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CA Seeks Input for Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program

Housing and transportation advocates discuss California’s Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities guidelines, last week in Oakland. Photo: Melanie Curry

Housing advocates and local officials gathered in Oakland last week to discuss guidelines for California’s new Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program (AHSC). It was one of three packed meetings held throughout the state by the Strategic Growth Council (SGC), the state agency that oversees the AHSC, to gather input on the new program’s guidelines. 

The ASHC was created to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by fostering the development of affordable housing near transit hubs, as well as improvements to transit, bike, and pedestrian infrastructure in those areas to provide low-emission alternatives to driving. A funding stream for the program was created through a late-hour deal last month between Governor Jerry Brown and state legislators which provided $130 million in revenue from CA’s cap-and-trade program.

The $130 million, however, is a drop in the bucket for California’s affordable housing funding needs. Despite growing demand, revenue for housing subsidies was slashed heavily in recent years after Governor Brown dissolved redevelopment agencies and federal sources of affordable housing funds dried up.

If the legislature sticks to its budget bill plan, the AHSC will receive 20 percent of future cap-and-trade funds each year. This is projected to be between $600 million and $1 billion per year over the next five years, according to estimates by the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

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The Debate Over CA’s Cap-and-Trade Funds Is Not Over

From left to right: California Mayors Robert Garcia (Long Beach), Chuck Reed (San Jose), Jean Quan (Oakland), Miguel Pulido (Santa Ana), and Ed Lee (San Francisco) at a press conference in Sacramento, yesterday. Photo: Melanie Curry

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti led a group of California mayors on a trip to Sacramento to push for legislation on a number of issues that impact cities before the final, frantic weeks of August that mark the end of the legislative session. On their agenda was getting assurance that cap-and-trade funds would be available to help cities reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years.

While the fate of cap-and-trade funds has been decided for this budget year, the mayors said they want to be certain that the program operates as intended and that funds are allocated fairly to urban areas down the line. With hundreds of millions in cap-and-trade funds generated this year, and tens of billions in the years to come, it is hard to blame them.

Garcetti said cap-and-trade funds should support new construction as well as operations of existing mass transit and affordable housing in California’s cities, “and not just in the coastal, wealthy areas of the state.” Of the $850 million in cap-and-trade funds allocated in this year’s budget, only $50 million go towards transit, including capital improvements, intercity rail, and operations.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said 10,000 potential residents could be housed along transit corridors in Oakland, adding that investment in transit and affordable transit-oriented development could address issues of wage equality and diversity.

The current state budget allocates $130 million from cap-and-trade funds to a new program, Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC), aimed at concentrating affordable housing in transit-rich areas to encourage new residents to make more trips by transit rather than driving. Read more…

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California Legislation Watch: Weekly Update

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Here is Streetsblog’s weekly highlight of California legislation related to sustainable transportation.

The legislature just came back from its August recess and spent the week catching up on its to-do list. The next few weeks will see a flurry of bills being voted on—and amended—before the session deadline on August 31.

LOS gone from CEQA: Big news! California is taking a big step away from wholly car-centric planning measures. Jarrett Walker calls it the toppling of a tyrant. Earlier this week, a bit after its July 1 deadline, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research published its draft recommendation to replace Level of Service (LOS) standards with Vehicle Miles Traveled under the California Environmental Quality Act. A 45-day public comment period just started, so if you have something to add to the conversation, say it by 5 p.m., October 10: CEQA.guidelines@ceres.ca.gov.

School zones treated as safety zones: S.B. 1151 from Senator Anthony Canella (R-Ceres) flew through the Appropriations Committee Wednesday and is headed to a vote by the full Assembly. The bill would raise the fines for infractions and moving violations within school zones. Any funds generated would go into the state’s Active Transportation Program.

Gas price scare tactics: A.B. 69, the attempt by Assemblymember Henry Perea (D-Fresno) to delay the application of cap-and-trade emission limits to fuels, has been causing a ruckus. The press has been covering the issue with uneven success; some completely missing the mark (including  this story claiming that the law requires a gasoline “tax” to go into effect as soon as the new year hits: wrong). State Air Resources Board (CARB) chair Mary Nichols last week responded to a letter from Perea [PDF], emphasizing that any gas price volatility would likely  be less than what California consumers experience regularly.

Meanwhile the Legislative Analyst Office sent Perea’s office its analysis of the possible price effects of bringing fuels into the cap-and-trade program [PDF]. The LAO put its estimate of gas price increases—resulting from oil companies passing on the costs of cap-and-trade, NOT because they would be required to charge consumers more money—at between 13 and 20 cents per gallon by 2020 (and maybe as high as 50 cents). However, the letter continues, if fuels are not made subject to cap-and-trade, hypothetical alternative strategies might have a similar effect on gas prices. It also notes:

Even if cap-and-trade leads to a large price increase, it might be difficult to distinguish this increase from other fluctuations in gasoline prices. For example, a price increase of 60 cents per gallon of gasoline—an increase larger than many of the estimates we reviewed—would be smaller than the difference between the highest and lowest weekly gasoline prices observed in 2013.

Email tips, alerts, press releases, ideas, etc. to melanie@streetsblog.org.

For social media coverage focused on statewide issues, follow Melanie @currymel on Twitter or like our Facebook page here.

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Bill Aims to Delay Bringing Fuels Under CA Cap-and-Trade System

Drivers who make long commutes in old gas guzzlers might benefit from A.B. 69–but not much. Photo: Moira Curry

In a last-minute maneuver before the California Legislature’s summer recess, Assemblymember Henry Perea (D-Fresno) amended a bill to delay the application of California’s cap-and-trade system to fuels until 2018.

Co-authors of the bill, A.B. 69, include Assemblymembers Cheryl Brown (D-Fontana), Tom Daly (D-Anaheim), Isadore Hall (D-Rancho Dominguez), Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina), Freddie Rodriguez (D-Chino), and Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), as well as Senators Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) and Norma Torres (D-Chino).

California’s cap-and-trade system is intended to encourage businesses to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) by placing a cap on the total GHG they may produce, and then allowing them to buy or sell emission credits, depending on their ability to meet the cap. It is being phased in over time, and until now has only been applied to manufacturing enterprises. The cap is scheduled to apply to the production and transport of transportation fuels starting in January 2015. Perea’s bill would delay that for three years.

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CA Asm. Richard Bloom Talks Budgets, Cap-and-Trade, Streetcars, and More

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Asm. Richard Bloom poses with members of the Tongva Tribe and Santa Monica Mayor Pam O’Connor at the opening of Tongva Park in Downtown Santa Monica last year. Photo: Jason Islas

Last week, Streetsblog sat down with California Assemblymember Richard Bloom, who represents Santa Monica and other West Los Angeles communities. We asked him to talk about the state budget, the cap-and-trade expenditure plan, and funding for transit and housing. Bloom chairs the Subcommittee for Transportation for the California Assembly Budget Committee.

Bloom talked about the process for crafting the cap-and-trade compromise, the impacts the new money will have on transportation, the need for more transportation funding, and some local transportation and development issues in his district.

The California state budget was passed by both legislative houses just before its June 15 deadline, and the governor signed it at the end of that week.

Streetsblog: Are you more or less pleased with the final budget and the cap-and-trade expenditure plan?

Bloom: I’m very pleased.

California is still in recovery mode. The most notable thing about the budget is that we’re beginning to provide funds for many of the programs that have been cut over the past years, since 2006 or so, and we’re also beginning to fund new programs.

The most exciting of these, I think, is early childhood education. We’re only chipping off a bit of that, but it’s a beginning, and it shows a way into the future.

Streetsblog: What about the cap-and-trade expenditure plan? Read more…

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Breaking News: Deal Reached on CA’s Cap-and-Trade Spending Plan

Earlier this evening, the bicameral Budget Conference Committee  approved a compromise between state legislators and Governor Brown on how to spend $850 million in revenues from the state’s cap-and-trade system for the next fiscal year.

The new plan largely stuck to the Governor’s original proposal for the first year of the expenditure plan, but it adds set-asides for transit and affordable housing, two important parts of the Senate’s proposal. The compromise also incorporates an allocation method for funding in future years.

Despite Republican opposition, California High Speed Rail will still receive one-quarter of the funds generated by the state’s Cap and Trade Program.

The compromise proposal sets aside $250 million for high-speed rail, which is what the Governor proposed, but future year allocations for the bullet train would be 25 percent rather than the 33 percent he requested. The Senate’s proposal called for 15 percent allocated to high speed rail.

The agreement would split the $50 million Brown proposed for intercity rail, giving half to transit capital and construction costs and dividing the other half between transit operations and intercity rail. Future revenue streams would give 5 percent to each of the three categories, giving transit a solid, predictable source of funding for at least the next five years.

Brown’s original proposal had no set aside for local transit, but the Senate, under the leadership of Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), had countered the governor’s plan by calling for $200 million for transit operating and capital expenses.

Steinberg’s plan called for 20 percent of cap-and-trade funds to be spent on affordable housing near transit and sustainable communities planning. This would have amounted to about $170 million the first year. The current agreement would give this category of projects — which could include bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and planning — about $130 million in the first year, with future allocations at 20 percent.

“This plan is good for California,” said committee co-chair Mark Leno (D- San Francisco). “With this proposal we will continue to not only lead the state but also the nation on this important issue of greenhouse gas emission reduction, when time is running out.” Read more…

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Steinberg’s Cap-and-Trade Spending Plan Gains Momentum, No News on Deal

Senate President Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) espouses the benefits of CA’s cap-and-trade program, with Senator Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti behind. Photo: Eric Garcetti/Facebook

Despite being only 0.5 percent of the California budget, cap-and-trade revenue spending is emerging as a sticking point in Sacramento as Democrats in the Assembly, Senate, and Governor’s Office push three different spending plans. The legislature must approve a state budget by June 15.

Check out our graphic explaining the three cap-and-trade spending proposals on Friday: Click on the image to see the entire graphic or read the story here.

Each of the three proposed plans for spending cap-and-trade revenue to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as we explained on Friday, generally fund the same programs, but differ significantly only in how they slice the pie. Each proposal takes a different approach on how the state should invest in sustainable transportation and smarter urban planning to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions.

While Governor Jerrry Brown’s office was the first to propose a cap-and-trade spending plan, there seems to be momentum with the Senate plan put forward by Senate President Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento.) Last week, Steinberg, whose plan sets aside the most for active transportation, local transit, and affordable housing, held a rally with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and earned the endorsement of the mayor of California’s largest city.

“This is smart legislation that would spend cap-and-trade funding where it naturally should be spent – on reducing pollution and improving the health of our neighborhoods and our city,” said Garcetti. “Cities are where we work, where we live, but they’re also where we pollute, so addressing the needs of cities like Los Angeles is critical in tackling climate change.”

The rally with Steinberg came one day after the mayor had a meeting with Governor Brown on other topics including the status of the state’s plans to retain film industry jobs and preserve the state’s dwindling water supply.

Read more…

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Infographic: Comparing California’s Three Cap-and-Trade Spending Proposals

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In the midst of California’s state budget negotiations, the legislature must separately decide how to spend the state’s cap-and-trade revenue, be it on public transit, high-speed rail, affordable housing near transit, or other emissions-reducing programs.

Three different proposals for slicing this new pie come from Governor Jerry Brown, the Senate, and the Assembly. In the next week, legislators must find a way to meld these three plans, or just choose one. To help explain the differences between the three approaches, we created the above chart, with more explanation below.

This relatively new pot of money, collected under the authority of the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, or A.B. 32, by law must be spent on programs and projects that help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions throughout the state by 2020. The administration estimates that the cap-and-trade system will raise about $870 million in 2015, and various estimates assume it could grow to several billion dollars each year between 2015 and 2020.

In all three of the plans, there is no set-aside for active transportation. Bicycle and pedestrian planning would be included within a larger group of as-yet-undefined projects and programs, called a “Sustainable Communities” program. Programs in this group would compete for funds based on how well they achieve GHG emission reductions. In each plan, what is included under Sustainable Communities and how much money is allocated to that pot of funds differs.

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CalBike Pushes for Protected Bike Lanes, Vulnerable User Laws in Sac

The California Bicycle Coalition held its Advocacy Day this week in the state capitol to lobby legislators on several key policy reforms to promote bicycling.

Joined by local bicycle groups from around the state and participants who finished the California Climate Ride in Sacramento, CalBike met with state legislators and staffers and urged them to support two bills currently in play: one that would codify “separated bikeways,” or protected bike lanes, into state law and another that would increase penalties for drivers who injure vulnerable road users, primarily bicyclists and pedestrians. Advocates also urged lawmakers to support increased funding for projects that promote “active transportation,” a.k.a. walking and bicycling.

At CalBike’s Advocacy Day, Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) promotes his bill, A.B. 1193, which would institutionalize protected bike lanes in California. Photos: Melanie Curry

Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) showed up to stump for his bill, A.B. 1193, which would require Caltrans to develop standards for protected bike lanes, also known as “cycle tracks” or “separated bikeways,” which are not currently defined by statute in California. The state’s Streets and Highways Code defines three types of bike facilities: “paths,” “lanes,” and “routes,” each of which provide bicyclists with a different level of physical separation from motor traffic, and thus a different level of comfort and safety. “Cycle tracks,” which are on-street bike lanes separated from traffic by landscaping, parking, or a wide painted divider, don’t fit easily into any of the existing categories.

Although Caltrans recently endorsed the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Urban Street Design Guide, which does include guidelines for creating cycle tracks, no standard for them currently exists in California law.

Protected bike lanes, common in many civilized nations, are already being built here and there in California. Long Beach and San Francisco have had them for several years, and new ones were recently opened in SF and Temple City. But these have been the result of long and arduous planning processes, and advocates hope that changing the statute will allow Caltrans and local agencies to implement them more easily.

The bill would also remove the requirement that local agencies apply the Caltrans Highway Design Manual’s design criteria to all bike facilities, even ones located on city streets and not state highways. Removing this requirement would allow city planners to rely on other criteria like the NACTO Street Design Guide.

Streetsblog will continue to cover A.B. 1193 as it moves through the legislature. The bill has already passed the State Assembly, and is currently scheduled for a hearing in the Senate next week.

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Steinberg: CA Cap-and-Trade Must Fund Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing

Negotiations over the California state budget are producing dueling proposals on how best to spend revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade program.

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Senator Steinberg proposes affordable housing as a greenhouse gas reduction strategy. Photo courtesy TransForm.

While Governor Jerry Brown continues to call for a third of the cap-and-trade funds to go to CA high-speed rail, Senate President ProTem Darrell Steinberg last week expanded upon his alternative proposal to spend a larger share of the revenue on affordable housing and transit at the local and regional level.

State cap-and-trade funds are collected under the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, A.B. 32. The law provides a way for companies to meet a state-mandated cap on greenhouse gas emissions by buying “pollution credits” produced when others exceed emissions reductions. Estimates vary on how much revenue the program will generate, but it could produce billions each year between now and 2020.

Standing in front of an active construction site for new housing units near Oakland’s MacArthur BART station last Thursday, Steinberg called for permanent sources of funding for affordable housing, mass transit, and sustainable communities development. The Senator argued that  California is facing a “catastrophic funding crisis” as affordable housing bonds run out, and noted that the transportation sector is the state’s biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

“Californians are logging more vehicle miles annually than ever before,” Steinberg said.

Behind him, a forklift raised a load of lumber high up in the air, with an attached sign reading, “At least 972 lbs of CO2 emissions reduced every day.” That’s the amount by which  the housing project, which will provide 624 housing units next to the BART station, is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to other housing developments. Of those apartments, 108 will be leased at below-market rates. Read more…

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