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GIS Helps Laguna Niguel Use Federal Money More Effectively

One of the goals of local governments is not just obtaining sufficient funds, but being able to use those funds in the most beneficial way. The City of Laguna Niguel used the spatial analysis capabilities of ArcView GIS to decide how to administer funds from the Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) in a way that maximized the number of areas that could qualify to receive funding.
Laguna Legend The map to the left shows the areas that qualify for CDBG funds with county administration.

The map to the right shows the much larger area that would qualify for CDBG funds if the city adminstered the program.

Laguna Legend
Laguna Niguel is a study in doing a lot with a little and in little time.

Located in Southern California's Orange County, Laguna Niguel has a population of 56,000. City staffing is lean. Wade Kloos, an associate planner for Laguna Niguel for the past six years, and an intern, ARE the GIS Department. Kloos actually spends only about 20 percent of his time working on GIS projects. Though the City's parcel map was produced by a consultant using ArcInfo, Kloos uses ArcView GIS for all the City's GIS projects.

HUD's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) programs promote sound community development through awarding grants to qualifying communities. Grants help cities provide public services, carry out neighborhood revitalization, and administer economic development programs.

Entitlement grant amounts are determined by a statutory formula that uses several objective measures of community need including poverty, population, housing overcrowding, age of housing, and growth lag. When Laguna Niguel's population passed 50,000, the City qualified as an entitlement city under HUD guidelines that allowed it to choose whether to continue to allow the County to administer the City's CDBG grants or to administer those monies itself.

What's the difference, you say? It hinges on the effect of HUD's qualifying threshold for the number of low to moderate households in any census block. If the County administered Laguna Niguel's CDBG program, HUD would use the County's median household income, and 36.4 percent of households within any census block would be required to be low to moderate income for that block to qualify. Under City administration using the City's median household income, only 16.8 percent of households in a census block would have to be categorized as low to moderate for that block to be eligible for funds. The City had to decide if the benefit to the community of expanding qualifying areas sufficiently offset the additional staff resources needed to administer the program.

In about two hours, Kloos created the census block themes, analyzed census blocks by income level, and generated thematic maps showing which areas would qualify under the County's threshold and under the City's threshold. Only two census blocks qualified under the County administration option, while seven census blocks qualified under the City administration option. Armed with these maps it was easy to demonstrate to the City Council that the City could significantly increase the benefit from the $335,000 in CDBG funds through City administration of the program. City Manager Tim Casey opted to devote all CDBG funds to project work rather than charge staff time against CDBG funds.

After providing the spatial analysis information that supported the City's decision to administer the CDBG program, Kloos became the CDBG coordinator. Other projects Kloos has completed using ArcView GIS include a real property inventory that gave the City a record of all its real estate holdings. Kloos also used ArcView GIS to produce conceptual designs for proposed MetroLink stations, saving the City from hiring an engineering firm to complete the designs.

"We are low tech and low budget. I like to think we are a model of what a small City can do," says Kloos.

To contact Wade Kloos, send E-mail to

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