Kaid Benfield Archive


A sensible bill for California development – pass it now

Kaid Benfield

Posted July 8, 2008 at 1:13PM

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California has a chance to pass an exciting new law that gives its metropolitan regions the opportunity and responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions through sensible land use planning.  Interstate 5 in San Diego (by: Sandy Kemsley, creative commons license)This is long overdue – anyone can see the chaos on our landscape and know it’s not right, especially when viewing it from the interior of a car stuck in a massive traffic jam.

The Sacramento Bee said it best last week:

“If California's population were to remain static, its fight to slash greenhouse gases and vehicle pollution would be much easier. “But that's not going to happen. The state is expected to add between 7 million and 11 million people by 2025. 

“Where those people live, and how much they drive each day for work and errands, could determine if the state meets its environmental goals or sees them go up in smoke. 

“For the second year in a row, state Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, is trying to pass legislation that would marry the state's climate crusade with smarter guidance of future growth. Senate Bill 375 has gone through months of negotiations and changes. It is now nearly ready for the governor's signature . . . 

sensible, transit-oriented planning in Mountain View, CA (image courtesy of Calthorpe Associates)“Steinberg's bill would require each metropolitan region to adopt a "sustainable community strategy" to limit emissions of greenhouse gases. The Air Resources Board would then provide each region with targets for reducing emissions. Regions that didn't adopt Sacramento-style ‘Blueprint’ plans to reduce vehicle trips and emissions would have a harder time obtaining funds from the California Transportation Commission. 

“As a further incentive, the bill would provide developers with exemptions from the California Environmental Quality Act if they built projects consistent with these regional blueprints.” 

This makes incredible sense, especially the last point.  Developers go through hell to do the right thing environmentally - to get good projects approved and stand up to often frivolous litigation.  The bill remedies the problem by requiring that the legitimate issues be debated, decided and, if necessary, challenged at the planning stage.  But, once the plan is settled, if projects comply with the approved plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they deserve to be fast-tracked.

The Bee’s editorial notes that Steinberg has the support of many builders, the State Association of Counties, and the League of Conservation Voters.  He has the support of my NRDC colleagues in California, too.   Let’s pass this thing.