In Britain, this word usually means a task or plan for the future. Just as a "projectile", refers to an object moving forward, so a "project" means a proposal for (say) a new building, a park, or a business venture.
Not that these senses are misunderstood in the US, but there is another usage, probably better known in New York than in California. When people talk, often disparagingly, about the "projects" they refer to public housing, originally built for re-housing folk living in slum areas. Often, these "projects" become the new slums.
It is an interesting change of meaning from something forward-looking, and usually positive, to part of what architects call "the built environment", steadily growing shabbier and less desirable.