Legislature Passes Groundbreaking Anti-Sprawl Measure

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In addition to passing legislation authorizing Metro to begin a "Congestion Pricing" program and allowing Metro to place a half cent sales tax proposition on the fall ballot, the legislature also passed S. 375.  S. 375 is first of its kind legislation that ties land use patterns to emissions and penalizes cities and municipalities that encourage development that leads to sprawl.

The California Progress Report summarizes what the legislation does:

• Transportation planning: The California Air Resources Board (CARB)
will set regional greenhouse gas reduction targets after consultation
with local governments. That target must be incorporated within that
region’s Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), the long-term blueprint of
a region’s transportation system. The resulting model will be called
the Sustainable Communities Strategy.

• Housing planning: Each region’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment
(RHNA) – the state mandated process for local jurisdictions to address
their fair share of regional housing needs – will be adjusted to become
aligned with the land use plan in that region’s Sustainable Communities
Strategy in its RTP (which will account for greenhouse gas reduction
targets).

• CEQA reform: Environmental review will create incentives to implement the strategy, especially transit priority projects.

Of course, even if this legislation becomes law, the devil will be in the details.  Environmentalists and others concerned with Smart Growth planning will need to make sure that the California Air Resource Board sets appropriate greenhouse gas reduction targets and that the Sustainable Communities Strategy documents make environmental sense.

S. 375 only passed after months of negotiation and over the objections of some of the states major political players such as the California Chamber of Commerce.  Despite the international recognition this legislation has earned, Governor Schwarzenegger, who has earned international praise for his stance on global warming and the environment, has not announced whether he will sign the legislation or not.  You may remember the Governor is vowing to veto all legislation until the legislature sends him a budget.

Photo: by Ron Chapple/Corbis

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