Brightline Publishes “Toward Empowerment” Report

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Expanding its grassroots reach throughout the Bay Area, Brightline releases its first-ever policy report beyond San Francisco: “Toward Empowerment: Community Representation and Governance in San Mateo County.” Representing twelve months of on-the-ground research and in-person interviews, this policy report blends policy and legal expertise to analyze the needs and governance of three San Mateo County communities: East Palo Alto, Belle Haven, and North Fair Oaks.  

To read the report, click here.


East Palo Alto, Belle Haven, and North Fair Oaks have experienced historically high needs in housing, immigration, and transportation. This report subsequently analyzes the existing governance structures that impact their needs. Supported by a generous grant from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the report draws on over twenty in-depth conversations with community leaders and government officials, blending these in-person interviews with extensive policy and legal analysis to create some of Brightline’s best grassroots policy work to-date.

In fact, current events have made this report more relevant than ever.  As of October 2017, the City of Menlo Park -- where Belle Haven is located -- is now moving away from at-large elections toward district elections.  Meanwhile, North Fair Oaks residents are moving toward building a community identity, but would have to invest significantly more time and money to achieve incorporation.  In comparison, East Palo Alto faces high barriers to change its governance structure to a strong mayoral system due to the costly process in adopting a charter. 

Regardless of what each community decides, this report intends to foster greater understanding of local systems and, ultimately, to lead to increased community engagement, better policymaking, and program service delivery in the future.