How SF is Tackling Racial Inequality Through Infrastructure

Tracy Zhu’s commute to work was a bit different this week. Instead of the typical sprint to frantically catch public transit and arrive at her cubical a little out of breath, she made her way to a podium with tea in hand ready to speak to a captivated audience.

Tracy Zhu, SFPUC Community Benefits and Social Impact Manager, spoke on a panel
at the Othering and Belonging conference in Oakland.

Zhu, Community Benefits and Social Responsibility Manager at the SFPUC, participated in a panel discussion at the Othering and Belonging conference in Oakland this week. There, she discussed the agency’s efforts to advance racial equity by leveraging water, power, sewer infrastructure investments.

The conference focused on topics that advance scholarship, narratives, movements, and policies to support diversity, inclusion and belonging in government, labor, academia, philanthropy, the private sector and more.

“It is a great opportunity for me to share at a cross sector conference with colleagues about how local government is doing its part to reduce racial inequality,” said Zhu. “For decades in the past, local government has reinforced system of racial inequality.”

Description of Tracy Zhu’s panel topic from the Othering and Beloning conference.

Zhu shared about the SFPUC’s initiatives to be a good neighbor and operationalize racial equity within local government. As the first utility in the nation to pass Environmental Justice and Community Benefits policies, the SFPUC proactively provides diverse and vibrant communities with opportunities in workforce and economic development, the arts, urban agriculture and education. She shared examples of how the agency has tangibly and effectively integrated this policy its business decisions and strategic programs.

Follow up questions from the conference panel discussion.

Prior to starting a career in public service, Zhu had connected with Government Alliance for Race and Equity (GARE) while working in philanthropy, a national network of government jurisdictions focused explicitly on racial equity. Learning more about GARE and its mission inspired Zhu to make a leap from philanthropy into exploring a career in local government.

“Now is the time for bold change and leadership,” Zhu continued. “My role at the SFPUC allows me to institutionalize structural change in a way that positively impacts the communities we serve every day, and to help others belong along the journey. “