The Southern California Association of Governments – SCAG

Pam Sornson, JD

Pam Sornson, JD

December 20, 2022

Managing California’s vast network of public resources is the job of its 539 general-purpose governments. Within those governments, there are over 4400 local government units and almost 4000 special districts. Together, these politically determined entities manage billions of dollars worth of the State’s publicly owned assets. It makes sense, then, that by working together, they can reduce publicly funded expenses while enhancing publicly mandated benefits. This is the work of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG).


The Powers of the SCAG

The SCAG’s authority derives from both state and federal law. In California, the agency is a Joint Powers Authority (JPA), a Regional Transportation Planning Organization (RTP), and a Council of Governments (CoG). In federal jurisdiction, it is a designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).

The premise of the JPA is to offer more efficient and effective government services to the general population while pooling insurance coverage and working together to reduce the public’s exposure to unnecessary risk. Sometimes, a new JPA is appointed to resolve a particular service delivery challenge.

An RTPO supports the efforts of local and regional governments in their non-metropolitan transportation planning and development activities.

The MPO oversees the planning and development of metropolitan transportation systems. As a single entity, the MPO represents localities in all urban areas with populations over 50,000.

The combined authority of these three agencies spans virtually all elements of society, including industries, education, transportation, and more. The SCAG region includes six counties: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Ventura, San Bernardino, and Imperial.


SCAG’s Work

As per its mandate, SCAG’s primary focus is regional transportation planning. Accordingly, its premier effort, “the 2024-2050 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy,” encompasses its long-range vision to facilitate future mobility and housing needs as well as to pursue economic and environmental goals. Its purpose is to gather information and insights from regional stakeholders to ensure that emerging transportation systems appropriately support the communities that they will serve.

Within the broad scope of the strategy is the “Connect SoCal 2024” (CS24) initiative. Currently in its development stage, CS24 is now collecting transport and economic data from local and county governments, transportation commissions, nonprofit organizations, and tribal governments within its six-county jurisdiction. The resulting analyses and conclusions drawn from that information will inform the next phase of the strategy. Built into the process are the regulations and standards set by other government mandates, including land use planning, greenhouse gas emission goals, Clean Air Act requirements, open space preservation, and public health and safety, to name just a few.

Additionally, CS24 will build on the economic and growth projections developed for its “Ready for 2024” project. That project has coalesced current information about employment, housing, populations, and education requirements at the regional, county, city, and town levels. Combined with trending and demographics data, the ‘Ready for 2024’ report will give decision-makers the information they will need to plan services for those projections far into the future.

SCAG maintains a series of ‘Atlas Jurisdictional’ reports that provide details and data relevant to each of the individual county members as well as to the regional group as a whole. It also manages a volume of resources and fact sheets that government entities can use to collect information from their residents to develop smaller, comparable, compatible development strategies for their communities. SCAG is also invested in ensuring that all Southern California residents are included and represented in its existing and emerging systems. Other programs and projects it runs are focused on housingsustainabilitytransportationthe economy, and maintaining state and federal compliance.


SCAG in LA County

As the largest county in the country, Los Angeles County will receive significant benefits from these SCAG efforts as they roll out through 2045. The data suggests that:

The number of households in LA county will grow from 3.3 million in 2016 to over 4.1 million in 2045.

The population – the actual resident headcount – will grow as well, from its current 10.1 million residents to more than 11.6 million by 2045.

Population demographics are changing as well. The percentage of young people (under 15 years) will drop from 20% in 2016 to just 17.5% in 2045. The middle-aged population volume will drop, too, from 67% to 61.5%. However, the percentage of seniors living in the county will rise from 13.2% to 21%. This data point suggests that support and services directed to the senior citizen population will have to grow significantly to match that growing demand.

The type and number of benefits to LA county derived from the SCAG strategy will also be significant. The strategy aims at managing publicly owned resources to provide optimal service and support to the population.

The plan intends to reduce the volume of publicly held green spaces that are converted into industrial or residentially zoned areas. The goal is to reduce the consumption of green spaces per year by almost one-half (41%), so that future residents will be able to enjoy California’s undeveloped and natural environmental beauty.

Individual households will see monthly and annual cost reductions for their publicly provided resources, including water, transportation, and energy.

The plan also focuses on reducing the human and economic costs of transportation gridlocks. LA County is crisscrossed by several major highway systems, all of which experience significant delays due to overcrowding. The goal is to utilize better traffic patterns and controls to reduce the duration of each delay and also reduce the cost that those incur. Notable traffic improvement projects already on the books include a subway extension from Metro West Side to Century City to Westwood, a light rail extension from Azusa to the San Bernardino County line, and the addition of express lanes on Interstate 10 from Interstate 605 to the San Bernardino County line.

Not least significant is the projected growth in employment numbers. SCAG’s strategy for LA County anticipates that it will gain close to 200,000 new jobs each year between 2016 and 2045.


SCAG’s Executive Director, Kome Ajise, spoke with Pasadena City College Vice President of Economic and Workforce Development Salvatrice Cummo about the agency’s activities. The collaboration among these governments mirrors and enhances the cooperation emerging in the region’s EWD sectors. Together, this constellation of talent, intelligence, and initiative will drive the development of Southern California’s economic future.



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