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

NYC Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Assessment for For-Hire Vehicles

In 2022, Uber engaged HR&A to assess the current state of electric vehicle (“EV”) charging infrastructure available to New York City’s for-hire drivers and what is needed to reach the Mayor’s goal for zero emissions by 2030.

The report revealed critical gaps in the New York City’s infrastructure that will pose significant challenges to achieving this transition in the next 7 years and identified a set of strategies that bring together the City, utilities, EV charging companies, and mission-driven landowners to work together to accelerate the path to a cleaner, greener future.

The report recommends 10 strategies that will support enhanced access and affordability to EV charging infrastructure, build the processes and systems to support for-hire driver needs, and help achieve the 2030 zero-emissions goal:


  1. Identify high-need neighborhoods that overlap with where for-hire drivers live to prioritize where to place low cost and fast chargers.
  2. Work with utilities to identify high-volume pick-up and drop-off areas in which the grid currently has capacity to support new fast chargers.
  3. Develop a comprehensive EV infrastructure deployment plan to strengthen coordination with utilities, optimizing the City’s ability to achieve its emission reduction and environmental equity goals, and electrify the for-hire vehicle fleet.
  4. Aggressively pursue new federal funding opportunities to direct investment to target neighborhoods.​
  5. Streamline the permit process for EV charging as part of the City’s ongoing efforts to improve land-use processes.
  6. Leverage real estate assets owned/managed by public or faith-based entities to provide land for accessible, affordable chargers in targeted neighborhoods and near high-volume trip areas.
  7. Explore land use incentives for private developers to integrate public chargers with no gate/parking fees into new developments.
  8. Continue targeted outreach and engagement specific to the for-hire vehicle industry.
  9. Support EV charging operators in communicating electricity prices and charger availability with drivers, as well as in developing driver-centric incentives to reduce charging during peak load times.
  10. Further develop a new pricing structure for the cost of power for charging operators that makes charging more affordable.


The report findings were announced within this Op Ed in the Gotham Gazette on February of 2023.


Read the report here.




FLOW Youth Center

HR&A has been working with a coalition of advocacy groups including JusticeLA (JLA) and Designing Justice+Designing Spaces (DJDS) in their efforts to advance projects around L.A. County’s transformative Care First Community Investment (CFCI). JusticeLA is a collaborative of several L.A. based organizations organizing with communities to disrupt where and how L.A. County incarcerates justice-involved individuals. DJDS is the nation’s foremost design nonprofit working to build and transform communities through restorative Justice. DJDS will steward an authentic, ground up engagement effort with community to design, build and operate new infrastructure that challenges the traditional paradigm around justice and incarceration. HR&A developed a concept plan for a pilot campus in Long Beach that builds on DJDS’s argument: that community-based solutions including mental health, substance abuse treatment, jail diversion, and quality design can disrupt the revolving door for justice-involved individuals.  In 2022, DJDS, JLA, and HR&A released a concept paper, proposing the development of a piece of the FLOW (For the Love of Well-being) Youth Center.

The FLOW Youth Center will be a new prototype for juvenile restorative justice, designed to break the cycle of investing in punishment by reinvesting in spaces and programs focused on care and healing. The Center will proactively address the root causes of youth incarceration and the lack of physical infrastructure and associated programming for holistic health services, education, and employment. Our concept paper describes an innovative and replicable process for radically inclusive, equitable, community-engaged design for restorative justice.


HR&A worked with JLA and DJDS to develop a robust engagement strategy and the estimated time and budget to complete the work outlined within the concept plan. With this concept paper as a guide for development, DJDS is currently looking for partners in government and philanthropy to invest in their concept development fund and inspire grass roots efforts to design and build these centers throughout Los Angeles and the country. We look forward to continuing this partnership as DJDS and JusticeLA work with communities to transform the built environment and L.A.’s criminal justice system.

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.

Minimum standards for JPA-sponsored, California Middle Income Housing Conversion Transactions

The housing supply crisis in California is being addressed through a wide range of critical yet complex public and private investments. But very few resources support new housing for middle-income households.

In the last two years, three California Joint Powers Authorities (“JPA”) and their developer partners, with approval from local governments, have originated more than $5 billion of tax-exempt bonds paired with property tax exemptions to finance acquisition of 9,000 apartments, which will be converted into affordable rentals for middle-income households. The total financing exceeds the current $3.7 billion annual allocations of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits for low- and very low-income households in California.


Our work with local governments across the state has been focused on ensuring that these investments maximize public benefits and meet local policy objectives. Our project evaluations help guide negotiations for this new type of transaction and illuminate the issues that local governments in California should consider before approving participation in these transactions.


A white paper, co-authored with the California Housing Partnership and CSG Advisors, guides our analysis approach and highlights the urgent need for local governments to carefully weigh the merits of middle-income housing JPA bond transaction proposals. As a result of this work, Assembly Member Ward proposed AB 1850 to establish minimum standards for JPA-sponsored middle-income conversion transactions.


Project evaluation examples include two for City of Long Beach, where we helped negotiate better terms for a 215-unit building conversion, the Oceanaire and new construction of a 580 units, the Midblock Civic Center.


Image courtesy of Oceanaire

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.

Read more on the project:


See more from our project partners:

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.

Inclusive Incentive Strategy for Indianapolis

HR&A created actionable strategies and policy recommendations for incorporating inclusivity into Indianapolis’ economic incentive programs.


Indianapolis is a flourishing city and an emerging tech hub. Despite its successes in attracting new residents and new investment, certain segments of the population have been unable to participate in the city’s growing momentum. Recognizing this challenge of uneven access to opportunity, the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce (“Indy Chamber”) made a commitment to rethink its economic development programs to support more equitable growth across the city. The Indy Chamber engaged HR&A to evaluate its existing economic incentive programs and develop recommendations to re-orient programs in service of supporting inclusive growth and broadening access to opportunity.


HR&A has advised a range of clients on strategies to leverage economic development tools to advance core policy objectives around inclusivity. In Indy, we worked with the Chamber to evaluate their tax abatement and training grant programs and recommend how they could be re-oriented to better align with inclusive development priorities. After reviewing past incentive usage and performance, HR&A traveled to Indianapolis to host a series of stakeholder roundtables and assembled a steering committee of key organizations dedicated to advancing inclusive growth across Indy. Conversations were structured to share perceptions of existing incentive programs, identify community priorities in terms of desired inclusive outcomes, and understand perceived barriers impeding access to opportunity.
Following this initial round of engagement, HR&A benchmarked national best practices from cities that have explicitly incorporated equitable outcomes into their incentive programs, to draw out implementation considerations and lessons to help inform the development of recommendations for Indy. We refined these recommendations with key stakeholders, including major employers, city officials, and community-based organizations. HR&A assembled its recommendations in a final briefing book, providing an implementation roadmap to help the Chamber operationalize policy changes and meet inclusive growth goals.


Our recommendations included changes to the tax abatement and training grant programs to align evaluation criteria with inclusive values, as well as the establishment of a community impact network. The Community Impact Network is a pioneering new shared-values approach whereby businesses receiving economic incentives are required to commit to supporting an initiative from a menu of actions, developed in partnership with community organizations, designed to achieve tangible progress on inclusive growth priorities like workforce training, quality public education, and investment in distressed neighborhoods. HR&A crafted a narrative around the policy rationale and benefits associated with each recommendation and developed an implementation roadmap to guide the process. The Mayor’s office announced HR&A’s recommendations to advance inclusive economic opportunity – which prioritized a higher minimum wage, health and childcare benefits, workforce training, and positive community impacts – in summer 2019.


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.