A senior public policy and strategic planning expert with more than 15 years of experience is joining the San Joaquin Council of Governments (SJCOG) for the next year as the agency leverages state funds for infrastructure improvements for equitable housing and transportation.
Lauren Batalias, who has worked on sustainable transportation, climate and housing issues, is SJCOG’s FUSE Executive Fellow for the coming year. FUSE works to increase the ability of local governments to stimulate community involvement, increase racial equity, and more effectively address pressing challenges. It does that by placing experienced professionals in local government agencies to lead strategic projects designed to accelerate progress in those areas. FUSE executive fellows for the next year will be working in 21 cities and counties across 16 states focusing on six issues – health, housing, climate, education, justice and jobs.
“San Joaquin County has a diverse mix of residents — some are supercommuters and high-wage earners, while many others are renters living in low-income and disadvantaged communities,” SJCOG Executive Director Diane Nguyen said. “The region is at a pivotal point and it is important that all residents have accessible housing and transportation. Having a FUSE Executive Fellow such as Ms. Batalias, with her background and expertise in these fields, will help SJCOG develop strategies that county residents can use to tackle the regional challenges.”
Batalias is ready to take on the task of planning for clean mobility hubs where the county and cities are planning for more housing. That also means working with local governments to possibly install necessary infrastructure, such as charging stations, sidewalks, and other features to support future housing projects. Batalias’ drive for doing this work comes from personal experience.
“I am very passionate about transit because it has been a lifeline throughout my life and a motivating force in my career,” Batalias said. “Having been raised by a single mother in a designated affordable housing unit, in a transit-dependent household, I know first-hand the opportunities adequate transit and housing resources can offer a family and community. I also believe it is critical to the mitigation of impacts on the climate resulting from transportation emissions.”
Batalias is originally from New York City, but lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle, Wash., most of her life. She now lives in Placer County. She holds a law degree focusing on environmental justice from Rutgers School of Law. Her undergraduate degree is in anthropology from State University of New York with a minor in psychology focusing on conflict studies and health psychology. She also holds a certificate in conflict management and mediation from Kitsap Dispute Resolution Center in Washington State and will earn a certificate this fall in transit and paratransit management from University of the Pacific.
Besides her experience in public policy and strategic planning in sustainable transportation, climate, and housing issues, Batalias has also led government and community relations efforts to promote equitable solutions and designs. Most recently, she managed planning studies in innovative mobility and regional transportation. She hopes to use her expertise in developing a strategic plan in San Joaquin County for regional multimodal transportation connectivity.
There is $600 million in state funding for local governments to speed up infill housing development, support affordable housing, and decrease vehicle miles traveled. With Batalias’ help, SJCOG hopes to leverage its share of that funding for infrastructure improvements for equitable housing and transportation.
“I hope the community will benefit from our plan to increase access to affordable, sustainable transportation options in priority housing areas, as well as the region as a whole,” Batalias said. “I have worked extensively on moving the needle on community-driven, equitable, and sustainable solutions through public policy, program and project design, and I hope to continue to do so.”
Funding for Batalias’ placement at SJCOG came from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), founded by Dr. Priscilla Chan and her husband, Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg.
CZI is a FUSE Corps supporter and works to help solve some of society’s toughest challenges, including eradicating disease, improving education, and addressing the needs of local communities. It strives to build a more inclusive, just, and healthy future for everyone by focusing on science, education, and community and working alongside justice and opportunity partners to pair technology with grantmaking, impactful investing, and collaboration to drive the pace of progress. CZI supports work to create greater opportunities for communities in the Bay Area and across California, including capacity building for local organizations and partnerships on key issues such housing affordability and homelessness.