gripe. There’s no saying “I hate this” or “It’ll be bad for business.” It’s not ULIs job to change the law. Instead, we’re focusing on how to respond. That’s how we can provide leadership: This is law, so how are we going to deal with it? The vision is that ULI will be considered the go-to resource on these issues from the land use perspective.
How do you involve the rest of the District Council?
We will feed the issue back to our Initiative Councils (aka Local Product Councils). For example, we may create a new initiative council on active transportation, or we could take the findings and give them to our Office and Commercial or Multihousing Initiative Councils. That way, other members can help get the word out on the strike team’s findings.
What is your first Strike Team working on?
California passed a law in 2013 – SB 743 — which make several changes to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for projects located in areas served by transit (i.e., transit-oriented development or TOD). SB 743 also changes the way transportation impacts are measured from Level of Service (LOS) to Vehicle-Miles Traveled (VMT). The law becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2019. These changes are daunting for cities to address, especially with a lack of resources or an understanding of how to incorporate the new law into their General Plans. Many developers aren’t going to do anything until the cities act. With enforcement imminent, we thought this is the perfect opportunity for ULI to provide leadership.
What is the team’s plan of action?
In this case, we’re seeking funding for a TAP for a city in our region. We’ll take about three-months studying these issues in the city and then make recommendations about how to implement the requirements in the law. One lucky city gets specific recommendations, but we know they’ll apply to many other cities in Orange County and the Inland Empire, perhaps even throughout California.
Once the report is done, we’ll get findings out to other cities through all our channels – our blog and website, e-blasts, direct mailings, meetings, and maybe a program. Then, we move on to the next hot issue.
How are you funding this?
We’re doing this all on a shoestring. We decided that the strike team needs to commit to help find the funding. For the SB 743 strike team, one member who works with our COG was asked if they would help fund it and find the city.
What counts as success?
One of the first metrics that is easy to measure is how many issues in a year we’re covering and how many members are involved. We’re hoping to do two per year. Then, of course, there’s the outcome. We want to move the needle, like seeing cities implementing bicycle master plans or creating zoning that stimulates walkability. But the latter results can be years from now, so we’re still thinking through how to measure it in the short- and long-term.
What’s your advice for other District Councils that want to start Strike Teams?
It definitely requires a member champion who will commit from start-to-finish, knowing it’s a limited period of time. Also, have your Advisory Board select the issue and have the Governance Committee sanction it. If you have that oversight, you can give the strike team the security knowing that they have the leadership of the DC behind them and picked an issue in ULI’s wheelhouse.
And finally, think about the entire district council – from staff and members to Local Product Councils, committees, and other volunteers in different roles. Design ways to share the outcomes broadly.