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California Debates Targets for Landmark Anti-Sprawl Bill

As California’s big four metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs)
run models to determine how much they can influence California’s growth
and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, significant questions remain. The
state’s Senate Bill 375, typically referred to as the Anti-Sprawl Bill,
requires that planners and policy makers develop meaningful solutions
to reduce sprawl, reduce vehicle miles traveled and promote growth in
areas that will have the least impact on the environment.

As Amanda Eaken from the Natural Resources Defense Council writes on the Switchboard,
the predictions are encouraging. By bringing Californians closer to
their jobs and providing better transportation choices, by 2050 SB 375
could:

    • Help Californians drive 3.7 trillion fewer miles
    • Help Californians save $6,400 per year on transportation and other household costs
    • Save the state $194 billion in infrastructure costs with smarter planning
    • Save 140 billion gallons of gasoline
    • Save more open space than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined

But the models won’t mean much, she argues, if policy makers don’t
invest money in projects that can bring about the needed change.
Without programming funds away from destructive development and
transportation projects, you will only have plans.

Eakan writes:

In every case there are certain ambitious policies and there arecertain areas where we know the MPOs can do more. For example, in everycase, we fail to see a shift of transportation funding to support theimproved land use patterns every MPO is calling for. This is the thrustof SB 375 – to align regional investments to support a more sustainableland use pattern. The MPOs make assumptions – in certain cases veryambitious and laudable assumptions about the increase in walkable,transit oriented development, but then fail to shift theirtransportation investments to make sure we realize these better futures.

The challenge for advocates like the NRDC lies in pressuring MPOs to
revise their long-term transportation plans to better reflect the
targets set by SB 375. Adding capacity to freeways or permitting
greenfield development now will only make the laudable targets more
difficult to realize in the future.

Elsewhere on the Network, sprawl apologist Wendell Cox argues
on New Geography that the chorus of pundits and thinkers talking about
the end of suburbia isn’t looking at certain data, and in fact the
population in suburbs hasn’t decreased. Richard Florida analyzes a new report on attracting the "creative class" to rural areas. And finally The Dirt has a good post describing some of the finalists in the Build a Better Burb design competition.

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