Supporting SEIU State Public Banking Legislation

HR&A Advisors worked with a coalition of racial and economic justice organizations, financial access advocates, and labor unions, including the California Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the California Public Banking Alliance, to provide analysis of the financial and social impacts of unfair banking access to support advocacy for the California Public Banking Option Act (AB-1177). Our findings showed how inadequate and disparate access to free and safe banking accounts results in billions of dollars lost to the California economy annually, contributes to people remaining in poverty, and increases the use of taxpayer dollars towards providing social services.  

In October 2021, the California Assembly and Senate passed the California Public Banking Option Act and Governor Gavin Newsom signed it into law in a move that sets the foundation for providing universal access to banking that will benefit households, local economies, and taxpayers. This is the first bill in the nation guaranteeing universal banking access, paving the way towards giving all Californians access to high-quality, low-cost financial services. 80.7% of unbanked Californians earn less than $15 per hour, and nearly half of Black and 41.1% of Hispanic households in California are unbanked or underbanked. Unbanked communities lack access to basic financial services — like checking and savings accounts — that are critical to financial stability.  


HR&A Advisors novel analysis examined who is not being served by the formal banking system, where they live, what the financial costs are to individuals and to the economy of un- and under-banking, and the economic benefits of the legislation to California. AB-1177 established a framework to study the feasibility and implement the CalAccount public banking option program, an alternative to the high fees that many Californians face from existing predatory banking options that stand as a barrier to wealth accumulation. 


Our analysis delineated how the CalAccount program could offer critical services to Californians and become self-sufficient within the next five years. CalAccount could draw on existing state programs to reach a customer base of millions of Californians resulting in an estimated $3.3 billion in savings for low-income households, potentially creating 22,000 jobs, and boosting the California economy by an estimated $4.2 billion by redirecting spending away from costly interest and fees.   



Photo: Louis Velazquez

Richmond Business Recovery Action Plan

There is no comprehensive playbook for how local communities should recover from COVID-19, but it’s critical to balance meeting immediate needs with building a more equitable and resilient economy.

In Richmond, HR&A collaborated with the City and the Economic Development Commission to develop guiding principles for inclusive recovery that set the foundation for a comprehensive Business Recovery Action Plan focused on addressing the short-term needs of small and locally-owned businesses. The team identified recovery needs and available resources and made recommendations such as expanding available grants for small businesses, often owned by people of color and reluctant to take on additional debt in an uncertain economic environment; removing barriers to access and consolidating information about City services, recovery resources, and regulatory approvals; and identifying opportunities to use federal recovery dollars to support workforce recovery and capital improvements.




The plan focused on identifying priority actions that could be meaningfully advanced within a six-month timeframe and that aligned with equitable recovery principles including addressing community needs, building local capacity, and improving equitable access. HR&A has since helped the City to advance several recovery actions including the creation of a new Economic Development Working Group, and to identify longer-term economic development strategies with a focus on building the capacity of the City and local businesses. As we help advance the plan, including forming the initial agenda for the multi-stakeholder economic working group and framing a buy local campaign, we look forward to applying lessons to other communities across California and beyond. The City of Richmond continues to demonstrate its commitment to supporting underserved residents and recently retained HR&A to lead a community-centered engagement process for allocating the City’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars.

SDSU Mission Valley Innovation District Development

Universities across the country are taking on new roles to increase opportunity for their students, faculty, and surrounding communities by creating inclusive spaces for innovation.

San Diego State University (SDSU) made the bold move to purchase a 135-acre site from the City of San Diego to create SDSU Mission Valley, a mixed-use, transit-oriented community that will help expand SDSU’s educational, research, and entrepreneurial missions. This site will include a 1.6 million square foot Innovation District, up to 4,600 residential units, a multi-use stadium, and over 80 acres of parks and open space. The entire project will increase career opportunities for SDSU’s 35,000 students, 54% of whom are students of color, and grow SDSU’s $5.7 billion annual impact on the San Diego region.


Quidel Corporation, a provider of rapid diagnostic testing solutions, cellular-based virology assays and molecular diagnostic systems, was announced in July of 2022 as the first partner in the Innovation District and a Founding Partner at SDSU’s Snapdragon Stadium. SDSU expects more private, public and non-profit-sector partners to be announced in the coming months, who will contribute to interdisciplinary hubs of research and innovation.


We collaborated with SDSU to refine a vision and business plan for the Innovation District and to guide refinement of a master plan for the district. We are currently supporting the procurement of a developer to construct as much as 500,000 square feet of space within the Innovation District, where SDSU will expand its research presence to anchor the new development.


SDSU Innovation District Quad and Public Realm, Image courtesy of SDSU.

Greater Corktown Neighborhood Framework & Choice Neighborhood Implementation

In May 2021, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the award of a $30M Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant to the City of Detroit that will make the Corktown Framework Plan a reality. The grant and Framework Plan were both a direct result of work HR&A has done over the last 2 years in Detroit to identify strategies that deliver equitable economic development.
The Greater Corktown Neighborhood Framework, shaped by the community and released in November 2020, focuses on reinforcing this vibrant and diverse neighborhood as a place of opportunity for all residents, leveraging transformative investment under way by the Ford Motor Company in a new mobility innovation district anchored by the revitalized Michigan Central Train Station. HR&A’s team, led by Kate Collignon, worked with Perkins & Will and the Detroit Planning Department to set the stage for neighborhood infrastructure and policies that preserve affordability while fueling neighborhood and citywide economic growth. The plan dovetails with the creation of the 27.5-mile Joe Louis Greenway — plans for which HR&A also supported as part of a team led by Smithgroup – which will increase mobility and recreational opportunities, and connect neighborhoods throughout Detroit to employment centers like that emerging in Corktown.
This plan became the basis for the Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant application. Under the agency’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, five communities received a combined $150M to invest in neighborhoods to spur comprehensive revitalization. Working alongside the Detroit City Housing Department, an HR&A team led by Phillip Kash developed an approach and helped to prepare the application that led to a $30M award for Corktown. This is HR&A’s second successful Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant application. The first was for the redevelopment of the Saint Paul’s Quadrant in Norfolk, VA.
Now awarded, the Choice Grant will serve as the foundation of making The Corktown Plan a reality. It will preserve the existing public housing in the neighborhood and create more than 700 new affordable and mixed-income homes. In addition, the grant will leverage over $800M in additional public and private investment in public space, community facilities and commercial development.
The redevelopment approach sets a new gold standard for public housing redevelopment:

  • It will follow the Build First principal. New affordable housing will be built for current public housing residents before any units are demolished, ensuring that no one is forced out.
  • It will exceed 1:1 replacement for deeply affordable units. When completed there will be 152 units that are deeply affordable units as opposed to the 87 that existed before.
  • The supply of affordable housing in the neighborhood will increase, even as the market strengthens. In addition to the 152 deeply affordable units (30% AMI), there will be another 500+ units of affordable housing.
  • There will be affordable homeownership, and the opportunity to build wealth. The project includes 150 units of affordable homeownership and $5M in down payment assistance to make those homes affordable for households who would otherwise lack the wealth to purchase them.
  • Nonprofit ownership and control will increase. The Community Builders, a well-respected national nonprofit, will own and operate the majority of the housing developed. The current ownership is entirely by for-profit organizations.

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NYC Internet Master Plan

NYC’s groundbreaking Internet Master Plan lays the foundation for more equitable internet infrastructure, unlocking private sector innovation to connect all New Yorkers to expanded economic opportunity.


High-speed internet access is the seminal infrastructure of the 21st Century and will shape the future of New York City. If made affordable and accessible to everyone, broadband can be a lever for increasing opportunity for residents, expanding the City’s position as a global economic leader, and supporting NYC as the fairest big city in America. Failure to connect all New Yorkers all but guarantees that some portion of the population will be left behind.


Broadband connectivity is a prerequisite to economic inclusion, yet nearly one third of NYC households (29%) currently do not have broadband in their homes. A striking 18% of city residents—more than 1.5 million New Yorkers—have neither a mobile connection nor a home broadband connection, yet both are required for full connectivity. Choice among residential broadband providers—a key driver of affordability, performance, and privacy—is limited relatively wealthy and dense neighborhoods. Today, commercial fiber is concentrated in Manhattan, starkly disadvantaging the economic viability of the City’s outer boroughs.



HR&A worked with the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (MOCTO) to identify challenges, opportunities, and ambitions to deliver broadband infrastructure in New York City. We led an interdisciplinary team to craft an expansive outlook including:

  • A future-proof approach to infrastructure design and delivery
  • Strategies to leverage City assets for broadband use, creating value for public and private partners
  • A preferred business model and recommended public-private financing strategy for implementation
  • A governance strategy that consolidates oversight and reflects broadband’s status as core infrastructure
  • A benefits case for ubiquitous, affordable broadband, quantifying the economic and fiscal impacts associated with greater access for households, businesses, and improved municipal services
  • Potential initial implementation approaches that quickly make a difference in the lives of New Yorkers and serve as meaningful steppingstones to a longer-term implementation roadmap



The HR&A team’s research, findings, and recommendations have shaped the City’s first ever Internet Master Plan, released in January 2020.


The plan charts a path to expand the City’s role in broadband infrastructure and service delivery by facilitating public partnerships to fill gaps in the market, close the digital divide, and deliver universal, affordable broadband to all New Yorkers. The plan has been lauded by experts in the telecommunications and public policy. In a Brookings article titled “New York City and the FCC have two very different plans for expanding broadband access”, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Blair Levin praised the Internet Master Plan’s novel approach to combating broadband challenges through multi-stakeholder partnerships and prioritized problem-solving.


Reliable high-speed internet is a prerequisite for full participation in our society; when COVID-19 hit, home broadband became undeniably essential. In May 2020, the City established the Universal Solicitation for Broadband (USB), a new procurement strategy outlined in the Internet Master Plan, with a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for ready-to-deploy ideas for free and low-cost internet service to New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents.


In July 2020, the City doubled down on universal broadband to advance racial inclusion and equity through COVID-19 response and recovery. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the acceleration of the Internet Master Plan, committing $157 million to expand affordable broadband access to 600,000 New Yorkers, including 200,000 NYCHA residents. New York City’s commitment and strategy is among the boldest plays of any city in the country to achieving universal broadband.


Check out the full Internet Master Plan here and read coverage from national and local news sources including, Gothamist, City & State, Next City, State Scoop, Ars Technica and CNET.


For questions and inquiries, please contact Danny Fuchs at or (212) 977-6171.

Equitable Economic Development and Mobility Strategy for Grand Rapids

HR&A led development of a strategic roadmap to achieve equitable economic development and mobility in the City of Grand Rapids.


Driven by expansions in the healthcare and manufacturing industries, the Grand Rapids economy grew significantly following the recession, with unemployment hitting a low of 3.4% in 2018. However, this prosperity has not reached everyone in the city. The challenges facing Grand Rapids — chief among them racial and neighborhood-level disparities in access to economic opportunity and reliable and safe transportation to good jobs — are deep-seated issues that have frustrated the best efforts of many American cities. A strategy that is successful in addressing these issues must capitalize on the city’s advantages to continue to drive economic growth, while broadening opportunity and targeting initiatives to communities that have so far been left out.


HR&A led an interdisciplinary team that worked closely with the City of Grand Rapids and a steering committee of civic, business and resident stakeholders to develop strategies to advance the city’s economic development and mobility objectives. As part of this effort, HR&A conducted in-depth interviews and analysis to identify the city’s strengths and challenges, and gathered input from community members about the intersection of equity and economic development in their daily lives. HR&A then worked alongside the City and committee members to develop viable strategies that address the existing gaps in Grand Rapids’ economic development toolkit.
Recognizing that mobility also plays an integral role in economic opportunity and access, HR&A also supported Nelson\Nygaard’s work to develop relevant strategies to improve transportation safety and accessibility. HR&A subsequently developed a strategic plan designed to achieve the goal of a more equitable, just city. The final plan, Equitable Economic Development & Mobility Strategy was released in January 2020; it provides detailed guidance on actions the City and its partners will take to promote inclusive economic growth and equitable transportation access.
Implementation of the plan is currently underway, beginning with 11 near-term strategies including employing an equitable development scorecard to evaluate and award incentives, expanding resources provided to Corridor Improvement Authorities, and creating a transparent and visible centralized information hub for economic development services.

The High Line Transformation

HR&A demonstrated the economic rationale for transforming the High Line into a vibrant public park. The park, created by Robert Hammond and Joshua David, reinvigorated Manhattan’s far west side with new jobs, mixed-income housing, and arts and cultural development, providing an internationally-renowned model of civic leadership.

The High Line, an elevated freight railway running 1.8 miles along Manhattan’s far west side, was built in the 1930s as part of a public works project to remove trains from the street level. After decades of abandonment and disuse, the mayor of New York City signed an order to demolish the High Line in 1999. Visionary neighborhood residents formed Friends of the High Line, a non-profit organization that pledged to preserve the historic structure and create a neighborhood public amenity by converting the abandoned railway into a public park.

HR&A has supported the Friends of the High Line throughout the development and operation of the High Line

  • HR&A prepared an economic and fiscal impact study to demonstrate that the economic and social benefits of such a conversion would far outweigh the necessary capital costs of development.
  • We also worked with Friends of the High Line and the New York City Department of City Planning to craft the award-winning West Chelsea rezoning, which allowed the transferal of air rights under and around the High Line to nearby land parcels. The rezoning preserved private property rights, protected the historic railway structure, catalyzed contextual real estate development, and enhanced the position of West Chelsea and the Meatpacking District the center for art and culture in Manhattan.
  • HR&A worked closely with Friends of the High Line to create the park’s operating model and transform advocacy organization into a conservancy. Relying on an agreement with the Parks Department, Friends of the High Line is responsible managing the park’s public space, which receives over three million visitors a year.
  • Despite the Bloomberg administration’s embrace of the High Line’s first two sections, the final and most beautiful section was threatened with demolition as part of the Hudson Yards development. Even before a developer was selected, HR&A supported the Friends of the High Line in its successful effort to ensure the preservation of the entire structure.

HR&A Chairman, John Alschuler served as Board Chair of Friends of the High Line from 2009 to 2014.

The park opened to the public in 2009 to tremendous success, and now sees over five million annual visitors. Over 30 new residential commercial, and cultural development projects have been planned or constructed in the area, including Frank Gehry’s IAC Interactive headquarters, Jean Nouvel’s 100 11th Avenue residential condominium building, and a new home for the Whitney Museum designed by Renzo Piano. HR&A continues to support to Friends of the High line, providing economic and fiscal analysis to determine the High Line’s impact on the City’s municipal property tax revenues and net new economic activity.


International Economic Development Council Neighbourhood Development Prize, 2010

Images Courtesy of: Iwan Baan

Climate Adaptation Strategy for Lower Manhattan


New York City, like many other coastal cities around the world, must face the realities of climate changes and its impact on the urban environment. Over the next century, regular tidal flooding caused by rising sea levels, coastal surge from stronger and more frequent storm events, heavier precipitation, and higher temperatures will all impact New York City and threaten its quality of life and economic vitality. Lower Manhattan, due to its global importance and heightened exposure, is one of the most vulnerable neighborhoods in the City.
The New York City Economic Development Corporation and the New York City Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency engaged HR&A to co-lead a team that developed a strategic plan for Lower Manhattan as part of the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Study.


Drawing on deep experience with the dynamics of Lower Manhattan and the design and implementation of innovative climate adaptation strategies, HR&A and the team undertook a climate vulnerability assessment that looked at long-term climate hazards, including chronic stresses, to inform the development of potential strategies for Lower Manhattan’s resilience. Strategies were evaluated based on the ability to mitigate against climate hazards and their positive economic and community impacts.


As part of the Study’s development, HR&A conducted a financial feasibility assessment and identified a series of next steps towards implementation. The recommendations of the study were released as part of Mayor de Blasio’s March 2019 announcement for a Lower Manhattan Climate Resilience plan, including a bold op-ed penned for New York Magazine. The City is currently moving to develop a master plan focused on climate adaption in the Financial District and Seaport.

Designing a Leadership and Training Program for Career Coaches

Skillful is helping transform local labor markets by building the capacity of frontline coaches in the Colorado workforce system.


Colorado enjoys one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, but this low number masks the struggle of underemployed and chronically unemployed Coloradans. Some of the most vulnerable are the estimated 62% of Coloradans who do not have a bachelor’s degree. To connect workers with quality jobs, the Skillful Initiative works with states to develop labor markets that value skills and training over degrees or other proxies for qualifications. In Colorado, the team engaged HR&A to develop a program that would build the capacity of career coaches in public workforce development centers, community colleges, high schools, and career service non-profits across the state to better connect job seekers with quality career paths.


To understand Colorado’s most pressing labor market challenges, we interviewed over 40 workforce development professionals. We realized that Colorado had fundamental workforce issues, such as the disconnect between workforce centers and higher education, and struggles to engage rural populations. Based on Skillful’s prior work, we also knew that the insights of front-line career coaches—individuals serving as a first point of contact for job seekers in career offices across the state—could be instrumental in devising solutions that would actually confront on-the-ground, systemwide challenges.


With this knowledge, we started designing a program to provide the most dedicated career coaches with the training and support to be effective problem solvers for the state. We collaborated with workforce development experts to design a relevant and practical curriculum that built leadership and analytical skills, while ensuring that coaches could make significant contributions to the workforce development system. A key part of the program is their work in action teams to tackle specific issues, such as how to engage rural job seekers or best leverage online career resources, and develop potential policy solutions to pitch to State leadership. Apart from content development, we also ensured that Skillful could confidently run the program by designing a blueprint that included timelines, budgets, curricula, and evaluation metrics—as well as guidelines for the program launch, application process, and onboarding of new staff.



In 2017, Colorado’s Governor launched the Governor’s Coaching Corps with Skillful and the Markle Foundation. The corps selected 25 career coaches to participate in the inaugural program and create policy ideas that were presented to state leaders for potential implementation. Now, career coaches are working outside of silos and sharing resources to better assist job seekers across organizations and regions in Colorado. The corps launched a larger virtual community of practice that engages upwards of 150 coaches across the state in regular webinars to learn from and contribute to the work of the corps in devising policy solutions. To date, 20 governors across the United States have also pledged to implement a version of the Coaching Corps in their states as part of the Markle Foundation’s Skillful State Network.

Climate Ready Boston Climate Adaptation Strategy

The City of Boston developed a climate adaptation plan to address emerging climate challenges while planning for future growth.


A dense, coastal and riverine city partially built on tidal fill, Boston is confronting significant climate challenges. As the City planned for equitable growth through its comprehensive plan Imagine Boston 2030, it sought to understand local vulnerabilities to the changing climate and what actions it could take to prepare.
The City of Boston and the Green Ribbon Commission engaged HR&A and a team a climate scientists, engineers, planners, and designers to develop Climate Ready Boston, a comprehensive climate adaptation plan for the city and the regional systems it relies on.


The team first assessed how Boston’s climate will change throughout the 21st century, developing up-to-date, localized, consensus projections for multiple climate factors. Using those projections, the team evaluated the city’s current and future exposure to climate hazards – extreme heat, stormwater flooding, and coastal and riverine flooding – and quantified the potential impact on the city’s people, buildings, infrastructure, and economy.
With a clearer understanding of near- and long-term risk, the team recommended actions to improve Boston’s climate preparedness and increase citywide resilience. The team identified each action through HR&A’s five key principles of resilience-building to generate multiple benefits, leverage multiple funding sources, incorporate local involvement, create layered solutions, and leverage regular building cycles to rehabilitate and improve over time.
These actions were incorporated into a phased strategy and implementation plan, which includes roles and responsibilities, timing, and key milestones. HR&A aligned the findings and recommendations from Climate Ready Boston with the Imagine Boston 2030 comprehensive plan. As Boston is a waterfront city, many of the growth areas identified in Imagine Boston 2030, along with many existing stable neighborhoods, are in the current or future floodplain. To grow in these areas, Boston will need to implement multi-layered solutions for flood resilience and leverage some of the value of new development to support these solutions.


The City and the Green Ribbon Commission released Climate Ready Boston in 2016, and have since launched many of the recommended initiatives to increase Boston’s ability to thrive in the face of intensifying climate hazards. These actions will improve quality of life for all residents, especially the most vulnerable, and create stronger neighborhoods and a healthier environment.