About Us

Build Up CA is modeled and inspired after Build Up San Mateo County's successful work to preserve, expand and improve early learning facilities.

How it started

In 2017, San Mateo County identified an alarming shortage of almost 11,000 early childhood education spaces. It was clear that financial incentives were also an insufficient remedy as the county had turned down $1 million in state support for subsidized child care due to a lack of facilities to house programs.

Using data to position early childhood education and care as an infrastructure challenge, Build Up San Mateo County (SMC) was established to alleviate the child care facilities shortage. Their mission was to be a hub for multi-sector collaborations on advocacy, policy, technical assistance, financing and development support. They built a coalition of city officials, developers, employers, school districts, and others united to facilitate creative solutions for child care and early learning facilities while ensuring a seat at the table in broader city planning conversations.  

The expense of real estate and the cost of the physical infrastructure is a barrier to expansion and meeting the child care needs of our community.  One of Build Up SMC’s goals is to  focus on addressing this major barrier. Since then, Build Up SMC has helped expand physical infrastructure to hold 2,000 new early childhood education spaces and has preserved more than 8,700 spaces held by providers at risk of closure.

Greystar Case Study

An early success for Build Up SMC was the Greystar South Main mixed-use development project in Redwood City, CA (now re-named Elco Yards). Access to facility space has always been a significant barrier for developing or expanding child care. Child care operators often lack both the capital and expertise in navigating real estate and development projects.

Developers rarely understand the complex world of designing child care spaces. But, in this case, Greystar was eager to collaborate with city leaders and Build Up SMC to not only design a facility to meet the needs of children and teachers but to also agree to terms such as no rent payments, no rent escalation, and a 10–15-year lease term that would attract a child care operator who will offer subsidized slots to low-income families, infant and toddler care.

A dedicated area of 8,367 square feet of indoor space was built, adding 70 spaces for preschool learning as well as much-needed infant and toddler care in the Redwood City community. Build Up SMC worked closely with Greystar at each stage, from physical space design (including outdoor spaces) to financial terms, including $3-4M in facility improvements, to ensure this facility investment would actually meet community needs. 

Download the Case Study Here

The Launch of Build Up CA

San Mateo County was not unique in its struggle. Leaders across the state took note of the impact BuildUp SMC was having in not only preserving but expanding and improving child care facilities with projects such as Elco Yards. There is a growing awareness that child care is essential infrastructure that sits alongside transportation and housing as key ingredients in economic development and the support of healthy families. In 2019, Build Up SMC hosted a series of regional child care facility meetings to address new state policies and funding opportunities. The purpose was to bring together our local leadership partners and neighboring county stakeholders to strategize on the Governor’s Early Learning Master Plan and infrastructure funding. 

A group of stakeholders from counties across California continued meeting, eager to align their efforts and amplify their impact. Without a voice, organizing power or champion for facilities providers in their communities were perpetually without capital funding to meet the needs of even state subsidized programs, for renovation and repair, new facilities, and technical assistance. The group affirmed the need for a state-level organization and agreed to name the organization Build Up California (CA), in honor of the inspiration and model provided by San Mateo County. Following the blueprint from Build Up SMC, this new statewide initiative was launched in 2020. Their mission was to address land use policy barriers, and engage local policymakers, developers and other multi sector stakeholders – working together to create a pipeline across the state of new or improved centers and family child care homes. In this work, their three  focus areas are:  
  • promote information sharing on early learning and care facilities issues, including  technical assistance and capacity building;
  • recommend legislation and regulations changes to increase access to high-quality ECE facilities; and
  • develop and support various financing strategies, initiatives, and programs.
As BuildUp CA has expanded the scope and scale of its efforts across the state, they have established a track record of success through sharing best practices, resources and solutions for all types of child care providers, community members, business leaders and policy makers. 

Blueprint for Build Up CA and model for nationwide facilities efforts

Build Up SMC was a huge support to Build Up CA during its start up phase and helped establish the Advisory Committee and build cross sector participation among the group to be able to sustain and advocate for resources and participate locally and now nationally for facilities investments. Build Up SMC continues to partner closely with Build Up CA and holds seats on the Advisory and Core Planning Committees.

Build Up SMC’s work has been so effective that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation did a case study on its work in San Mateo County citing it as a proven example for other counties to replicate across the country. We hope to continue inspiring this important work so every child has access to affordable high-quality child care programs in their community.

Ongoing partnership

The collaboration between Build  Up SMC and Build Up CA continues today. For example, they have jointly hosted state legislators at local preschools such as All Five in the Belle Haven neighborhood of Menlo Park, highlighting the very real and practical impact of public dollars in expanding access while offering suggestions on policy that could further improve the lives of children and families. The two organizations also work with The National Children’s Facilities Network (NCFN), a coalition of nonprofit financial and technical assistance intermediaries and other interested stakeholders involved in planning, developing, and financing for high quality early care and education facilities. This work also includes offering inputs on federal legislation and regulations affecting access to high quality ECE facilities as well as developing financing strategies, initiatives and programs that expand access to high quality ECE in areas with high concentrations of poverty. And, they partner in creating resources from facility development checklists and manuals in English and Spanish to one pagers for city leaders, faith leaders and school districts to a family child care facilities development and financing manuals.  Build Up SMC continues to do outreach and provide technical assistance for opportunities aligned with Build Up CA. Most recently they presented together at the Build Conference to discuss how to create child friendly communities.

Our Mission

Build Up California is a statewide network dedicated to the equitable expansion, improvement, and sustainability of early learning and care facilities.

Our members increase supply and help improve the quality of early learning and care by advocating for policy change and providing technical assistance and financing to address capital needs.

Build Up California’s purpose is to:

  • Promote information sharing on early learning and care facilities issues, including  technical assistance and capacity building;
  • Recommend legislation and regulations changes to increase access to high-quality ECE facilities; and
  • Develop and support various financing strategies, initiatives, and programs.


The History

Launched in 2020, Build Up California brings together local and state leaders in early care and education (ECE), housing, planning, community development, local government, K-12 education, business, and philanthropy to address the ECE facilities crisis.

Established 2020 by a group of Early Care and Education (ECE) leaders, Build Up California was created to reinvigorate statewide pre-Great Recession collaborative efforts to address ECE facility needs.  The following are some examples of previous related initiatives:

  • Local Investment in Child Care (LINCC)
  • Building Child Care
  • Constructing Connections / ABCD

Currently, the ECE sector faces a critical challenge related to ECE facilities and supply. For example, in the Bay Area, the exceptionally high-cost/low vacancy market, unstable ECE workforce, and an inadequate state reimbursement rate have created an unsustainable system. Many areas of the state are experiencing child care deserts. Still, others, such as Sonoma and Butte counties, are working to rebuild after devastating fires that have decreased their supply by hundreds of spaces.

California leaders are well aware of the significant issues impacting the ECE sector and caregivers and families in need of affordable and quality ECE. The Blue Ribbon Commission, sponsored by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, highlighted the significant need for a statewide collaborative that creates a learning community as we envision with Build Up CA. They recommend a place where ECE providers and partners can share “best practices and provide materials, technical assistance on facility planning, development and financing, and facility quality assessment and improvement.”

The Master Plan for Early Learning and Care: California for All Kids, released in 2020, also outlines the need to expand the supply of early learning and care facilities. Addressing the shortage of ECE facilities requires the collective contribution of all sectors in the state: government, business, and philanthropy. Without a comprehensive facilities strategy, other efforts to expand ECE will not reach its full potential.

Our Advisory Board

Our Advisory Board help inform the ongoing engagement and research efforts of Build Up CA, ensuring the work is responsive and relevant to practitioners and thought-leaders focused on improving the child care system.

Click on the links below for more information:

  • Meetings

Our Partners

We partner with various organizations and individuals on elevating the importance of high-quality child care and early learning facilities.  As members of statewide and national coalitions such as the ECE Coalition and the National Children’s Facilities Network, we collaborate on community education and advocacy efforts to ensure that legislation and budgets reflect the investments and guidelines that benefit providers, children, and families.

The following are some of our partners:  

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