Three years, thousands of work hours, and nearly 70,000 Southern Nevadans’ voices later, Southern Nevada Strong has developed a shared vision and Regional Plan for integrating good jobs with a wide range of housing options located near transit. The results of this work, when implemented, will ensure that our Valley’s two million residents can enjoy, participate, and thrive in an economically competitive and vibrant region.
The Consortium Committee and the SNRPC recommended that the core administration of the Plan, moving forward, be placed with the RTC – an existing organization with regional purview. This recommendation was based on best practices research, local expertise, federal and local agency input, and was favored over funding an entirely new structure or organization.
As the Southern Nevada Strong Regional Plan transitions to the RTC for administration and implementation, our community must heed the call-to-action: implement the Regional Plan and enjoy its benefits, or maintain the status quo.
But more than any decision on paper, our actions will speak volumes. Meaningful and long-lasting changes happen when we act together to achieve success – and will be especially important in overcoming the newness of regional planning in the absence of a well-established and well-funded regional body. Fortunately, our community has demonstrated many times that it is up to such momentous challenges.
Goal one in this section and the related objectives and strategies were developed by the Public Engagement and Equity Task Group and publicly reviewed through several phases of outreach during the development of the draft Plan, were approximately 70,000 residents weighed-in. The Task Group reviewed all public input, data, and research findings to identify the key barriers to a more engaged and empowered community. Both analysis and public input pointed to the need to innovate outreach techniques to reach a community that is interested and concerned about its future, but not currently engaged in policy-making decisions.
Goals two, three, four and five were developed to support the transition of core administration of the Regional Plan to the RTC, and to maximize the success of implementation. These goals and their related objectives and strategies were developed based on case study research, consultant advising, RTC and SNS management, and local government input.
|CHALLENGES||Opportunities and Priorities|
|Traditionally Low Inclusion and Low Participation in Policy-Making Decisions: It is increasingly recognized that to successfully address a community’s complex problems and quality of life issues, it is necessary that a wide range of advocates work together to achieve change. As a newer community with less organized neighborhood associations and community groups, low levels of educational attainment compared to other regions, and a highly transient population, participation in traditional public policy issues has been low. Further, public engagement efforts have been narrow and self-selecting, often representing a vocal minority rather than the needs of the majority or the most vulnerable members of the community. Given the power and influence of a few institutional actors in gaming and the tourist industry in Southern Nevada, balancing power and influence with a wider range of community stakeholders is also a challenge.||More creative approaches to reach a diverse population with attention to the nature of a 24-hour economy and shift work is important to engage Southern Nevada’s residents. Continuing to expand public engagement and equitable access to community engagement can be achieved by:
|Low Prioritization, Collaboration, Experience, And Capacity in the Regional Plan’s Concepts: Southern Nevada has experienced rapid growth, an uncoordinated development pattern, and disconnected land uses paired with an over-reliance on gaming, tourism, and construction. As a result, the community has disjointed land-use patterns that negatively impact residents and has suffered from an absence of prioritization, leadership and collaboration in advocating for proactive regional planning. Developing leadership to prioritize what is important to Southern Nevadans is necessary and will take collaboration and a customized approach. The state-created SNRPC has limited funding for a population of two million residents. Unlike many regions of comparable size, Southern Nevada has no council of governments. It has a number of focused regional agencies, such as the Regional Flood Control District and the RTC, but it lacks any regional council able to address wider regional priorities. Further, Nevada is not a “home rule” state, limiting its ability to create additional structures or funding sources to address regional priorities and dedicate staffing to ongoing, regional scale collaboration. The Consortium Committee and SNRPC recommended that core administration of the Plan, moving forward, be placed with the RTC – an existing organization positioned to absorb many of the implementation activities over time without additional funding. This recommendation was based on best practices research, local expertise, and federal agency input and was favored over funding an entirely new structure or organization. Additionally, a lack of practical experience in Plan-recommended development concepts is a challenge and is exacerbated by the lack of experience with alternative financing mechanisms used frequently in other parts of the country to catalyze infill and reinvestment in disadvantaged areas.||Work closely with member agencies and the RTCSNV to prioritize regional planning and enhance collaboration by:
|No Dedicated and Consistent Funding for Project Implementation: The Regional Plan is a voluntary, visionary Plan to better integrate jobs, transit and housing to enhance economic competitiveness. The Plan identifies a variety of strategies to achieve the vision, some with significant costs. Currently, there is no dedicated funding stream to manage and/or administer coordination and the updating of the Regional Plan, nor is there dedicated funding for specific action items within the Plan. However, many of the Plan’s recommendations are not new things, just new ways of doing old things that are already mandated or addressed and could be prioritized differently. Southern Nevada is also less competitive in terms of accessing federal funding, ranking 49th out of 50 states in competitive grant dollars from Washington, D.C.||Develop local funding strategies to implement items with fiscal impacts by:
The SNS Public Engagement and Equity Task Group, assisted by staff and consultants, led extensive outreach and received direct input from approximately 70,000 individuals and organizations that represent the region. This outreach included a concerted effort to receive and understand input from marginalized populations. As such, SNS has made tremendous strides in identifying common regional goals and outlining strategies to achieve them. However, we still need to increase understanding of the Regional Plan, prioritize public engagement, and rally additional support.
Given the power and influence of a few institutional actors in gaming and the tourist industry in Southern Nevada, balancing power and influence with a wider range of community stakeholders is a challenge. In any region with a single dominant industry – in our case, gaming and tourism – there is always a tension between the needs and goals of that industry and a wider range of stakeholders whose interests may not always align with those of the dominant industry. The Regional Plan provides an opportunity to balance these varying interests.
Southern Nevada Strong set the stage to create a region of residents that are informed, engaged and active participants in making Southern Nevada an even better place to live. The process awakened the community, educated countless individuals, and organizations, and fundamentally increased resident involvement in improving local neighborhoods.
Going forward, local governments and the RTC should seize this unique public engagement opportunity and increase the likelihood that our goals and strategies are sustained over the long term. The goals that drove the public engagement effort for the project and that should be continued through implementation include the following:
• Build Relationships: Create opportunities for community members to meet and engage with others interested in helping to improve economic and social conditions in the region.
• Create Opportunities for Inclusive Participation: Invite all residents – including typically underrepresented groups – to influence the content of the Southern Nevada Strong Regional Plan and the future of the region by providing multiple and varied opportunities for input.
• Educate Residents and Inform Decision Making: Provide stakeholders with information needed to make informed contributions to the planning process and provide input that reflects local values, is useful and relevant and informs decision-making related to the Plan.
• Build Long-Term Capacity for Civic Engagement: Help those engaged through this process to stay involved and build social capital and community development leadership to realize the vision for Southern Nevada Strong.
With much of this difficult planning work done, the region’s long-term success rests in proactively engaging individuals and organizations representative of the region (paying special attention to traditionally underrepresented populations) to ensure that the Plan remains fully informed, understood, and compelling.
Southern Nevada, in the face of unparalleled growth, has not prioritized regional planning significantly and has limited regional governance and therefore collaboration, experience and capacity in regional planning. Nevada is not a “home rule” state, which severely limits local and regional ability to create solutions and funding mechanisms for local problems. Additionally, it is one of the only states in the nation without a regional council of governments.
Public outreach conducted as part of the Southern Nevada Strong process laid the foundation for the kinds of important partnerships needed for implementation and ongoing collaboration.
The findings and collective report of the ethnography research is the result of a 10-week research study undertaken by a team of fourteen graduate student researchers from the UNLV under the guidance and supervision of a team based at Brown University. The researchers worked in 12 disparate opportunity sites in Southern Nevada, ranging from a historic African American neighborhood (West Las Vegas) to an area surrounding a large abandoned apartment complex – which has since been demolished – (Buena Vista Springs), to an area of relative residential stability (Pittman), to areas that comprise large stretches of roadway (the Maryland Parkway corridor).
Ethnography is a research method based on the up-close observation of and conversation with people and communities. In each of the sites, researchers identified specific focus areas for more detailed observation, met residents became familiar with issues of import to the local community, and carried out in-depth interviews. Researchers kept the principles of sustainable communities in mind but were also attentive to new insights raised by the residents themselves.
Ethnography is meant to capture evidence not accessible by other means. Through lengthy and detailed observation, ethnography allows for greater unspoken understandings and the documentation and analysis of individuals’ and group’s daily activities – more so than through one-time surveys, interviews or focus groups. In this way, ethnography fosters more specific and concrete answers to questions about how families use public parks or respond to insufficient transportation or social services, or even how people make sense of their realities and build community in the midst of poverty. It elevates the everyday knowledge and experiences of neighborhood residents and has the potential to unsettle accepted wisdom.
Together, the ethnographic reports identified four main findings, despite the wide diversity of sites:
COMMUNITY Even though research often took place in economically and socially distressed neighborhoods, residents expressed a strong sense of community and common purpose. Researchers found this in diverse and sometimes unexpected places – social service agencies, ethnic markets, schools, religious institutions, and community centers.
CRIME AND SAFETY Residents repeatedly conveyed concerns about crime and safety. This confirms recent research on crime and neighborhood satisfaction in the Las Vegas valley by highlighting how residents time and again voiced concern for neighborhood safety in relation to topics such as transportation, housing, and access to public services.
Access to public transportation and social services – especially access to adequate housing for low-income people and the homeless, and mental health services – are of particular concern to residents who expressed a sense of being left behind. For example, one health clinic administrator called the Buena Vista Springs area a “resource desert,” noting the lack of mental health services and support for homeless individuals and families, which is a theme throughout the community. The design of transportation amenities was also commonly cited as being ill-planned for the needs of people. Lack of shade for transit riders, seating materials that are too hot in the summer months, and unsafe pedestrian access all limit transportation choices.
In nearly every neighborhood, residents shared stories of the hardships associated with finding affordable housing and healthy food. These hardships involved inadequate income, poor delivery of social services, and the lack of fresh, healthy, and affordable food at nearby grocery stores. “Slumlords” or those property owners who do not maintain rental properties were cited by respondents for not repairing air conditioning in the harshest time of year, or not responding to bed bugs as well as other nuisances.
Traditionally, many themes that emerged through the research would not be considered place-based or planning issues per se, but the findings raise expectations for planners to be more attentive to the needs of the most vulnerable members of the community. Lack of access to quality healthcare, mental health services, and crime and safety are impediments to creating walkable, transit-friendly communities that respond to social equity.
Collectively, these findings helped to inform the SNS regional planning process by highlighting experiences and perspectives that may have been difficult to capture through survey or GIS analysis alone. For instance, one report of Gibson Road finds that missing patches of sidewalk, ill-placed crosswalks, and inadequate bike lanes can make pedestrian and bike travel difficult and even dangerous. These and other discoveries have helped SNS planners identify day-to-day challenges facing Southern Nevada residents, as well as adjust aspects of the Regional Plan to address those challenges.
At the same time, the region has worked together on several transformational efforts in the past, including:
• CEDS, a complete reorganization of the State’s economic development agencies/efforts and the first ever regional economic development strategy, created by the recently reorganized LVGEA.
• An internationally-lauded coordination and leadership on water conservation led by the SNWA.
• Creation of the Clark County Flood Control District.
• Development of the 215 Beltway.
• The RTC’s ongoing success.
These examples demonstrate the region’s ability to rise to action when the community understands a critical challenge and opportunity, and an impactful leadership group emerges to guide progress.
Southern Nevada Strong is the region’s largest and most concerted effort to date that works together to address key issues of land use and planning, including transit access, housing choice, public health, economic competitiveness and education, public engagement and the environment. The result is an ambitious Regional Plan that calls on Southern Nevada’s local governments, along with their regional, state, and federal counterparts, to work hand-in-hand with the private and social sectors to achieve success. Such a plan and so many partners require administration and implementation leadership from a regional governing body that has a track record of successfully stewarding complex, multi-jurisdictional efforts. Further, strengthening the relationship between transportation, land use, and economic development is complementary to the RTC’s role as the region’s metropolitan planning organization.
To this end, the SNS Consortium Committee carefully considered what agency was best situated and most capable of administering and implementing the Regional Plan. In light of its historical and ongoing successes, the RTC was recommended by the Consortium Committee to be the core administrator of the Plan moving forward. The Consortium Committee advanced its recommendation to the SNRPC, which in turn voted in favor of the RTC’s role as core administrator of the Regional Plan.Serving as administrator and convener of the Regional Plan is a new role for the RTC, making it even more critical for the community to actively engage with and support the RTC.
Serving as administrator and convener of the Regional Plan is a new role for the RTC, making it even more critical for the community to actively engage with and support the RTC.
Lastly, another specific barrier to achieving the vision is the lack of practical experience (ranging from basic understanding to proven technical expertise) in Plan-recommended areas of development, including mixed-use, transit oriented development, infill and adaptive reuse. This shortage of practical experience is further aggravated by underdevelopment in financial expertise and availability of alternative financing mechanisms (e.g. community development capital lending, tax credits, and similar).
Through conversations with local developers and lenders, we learned this is primarily due to a historical lack in market opportunity and/or feasibility (perceived or actual). Developers also identified neither understanding the sorts of financing available nor the requirements of such finance, while lenders voiced concern about unproven product types and lack of developer experience with such product types. Southern Nevada Strong resources and Consortium partners will need to continue to serve as a resource for regional and national lenders, local developers, and others to identify key barriers and possible actions to encourage Plan-recommended development in Southern Nevada.
From covering operating costs to meeting the unique capital challenges of regional planning, implementing and sustaining the Regional Plan will require sufficient and stable financial and in-kind resources. Unfortunately, our community and state do not have an existing funding source for this sort of large-scale endeavor.
Regional planning efforts in states across the country have found support from myriad sources, often including public support via local governments and/or the state along with public grants. The amount and type of resources needed are largely predicated on the intensity of implementation efforts, with fewer resources needed if the initiatives are already operating and sufficiently equipped to absorb specific activities identified in the Regional Plan.
Here in Southern Nevada, especially given our resource-constrained environment, scaling up the RTC’s ongoing efforts provides a good opportunity to create economies of scale. Many of the strategies in the Plan are not new, just new ways of doing old things that are already funded and operating.
Importantly, the Regional Plan does more than just require more resources – it actually positions Southern Nevada for significant increased federal investment in the areas of housing and transportation, healthy communities, environment, economic development, and education. Indeed, as a direct result of SNS our community can better identify, compete for, and secure federal funding that has long eluded our region.108
Since the way we use land profoundly influences how we live, work and play, this document touches on many aspects of the region’s land-use planning. The goals and policies included in Chapters 3, 4 and 5 will guide the design of the valley’s regulatory system, including the zoning code, rules governing the subdivision of land, the interaction of land use and transportation and economic development.
The Plan also recommends strategies that should be pursued in the first few years following Plan adoption. These strategies are found in the Implementation Matrix.
This section details the goals, objectives, and actions that will enhance Southern Nevada’s capability to implement the Regional Plan.
• Goals are the big overarching ideas, changes, or practices that are essential to realize the community’s vision.
• Objectives establish specific, measurable goals that guide how the Plan is implemented in a way that will achieve the vision.
• Strategies outline the steps needed to achieve the objectives.
1.1.1 Grow and mobilize a strong network of people in every sector to support the implementation of the Regional Plan.
1.1.2 Connect people in every sector to actions they can take to support the policies and priorities in the Plan.
1.1.3 Ensure that policymakers hear from all sectors of the community as they implement Plan policies by actively reaching out to those who do not traditionally participate in civic affairs.
1.1.4 Incorporate grassroots activities into the strategies for activating residents.
1.1.5 Ensure that all demographic sectors are involved in outreach activities.
1.1.6 Explore employee engagement programs as a way to involve people in SNS.
1.1.7 Reach out and interact with schools, including students, parents, PTA and others.
1.1.8 Utilize a variety of outreach methods that bring engagement opportunities to residents, rather than requiring residents to attend large public events.
1.2.1 Develop and maintain partnerships with communities through formal and informal contact, including community leaders, established business groups, non-profits, and social service agencies.
1.2.2 Keep people informed about the progress of the Regional Plan implementation and the benefits accruing to the region (broadcast, print and web media).
1.2.3 Establish mechanisms to ensure community input is received as implementation strategies are executed and new ideas are created.
1.2.4 Develop and deploy a pool of community-based liaisons to facilitate regular two-way communication between the public and decision makers to ensure Plan implementation is having the desired effects on the ground.
1.2.5 Establish Southern Nevada Strong kiosks in central locations that help promote messaging and help people stay up to date; use surveys to keep the website dynamic.
1.2.6 Use more photographs to help illustrate development and planning examples.
1.2.7 Develop an education strategy to help improve community understanding of place types, placemaking and planning concepts (e.g., infill development).
1.2.8 Track and monitor commitments of Southern Nevada Strong team and partners to conduct engagement activities.
1.2.9 Emphasize implementation so that members see this as a Plan that will not just sit on the shelf.
1.3.1 As a global community with residents and visitors from all over the world, continue to promote the region’s image as a welcoming place with a sense of pride and engagement in local decision making and for talent recruitment purposes.
1.3.2 Employ go-to-them public engagement methods to reach a diverse range of residents.
1.3.3 Tailor outreach and engagement methods based on what has worked well in the past, respecting the cultural, linguistic, temporal, and geographic preferences of a community, and the question, action or decision at hand.
1.3.4 Use online methods and interactive tools to facilitate convenient, time-efficient participation.
1.3.5 Foster a community “can do” spirit through events and activities.
1.3.6 Leverage bilingual community partners, volunteers, and staff to provide information in target languages and to convey a genuine celebration of a multi-cultural and socially equitable future.
1.3.7 Support and connect existing committees working on the needs of people with disabilities to continue to conduct outreach and gather input on the needs of this target audience.
1.3.8 Focus on outreach methods that “reach people where they are.”
1.3.9 Develop eligibility criteria for regional implementation money that includes equity considerations.
1.3.10 Identify community leaders and champions who will promote the SNS Plan and its implementation.
1.4.1 Seek community grants for grassroots community organizing efforts to advance Regional Plan implementation.
1.4.2 Provide training to help residents build their organizing capacity. For example, provide training on how to move from an informal group of concerned citizens to an organized group or association, community-based organization, neighborhood association or multi-hub social network.
1.4.3 Identify communities and organizations that are well-positioned to start, develop and grow community development corporations, organizations that focus on specific neighborhoods and often lead not-for-profit development efforts and provide affordable housing.
1.4.4 Support all those who are working on implementing the Plan with materials, resources and up-to-date information.
1.4.5 Consider providing small grants to neighborhood groups to support local implementation (e.g. community gardens).
1.5.1 Ensure consistency in communication is maintained by preserving the project name, branding, imagery and adhering to brand guidelines in order to demonstrate to the public continuity in the project and a commitment to implementation.
1.5.2 Develop relationships with key reporters and editors of local news outlets, including television, radio, newspaper, ethnic media, business press and online outlets.
1.5.3 Create media-worthy public events that promote Plan objectives and goals.
1.5.4 Create media opportunities for benchmark components and successful completion of specific Plan activities.
1.5.5 Involve key stakeholders and elected officials in all media opportunities.
1.5.6 Maintain proactive editorial calendar.
1.5.7 Coordinate editorial board meetings on Plan implementation and development.
1.5.8 Develop a network of supporters who will act as industry-specific experts and will speak to media and advocate to governmental and decision-making bodies on behalf of the Regional Plan.
2.1.1 Identify peer exchange opportunities and build relationships with a ‘kitchen cabinet’ of successful regional planning organizations.
2.1.2 Send RTC and member agency staff to attend capacity building training, workshops, and national conferences to build collaboration within and outside the region.
2.1.3 Engage local, regional, state and national leaders to speak at events and share lessons learned and innovative approaches to regional plan implementation.
2.2.1 Ensure RTC staff and Board members have the opportunity to prioritize key implementation activities.
2.2.2 Cultivate regional leaders and stakeholders to advocate for the Regional Plan concepts.
2.2.3 Dedicate staff time and resources to allow ongoing regional collaboration.
2.3.1 Continue to build support for the Regional Plan with the RTC Board and member agency elected officials.
2.3.2 Maintain project name, branding and brand guidelines to build on the momentum and connect complementary efforts.
2.3.3 Identify additional stakeholders and project champions; develop new relationships and strengthen existing participation as the region transitions to implementation.
2.3.4 Convene regional partners from the public and private sectors on a regular basis to maintain support for implementation priorities and to share updates.
2.3.5 Determine appropriate communication and decision-making channels relating to the Plan’s implementation. For example, consider nominating an Implementation Advisory Committee to oversee implementation, drawing from or consolidating the existing Consortium Committee, Task Groups, and Working Group, and/or existing RTC stakeholder groups and committees.
2.4.1 Update the Regional Plan, at a minimum, every 10 years with attention to incorporating input from the public, RTC member agencies and stakeholders and other boards who may need to adopt the Plan as a legislative requirement, such as the SNRPC.
2.4.2 Provide access to the Regional Plan online and encourage member agencies and other partners to provide a link to the Plan on their respective websites.
2.4.3 Update the SNS indicators annually or semi-annually to measure progress toward the Regional Plan vision and goals.
2.4.4 Identify metrics or performance measures to align with goals for more precise monitoring as regional capacity and support for planning concepts continue to build.
2.5.1 Pursue an accredited planning program at UNLV.
2.5.2 Continue to brief state legislators on regional implementation work.
2.5.3 Coordinate with local jurisdictions to explore state legislative initiatives that will remove obstacles and promote opportunities for implementation of the Regional Plan goals and objectives.
3.1.1 Organize study tours with public and private sector leaders to other regions that have made strides in implementing their regional plans.
3.1.2 Attend national and regional conferences on topics introduced in the Plan; participate in formal and informal information sharing with model agencies.
3.1.3 Continue to share updates with local, regional and state agencies to align efforts and to achieve mutual priorities.
3.2.1 Augment staff, resources and expertise on regional planning.
3.2.2 Host capacity-building events regularly to maintain momentum and to continue to expose stakeholders to planning principles current research and best practices from other regions.
3.2.3 Work with existing professional organizations to educate their memberships on innovative practices from other regions.
3.2.4 Explore the concept of a fellowship program for planning professionals from other regions to work in Southern Nevada for a set period of time to encourage diversity of thought and ideas.
3.3.1 Connect developers, builders and finance institutions to financing options and Plan-recommended products.
3.3.2 Promote financing options through convenings, stakeholder meetings, and targeted industry marketing efforts.
3.3.3 Actively recruit developers with proven experience in other markets.
3.3.4 Host smaller, strategic networking events to connect developers and financing institutions through professional organizations or other networks.
3.3.5 Market strategic sites, such as the Opportunity Sites (Maryland Parkway Corridor, downtown North Las Vegas and Boulder Highway at Gibson/Broadbent), to developers, investors, financing institutions, neighbors and others to share the vision and desire to work collaboratively on redevelopment.
4.1.1 Work with local jurisdictions to identify the current jurisdiction-led activities that the RTC can shoulder and that the local jurisdictions can fund accordingly.
4.1.2 Identify existing activities in the Region that could be folded into Regional Plan implementation.
4.2.1 Continue to actively engage residents and business people in Plan implementation.
4.2.2 Share updates frequently on community engagement accomplishments and outcomes.
4.3.1 Work with local partners to create funding sources for Opportunity Site evaluation.
4.3.2 Look for public-private partnership opportunities for Regional Plan implementation.
5.1.1 Pursue federal funding from the Smart Communities Initiative (SCI) partnership and reach out to other federal partners to determine how they can support the implementation of the Regional Plan.
5.1.2 Work with organizations such as the Brookings Institute and the Nevada Community Foundation to increase competitiveness for federal funding and prioritize grant seeking at all levels of government.
5.1.3 Increase coordination and data sharing with the Nevada State Grant Office, as well as designees at each local government.
5.1.4 Tie eligibility criteria for state and federal dollars to the ability for the potential project to meet Regional Plan objectives.
5.1.5 Enhance the accuracy, consistency, and timeliness of data reported to the federal government.
5.1.6 Work with community leaders to increase their understanding and support of the Regional Plan.
5.1.7 Dedicate staff time to grant seeking and grant writing to look for additional funding sources for Regional Plan implementation.