“Locals” Continue Attack on S.B. 375 “Sprawl Bill”

5_28_09_sprawl.jpgPhoto of Riverside via Miizzard/Flickr.

In what could seem a companion piece to either this morning’s Streetsblog.net post or last week’s interview with Michael Woo, the California Planning & Development Report outlines some of the excuses local planners are using to attack S.B. 375, the legislation that requires land-use patterns be used to fight sprawl. 

Last week, Woo broke down the arguments local planners and elected officials are using to try and opt out of this mandatory legislation:

One source of opposition was local elected officials who
questioned whether climate change was a real problem or questioned whether what
they do has any impact on climate change. 
So there’s still a certain amount of foot dragging going on with local
officials who don’t think it’s a problem or think it’s someone else’s problem.

Today, CP&DR allows officials from Los Angeles and Sprawl-Centric San Bernadino to elaborate:

Schuiling challenged the idea that land use changes are required to
meet the state’s GHG reduction goals because the goal cannot be met by
making cleaner vehicles, as the California Air Resources Board has
suggested. “That is simply not true,” Schuiling said.

Schuiling pulled out what he clearly regards as a “smoking gun” on the GHG issue – a letter from the South Coast Air Quality Management District claiming that zero-emission vehicles still must be the weapon of choice against GHGs.

In rebuttal, I don’t think anyone’s arguing that cleaner cars aren’t part of the solution, perhaps the largest part of the solution, but to basically imply that is the only tool in the box is so California.  I’m not sure how anyone arguing that reducing the number of cars on the road won’t reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions can even be viewed as sensical, unless they’re so in love with sprawl development, or their SUV, that they can’t see past their own carbon pollution.

Sadly, the executive director for our own Southern California Association of Governments also can’t see the link between sprawl development and Greenhouse Gas.  But at least he gets that "sprawl is bad" to put it mildly.

A similar but more subtle argument came from Hasan Ikhrata, the executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments,
which is charged with implementing SB 375 in the Los Angeles region.
Speaking on the same panel as Schuiling, Ikhrata said: “I don’t think
375 should be thought of as a global warming bill. I don’t think it’s
the most cost-effective way to reduce GHG emissions. … When I speak
about 375 I speak about a land use bill, an urban form bill.”

This was substantially the same point Ikhrata made a couple of weeks ago at the SCAG General Assembly
in La Quinta, when he rolled out SCAG’s “conceptual land use plan”.
Ikhrata did not deny that SCAG and the region’s local governments
should pursue a more efficient urban form, but, rather, argued that
policymakers should rely less on the idea that climate change is the reason for doing so.

It looks like we still have a long way to go, but maybe someone at S.C.A.G. should forward this morning’s Streetsblog.net story to the executive director.

  • I think an elected regional government with real authority is a vital component in enforcing something like 375. Without it, the component regional parts like San Bernadino will inevitably defend what they view as their own interests. As it stands, I can’t imagine SCAG currently has the level of authority over the region to enforce these requirements. I think the long term strategy requires building coalitions and public support for a truly regional government like Portland’s with enough power to enforce regional planning goals like what 375 calls for.

    Slightly OT, but I wonder if this might be an opening for the kind of coalition-building I’m thinking of:

    “Towns Rethink Self-Reliance as Finances Worsen”
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124337975286456249.html

  • Interesting idea, John. We need a government overhaul from top to bottom.

    On one hand, it is ridiculous to have a state of this size with only 80 Assemblymembers, a county of this size with only 5 Supervisors and a city of this size with only 15 City Councilmembers and a deliberately weak neighborhood council system.

    However, since voters have so far been unwilling to increase the size of these governing bodies, I think there is precious little chance they’d approve a layer in between City and County government.

    I remember Willie Brown had an idea of regional authorities years ago, but the idea went nowhere. The Bay Area would bet he ideal place for such an authority to be tried.

    But, getting a functional state government again is probably the first priority.

  • For the record- the area pictured is *not* Riverside. That would be Rubidoux, CA, just over the river. The picture was taken looking west from Mt. Rubidoux City Park.
    The actual city of Riverside does have its sprawling bits, especially on the southwest part of the city, but it is one of the more progressive cities in the Inland Empire, and our Mayor has been pushing for more sensible land use policies for a while. If this picture was taken looking east, it would not find sprawl, but a dense urban core surrounded by small-lot homes, and some of the only mixed-use development in the county beyond that.