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New Website Quantifies Benefits of California Climate Change Policies


A screenshot of TransForm’s Climate Change website, showing all of the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities projects in the San Joaquin Valley. It shows no GHG reductions because some state data is slow in coming.

Each time California legislators consider its climate change policies, questions arise about what benefits the state is receiving for its current investments. Until today, there has been no centralized source of data on the state’s investments from its cap-and-trade program nor on resulting greenhouse gas emissions or other benefits.

Now there is. TransForm, a nonprofit that advocates for rational transportation and land use policies, just unveiled a searchable online map to track investments from California’s cap-and-trade program. The Climate Benefits Map, currently in beta form, will eventually collect all the data available about the various programs and projects funded by the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) and make it available for the public to peruse.

TransForm’s aim is to highlight the benefits of California’s climate change policies, including environmental, economic, and community benefits. With this map they have begun the process of quantifying those benefits in consistent terms across various programs funded by the GGRF. “We really believe that California is benefiting from its climate change policies,” said Shannon Tracey, TransForm’s communications director, and they want to make that information public. “With legislation like S.B. 32 and S.B. 350 advancing” in the legislature, “it’s important for people to see what we’re getting from these investments.”

The data will be available to guide future decisions about climate change legislation, as well as ongoing discussions of investment plans. “This tool will help people evaluate whether we’re doing the right kinds of investments,” said Tracey.

It might also serve to light a fire under the California Air Resources Board, which is developing its own online tracking tool for climate change policies but is not anywhere close to having it available for use.

California’s GGRF currently funds a wide range of programs, administered by different state agencies:

Read more…

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California Legislative Update

bikeatCapitollabel2In Sacramento, bills are beginning to move more quickly through the committee process as this week’s policy committee deadline approaches. Below are highlights on some of the bills pertaining to sustainable streets issues.

Cap-and-Trade Funds for Transit: After Streetsblog wrote about its focus on large projects, author Jim Beall (D-Santa Clara) amended S.B. 9 to allow projects of any size to compete for funds in this program. TransForm says the bill still includes a provision that would make it hard for disadvantaged communities to access the grant funds, by giving priority to projects with non-state funding. The main benefit of the bill is that it allows a commitment to funding larger projects over time, making it easier to secure financing and leverage other funding. S.B. 9 still eliminates operations funding from this program in future cycles, but that change has caused no ripples. Operations were nominally eligible during the first round, but none of the first year’s recipients won operations funding–perhaps because the grants are one-time-only, and operations are an ongoing expense.  The bill goes next to the Assembly Natural Resources Committee.

Parking Requirements: It wasn’t as exciting as the tiff in the Labor Committee hearing, but the conversation in the Transportation and Housing Committee last week about A.B. 744 did get strange. The bill, authored by Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park), would lower parking requirements to make developing affordable housing easier. Ultimately it passed the committee this week and moves next to Governance and Finance. See Streetsblog’s coverage here.

Slow Vehicles Ahead: A.B. 208 from Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals) was originally an attempt to clarify the three-foot rule on rural roads and has undergone a number of changes, reflecting legal semantics more than anything. For example, one amendment would have changed the word “roadway” to “highway,” but that was an awkward change that would have left no legal place for slow vehicles to pull out and let others pass. In its latest iteration the bill settles for language making it clear that bicycles are included in the definition of “slow-moving vehicle” and must pull aside if there are five or more vehicles piled up behind them. The bill is now on the Senate consent calendar, which means it could be passed without further discussion.

Bus Cameras to Catch Parking Violators: A.B. 1287 from David Chiu (D-San Francisco) would allow San Francisco Muni to keep using cameras on its vehicles to catch people parking in transit lanes. Muni did a study that found that the program could help reduce delays. There was no opposition to the bill, which passed the Transportation Committee and now goes to the Judiciary Committee. The bill applies only to S.F. Muni, but it could open the door to other transit agencies; L.A. Metro experiences similar issues.

Temporary Vehicle Plates: A.B. 516 from Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo) would require new cars to have temporary plates affixed to them at the point of sale. This was a retry of a bill that died in the Appropriations Committee last year (A.B. 2197). A temporary license plate could make it easier to enforce existing law that makes it illegal to drive without a permanent plate for more than ninety days, which caused complaints that a driver may not be to blame if plates don’t arrive on time. The bill has support from toll-collecting agencies and hit-and-run reform advocates. It passed the Transportation and Housing Committee and will be modified slightly to address concerns, then go to Public Safety.

Are Uber Cars Commercial Vehicles? A.B. 828 from Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell) would exempt private cars used for “transportation network companies” (such as Uber or Lyft) from designation as commercial vehicles under DMV rules. Impassioned testimony from many people pointed out over and over that Uber drivers provide the same service as taxis but without the same regulations. The authors promised to amend the bill to add a two-year sunset date and call for a study on the impact of new regulations. The bill squeaked by the Transportation Committee and goes back to the Rules Committee.

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Bill to Reform Parking Minimums Passes CA Senate Transportation Committee

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Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) presents his bill

After some delay and a surreal debate, a bill that could help create affordable housing by easing parking requirements passed the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on Tuesday on a 5-4 vote. Now it goes to the Committee on Governance and Finance, where it will be heard as soon as next week.

The bill, A.B. 744, would reduce parking requirements for affordable housing developments, making it less expensive to build affordable housing and using federal tax credits to build housing rather than unnecessary parking.

Some of the senators on the transportation committee showed a deep misunderstanding of the effects of parking policies, as well as of the larger purpose of the bill. They told anecdotes about spillover parking, asked about what happens after the entitlements run out after fifty years, and complained that the bill would take away local decision-making power and give it to profit-seeking developers. “There will be many unintended consequences of this bill if it passes the way it’s presented,” concluded Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) with disapproval before voting no.

But the purpose of the bill is to fix existing unintended consequences of current parking requirements. Those consequences include unnecessarily high construction costs that make affordable housing infeasible to build, thus exacerbating an already dire shortage of housing for low-income people.

The bill’s author, Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park), had to repeat several times that A.B. 744 is targeted at a very specific type of housing: for people who either cannot afford a car or are not likely to drive. It would reduce the number of required parking spaces in new housing developments that provide 100 percent affordable units and either:

  • have unobstructed access to a major transit stop within a half mile
  • are for seniors
  • are for developmentally disabled adults

Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) may have had the most difficulty understanding what the bill was about. “I’m having trouble with the idea that as a senior, I could only have half a car,” she said, hopefully with tongue firmly in cheek. Chau explained that the number of spaces required by the bill—0.5 parking spaces per unit—was an average based on an estimate of how many low-income senior residents would need a parking space. That is, some wouldn’t.

Finally Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), who had been squirming in his seat during much of the discussion, spoke up. “I applaud you for bringing this bill,” he said to Chau, “because there are dozens of tone-deaf, bitter city councils that are using parking requirements to not allow affordable housing to be built in their communities, and somebody needs to say that.” City councils throughout the state of California, he said, need to “get the message that we need to move forward and stop playing games with parking requirements.”

The bill had already gone through the mill in the same committee last week.

Read more…

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Dems, Repubs Far Apart on Solving CA Transportation Funding

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Senator Jim Beall (D-Santa Clara), chair, addresses the special session of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Image: Screengrab from CATV

The California legislature held its first joint special session on transportation funding just before the holiday weekend. The session was called by Governor Jerry Brown when he and the legislature punted some big decisions so they could sign a budget before the June 30 deadline.

The first extraordinary session of the Transportation and Infrastructure Development committee was an informational overview. Testimony from Caltrans and the Legislative Analyst’s Office reiterated what attendees mostly knew: that California roads are full of potholes, its bridges are in dire need of repair, and there’s nowhere near enough money available to pay for any of it.

Democrats and Republicans have offered very different proposals for solving these problems, although there are a few things everyone seems to agree on. For example, that funds collected for transportation should be spent on transportation. And that voters will demand accountability on how any funds are spent.

But where the much-needed funding should come from is not an area of agreement, and how it should be spent hasn’t even entered the conversation. Committee chair Jim Beall (D-Santa Clara) has proposed increases in the gas tax and vehicle registration fees. Assembly leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) has proposed a road-user fee. Republicans propose to divert money from high-speed rail bonds and use cap-and-trade funds to pay for roads.

That’s right. Money that by law—and logic—is supposed to be spent on reducing greenhouse gas emissions is, in the eyes of some legislators, fair game for spending on roads. That’s because….why? According to the Assembly Republican Caucus, because “Better roads means better fuel efficiency which leads to a clear reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.”

That would be worth a good laugh if they weren’t so serious about it.

Senator Beall, when the subject came up at the hearing, politely considered the idea. “We would need to know what elements of road repair engender GHG emissions reductions,” he said, “and how that compares to other GHG reduction programs. We would have to determine the nexus between road repairs and emission reductions.”

He had to be polite, because he is a politician. But he also has to be politic because his proposal to raise the gas tax, the only serious short-term solution presented so far, needs a two-thirds majority to pass. And that means it needs Republican support, even though that party’s members have been vocal in their opposition to raising any taxes.

Read more…

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Amended Hit-and-Run Alert System Bill Sails Through Committee

After last week’s warning that Assemblymember Mike Gatto’s legislation to create a “Yellow Alert” system was imperiled by Senate Transportation and Housing Committee staff and the California Highway Patrol’s (CHP) objections, there was a feeling of a looming showdown before today’s committee hearing. Assembly Bill 8 would create a system to use electronic road signs and the emergency alert system to notify people when a deadly hit-and-run crash occurred to help apprehend suspects. A similar system has proven effective in Colorado.

Screen grab of Asm. Mike Gatto at today's Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.

Screen grab of Asm. Mike Gatto at today’s Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.

However, the fireworks were kept to a minimum. A.B. 8 advanced with a unanimous committee vote. The committee chair, Senator Jim Beall, was not present, somewhat nullifying the announcement that he was urging a “no” vote on the legislation.

As for the CHP, Gatto staff had worked with the department to amend the legislation to address “95 percent of their concerns.” While the Highway Patrol was officially urging a “no” vote, its lobbyist all but stated that the CHP would support an amended bill but had not had a chance to review it yet. Under the amended bill, it will be the California Highway Patrol, not Caltrans, that determines whether or not variable message signs broadcast information about deadly hit-and-run drivers in the area near where the crime was committed.

Similar legislation passed with overwhelming support last year, but was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown, who cited the recently created “Silver Alert” following unexplained disappearances of senior citizens or people who are physically or mentally impaired. Brown was worried that adding the “Yellow Alert” in addition to the “Silver Alert” to the four pre-existing alerts could overwhelm the system.

Senator Ted Gaines brought up the Governor’s concerns to discover if Gatto had any insight on whether or not it could cause a second veto. After brief discussion, the committee and Gatto asserted that they had never personally seen a Silver Alert on the highway signs. Statistics backed their anecdotal accounts. There are some areas of the state that have not had a single “Silver Alert” campaign.

Read more…

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CHP Opposes Gatto’s Yellow Alert for Hit-and-Run Legislation

Earlier this week, news slowly leaked out that the California Highway Patrol (CHP) was opposing Assembly Bill 8, legislation by Asm. Mike Gatto that would create a “yellow alert” system after deadly hit-and-run crashes. The system would use electronic road signs and the emergency alert system to notify people when a deadly hit-and-run crash occurred to help apprehend suspects. A similar system has proven effective in Colorado.

Assemblymember Mike Gatto speaking on the importance of reducing hit-and-run crimes.

Assemblymember Mike Gatto speaking on the importance of reducing hit-and-run crimes. Behind Gatto are, left to right, LACBC’s Eric Bruins, two LAPD representatives, L.A. Councilmember Mitch Englander, and Finish the Ride’s Damian Kevitt. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

If you can’t see the embed of the CHP’s letter of opposition, you can read it here (PDF).

The California Highway Patrol gives three reasons for its opposition. The first is that there will be too many alerts added to a system that already broadcasts alerts for abducted children, missing seniors or mentally disabled people, and information about other dangerous criminals. The second is that, because of legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to earn driver’s licenses, there is no need for the system. The third is that adding a fourth kind of alert would confuse the system, as there is no way to prioritize the messages, should multiple alerts be out at the same time.

As one would expect, Gatto doesn’t agree with the CHP’s evaluation.

“We are currently working with CHP to discuss the complexity of the hit-and-run epidemic in California.  To be clear, use of the Yellow Alert system would be limited to the general vicinity of where the hit-and-run resulting in serious bodily injury or death occurred,” writes Gatto in a statement to Streetsblog.

“The current alert system in our state is not overburdened as evidenced by its use to display messages urging Californians to “buckle up” or “conserve water” during the drought.

To address concerns regarding the prioritization of alerts — we plan on taking a friendly amendment to clarify CHP’s ability to prioritize the alerts if they happen to occur on the same day.  I would also like to point out that California does not broadcast the Silver Alert on our changeable message signs.”

The expectation that AB 60 will lead to a drop in hit-and-runs because more drivers will be licensed actually undercuts the other arguments. Yes, creating safer roads through more universal licensing was a goal of AB 60. But the hit-and-run crisis cannot be reduced to an immigration issue. And even the CHP seems unconvinced of their own position, arguing, in essence, that there would be too many alerts and it would clog the system, not enough alerts to justify an addition to the system, and too many alerts and it would confuse the system in just three paragraphs.

“The CHP wants it both ways,” writes Jim Brown with Sacramento Area Bike Advocates. “They say AB 8 might create too many alerts. Then they turn around and say that giving driver’s licenses to undocumented drivers could reduce the incidence hit-and-runs to the point that alerts aren’t really necessary.”

Read more…

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Affordable Housing Awards from Cap-and-Trade Funds Announced


Funding from the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program could help transform this corner of Stockton. Images: top, Google Street View; bottom, courtesy Domus Development

On Monday, the California Strategic Growth Council announced its recommendations for the first round of funding under the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program. SGC staff recommended 28 projects, to be awarded a total of $122 million. The projects are split about evenly between Northern and Southern California.

Most of the recommended projects are for infill housing that include some transit, pedestrian, or bicycle improvements.

The Affordable Housing program is funded by California’s cap-and-trade auctions. By law, auction proceeds must be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The AHSC was formed in recognition of the role that affordable housing can play in reducing emissions. That is, if housing is built near transit and with quality connections for biking and walking, it’s easier for residents to choose alternatives to driving, and thus reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is found to be especially true with affordable housing.

The program is ambitious. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the funds must also benefit disadvantaged communities. The Strategic Growth Council has also added other goals such as creating collaborations among entities working on housing and transportation–encouraging public agencies and private developers to work together, and housing developers to coordinate with transportation planners. Because of its complex requirements, staff created a two-step application process, in which potential grantees first submitted a simplified application. Those that were deemed likely to be eligible were invited to complete the more complex, detailed second application. Fifty-four projects were invited to apply in the second round, and offered assistance throughout the process.

The program awarded funds to projects all over the state: in nine regions, fifteen counties, 21 different cities. “I’m very pleased with the geographic distribution,” said McCoy. “One of our goals was to have projects that could serve as regional and local examples of what could be done. A diversity of places was important to us.”

He says that in the final scoring, they made no allowance for geography other than the cap on how much money any one locality could be awarded. Some otherwise worthy projects did not get grants in this round because of that cap. Others didn’t make the list simply because of the limited funds available.

The staff recommendations are expected to be approved by the Council at its next meeting on June 30. In July, a series of workshops is planned to discuss lessons learned from this first round of funding. (See end of post for details.)

“We’ve learned so many things in this round,” said Mike McCoy, director of the SGC. “It’s been great to roll up our sleeves and get something out in twelve months, rather than philosophize for a couple of years about how this could be done.”

“And we’re coming right back in July to talk about revisions to the guidelines.”

Most of the projects recommended for funding are infill housing projects near transit, and many include some element of transportation infrastructure to improve connections to transit or encourage active transportation. For example, a senior housing project in Hayward will build new sidewalks, improve street lighting and crosswalks in the surrounding neighborhood, and create wayfinding between the project and the nearby BART station. It will also include bike lockers so residents can safely store their bicycles in an easily accessible location. Another project, the Westside Infill Transit Oriented Development in National City, will include construction of bike lanes, pedestrian pathways, and ADA enhancements in the surrounding neighborhood.

Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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San Diego Mayor and City Leaders Embrace Vision Zero

Flanked by city officials, fellow elected officials, the chief of police and the head of the progressive transportation advocacy group Circulate San Diego, Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced their support for San Diego to embrace Vision Zero. Faulconer promises his administration will produce a plan to reduce traffic deaths in the city to zero through progressive transportation planning and law enforcement that puts safety above all other considerations.

For a full copy of the report, click on the image or click ##

For a full copy of the report, click on the image or click here.

Vision Zero is modeled after the Swedish Government’s initiative to use progressive transportation planning and law enforcement to reduce the number of transportation-related fatalities to zero. In Sweden, the plan has proved an overwhelming success. Only three of every 100,000 Swedes die in traffic crashes. Prior to the implementation of Vision Zero policies in 1997, that number was seven of every 100,000 Swedes killed in traffic crashes.

This compares with 5.5 per 100,000 across the European Union, and 11.4 in America. Sweden’s roads are the safest in the world. America has over three times as many per capita fatalities.

”There is nothing more important than public safety, which is why we’re working toward the goal of zero traffic deaths in the City of San Diego,” Mayor Faulconer said. “We’re making great strides to become a more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly city by investing in our infrastructure and making safety a top priority in all street projects. Whether you drive, bike, or walk, safer streets benefit everyone.”

While San Diego may be making strides, there is a lot of room for the city to improve its safety record. According to Vision Zero: Zero Traffic Deaths in San Diego by 2025, a report released in conjunction with today’s press conference by Circulate San Diego,

On average, one person each day is seriously injured or killed while walking, biking, or driving the streets of the City of San Diego…Fatalities among people driving have continuously fallen since 2005, yet fatalities among people walking have increased or remained static in the same time frame, outpacing population growth.

In addition, traffic collisions are the leading cause of deaths for children aged 0-13 in the city. Read more…

Via Streetsblog California
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Legislative Update: Budget, Cap-and-Trade, LOS, Gas Tax

bikeatCapitollabel2This week the California legislature was mostly focused on the budget, since the Assembly and the Senate must by law present a budget bill to the governor by midnight on Monday, June 15. The joint Budget Conference Committee succeeded in producing an agreement [PDF] well before the deadline; their budget bill, A.B. 93, should be available later today, ready to be voted on in both houses on Monday.

To help meet the deadline, the Conference Committee punted decisions on cap-and-trade revenue expenditures by separating them from the budget process. This will give the legislature more time for discussions on how to allocate the 40 percent of cap-and-trade revenue that is not already assigned to programs by last year’s statute. Of the three spending plans—from the Governor, the Senate, and the Assembly—only the Assembly plan included an allocation for Active Transportation. The Assembly version called for an additional $50 million for transit pass programs and for infrastructure and programs to increase bicycling and walking.

There is still some disagreement about how much money will actually be available from the cap-and-trade program and how much should be allocated. Governor Brown’s May Revise budget proposal outlines expenditures of $2 billion, while the Legislative Analyst Office projects the proceeds to be closer to $2.3 billion. An LAO outline of the different proposals is available [PDF].

Bill to Delay Level of Service (LOS) Reform Amended: A.B. 779, from Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), was amended last week. The Office of Planning and Research (OPR) was required by last year’s S.B. 743 to come up with a way of measuring the effects that new development has on traffic without focusing solely on congestion and delay, as Level of Service currently does. OPR issued a preliminary draft of new guidelines that propose using Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) instead of LOS [PDF], but the guidelines are neither final nor legally binding, yet. As first written, A.B. 779 would have broadened the definition of where the LOS reform could happen automatically; then it was amended to delay the substitution of VMT for LOS. Now, however, it simply authorizes OPR to make the determination that residential and mixed-use projects in areas where transit is frequent are exempt from having to analyze traffic impacts.

Like the rest of California’s Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), this bill is messy, and its outcomes are uncertain and open to political interpretation. Conservatives generally dislike the CEQA rules, and push to gut its environmental protections. Livability advocates generally appreciate CEQA, but oppose the ways that pro-car pro-sprawl LOS has degraded its intent.

The true intent of the bill’s sponsors, the Infill Builders Federation, is not clear. According to the legislative analysis, the group is concerned that having to analyze VMT would create an additional burden that could put infill at a disadvantage—despite the fact that many developers already conduct a VMT analysis, which is simpler than analyzing LOS. The infill group also states that the new guidelines could create an “added litigation burden.”

Under CEQA, if an agency determines that a project will have a less-than-significant impact, it can skip spending time and money on extensive environmental analysis. But CEQA also allows people to sue to force agencies to do a full analysis.

This week’s A.B. 779 amendment would authorize—but not require—OPR to define parameters that, if met by a project, would automatically exempt it from having to analyze its traffic impacts. This may shift the burden of proof away from cities and agencies and on to those who claim an impact. Overall that sounds great for infill and for livability, but the devil is in the details. And as currently written, the bill may have the effect of slowing down OPR’s process for finding a replacement for LOS—as its previous, now amended, iteration would have regulated outright.

Like any bill, A.B. 779 is still in flux. Currently it is in the Senate, waiting for a committee assignment.

Senate Bill to Raise Gas Tax Is Not Dead Yet: Although S.B. 16 did not get out of the Senate before last week’s deadline, an urgency clause attached to it means it is still alive. This bill, from Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose), would raise money to fix roads in one of the most sensible ways: by raising the gas tax. It would also raise the annual vehicle registration fee, and add a new annual  registration fee to zero-emission vehicles, which pay little to no gas tax. This bill will require a two-thirds vote, and it likely will face an uphill battle.

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Via Streetsblog California
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California Legislative Update

bikeatCapitollabel2This week Sacramento saw long hearings in the Senate and Assembly, as both houses pushed to meet their deadline to pass bills. Any bill that doesn’t pass its house of origin by the end of this week is dead–for this year at least.

Herein, our highly selective look at this week’s activities in the California legislature.

Climate Change Legislation
The big news was the package of climate change bills that passed the Senate. Included was S.B. 350, the “Golden State Standards” that would set statewide goals to reduce fossil fuel consumption, increase renewable energy, and increase energy efficiency. The discussion on the floor was entertaining, if you like dramatic posturing. Senator Bob Huff (R-San Dimas) decried the bill as a job killer that would create “coastal elite winners” and “poor inland losers,” condemning it as market manipulation. “This country is great because we haven’t picked winners and losers, we’ve let the market decide,” he railed–ignoring the bill’s language, which sets goals but doesn’t regulate specific market interventions. The bill’s author, Senate President ProTem Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles), responded with a passionate closing speech on current market inequities, citing a recent IMF report on subsidies to oil industries [PDF]. He called the mystery of why fuel prices rise on busy holidays “one of the great conundrums of the world,” comparable to the Bermuda Triangle and Roswell. In the end the bill passed on a party-line vote, and now goes to the Assembly.

The climate change “package” that passed the Senate included, among others:

  • S.B. 9 from Senator Jim Beall (D-Santa Clara) would remove operations funding from the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program category of cap-and-trade funds and allow them to be used only for large capital projects. Beall claims that large projects would bring larger greenhouse gas reductions—and it would also make it easier to extend BART to his district.
  • S.B. 32 from Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) would extend the emissions limits of California’s Global Warming Solutions act to 2050.
  • S.B. 64 from Senator Carol Liu (D-La Canada/Flintridge) calls for the California Transportation Plan to be “action-oriented” and produce pragmatic recommendation for further greenhouse gas emission reductions in the transportation sector.

Other bills in the package call for developing climate adaptation plans, providing technical assistance to disadvantaged communities, creating a committee to ensure the growth of California clean energy jobs, and more. The package is summarized here.

Bicycles, Hit-and-Run, Toll Lanes 
Most of the bills we’ve been tracking on bicycle issues [PDF] had already moved on and are in the committee process in their second house, with the exception of Carol Liu’s helmet bill. No longer a mandatory helmet use bill, it had become a call to study helmet use. But S.B. 192 got stuck in the Appropriations Committee, which means that it will go no further this year. The committee believed that the study would cost the state more than $150,000, so put it in the “suspense file,” where many bills die unless they can find a way to fund themselves or somehow convince legislators their costs are necessary. In this case, it’s possible the helmet study bill could be resurrected next year—but it’s not clear why a study would need to be required by law. Why not just fund it?

A.B. 8 from Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), which would create a “yellow alert” to help authorities find hit-and-run perpetrators, has sailed through the Assembly. Meanwhile, Assemblymember Eric Linder (R-Corona) pushed A.B. 534, which would have required a mandatory non-negotiable six-month license suspension in hit-and-run convictions, but it failed to pass its committee.

A.B. 194 from Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) would make it easier to convert carpool lanes to toll lanes, known as HOT (High-Occupancy Toll) lanes, passed the Assembly this week.

Development and Planning
A.B. 744 from Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) would prohibit local jurisdictions from imposing minimum parking requirements when a developer requests a lower parking ratio for low-income housing located near transit. This would allow the market to decide what parking is needed, and reduce the cost of low-income housing by reducing the amount of parking built. See earlier coverage here and here. This bill passed the Assembly and now awaits committee assignment in the Senate.

A.B. 779 from Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) is an attack on last session’s S.B. 743, which phases out use of the car-centric Level of Service (LOS) measure under CEQA. This bill tried several ways to undercut the proposed use of Vehicle Miles Traveled as a substitute for LOS, but has been reduced to a delay in those reforms–when they haven’t even been completely formulated yet (see our coverage here). Unfortunately, it passed the Assembly this week.

S.B. 461 from Senator Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) would give L.A. County jurisdiction over the part of State Highway 164, which is Rosemead Blvd, through the Whittier Narrows Recreational Area in the San Gabriel Valley. Bills like this are necessary for cities and counties to take charge of the design and management of highways that have been under the control of Caltrans. S.B. 461 would allow local cities to extend the protected bike lanes along Rosemead Blvd from Temple City south through Rosemead and South El Monte. The ultimate goal is a protected bikeway from the San Gabriel Mountains to the San Gabriel River multi-use path. The bill passed the Senate this week.

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