Metro Pokes SCAG. Endorses Higher Standards for SB375 Clean Air Emissions.

Downtown L.A. as seen from Westlake.  Photo ##

Downtown L.A. as seen from Westlake. Photo: King of the Hill/Flickr

Earlier this month, the Board of the Southern California Association of Governments (S.C.A.G.) rejected the long-term clean air targets for Southern California requested by the Air Resources Board and recommended by their own staff.  While today’s Metro Board Meeting featured good news for cyclists and bad news for bus riders, there was another hot debate over what goals for reducing Greenhouse Gas should be set for Southern California.  You can read the motion here.

A quick bit of history.  After the passage of S.B. 375 in 2008, the landmark legislation that tied greenhouse gas emissions to land use and planning, the state’s Air Resource Board was charged with coming up with a plan to reduce emissions statewide through better planning and reducing vehicle miles traveled.  After a lengthy outreach and research plan, the ARB recommended that the SCAG region, which includes L.A. County, the Inland Empire, Orange County, Riverside County, and San Bernadino County, set goals of an 8% reduction in Greenhouse Gases by 2020 and 13% reduction by 2035 (i.e. the 8/13 standard.)  However, the SCAG Board chose much lower standards, 8% reduction by 2035 and a 6% reduction by 2020 (i.e. the 6/8 standard.)

But those standards weren’t good enough for a Metro Board that is quite a bit more progressive than their colleagues at SCAG.  Metro’s Ad-Hoc sustainability committee recommended that the Metro Board endorse the 8/13 reduction standards and after a brief debate earlier today, the Metro Board passed that recommendation.Speaking for the lower standards was County Supervisor Mike Antonovich who noted that even the lower standards are controversial in many parts of the SCAG region and that it was strange for this body to go against the regional planning agency.  Antonovich introduced a replacement motion supporting the 6/8 standards which was seconded by Diane DuBois.  The motion also drew support from Supervisor John Fasana before being rejected.

What is the difference between the 6/8 standards and the 8/13 standards?  If the state moves forward with the ARB and now Metro proposed standards for Southern California, communities throughout Southern California would have to create zoning laws and transit planning that created the following changes by 2035:

  • 1% reduction in home-based work trips,
  • 174% increase in vanpools
  • 144% increase in carpools
  • 20% increase in walk/bike to school

In other words, support for the kinds of policies that lead to not just clean air, but also livable and vibrant communities.

The whole notion that the 6/8 standards are going to e a difficult goal to reach, one that has been put out by the sprawl lobby, was put to rest by Richard Katz, a Mayoral Appointee to the Metro Board.  Katz noted that because of technology improvements, both in the transportation and other sector, Southern California could see up to a 7% reduction in Greenhouse Gas emissions over the next twenty five years.  In other words, the 6/8 target is really not about protecting the quality of air and reducing carbon emissions as much as it is supporting the already sprawling status quo.

Neither the Metro nor SCAG votes carry the weight of law when setting the standards.  That decision ultimately rests with the ARB.  But Metro’s support for higher emission reduction sends a message that not all of Southern California believes that sprawling development needs to be a way of life in the Southland.