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- March 6, 2013By Egon Terplan and Ethan Lavine
The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors is facing heavy criticism and a lawsuit for its decision to approve the Cordova Hills subdivision, a new development for 25,000 residents on what is now rolling hills and ranch land 22 miles east of downtown Sacramento. The development would add thousands of new homes far from the region’s center, violating the Sustainable Communities Strategy that every city and county in the region agreed upon last year. As the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) observes, the approval goes against decades of smart growth planning in the greater Sacramento area.
Senate Bill 375, the 2008 statewide law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, requires each region in California to develop a coordinated plan — called a Sustainable Communities Strategy — to guide its long-term land use decisions and transportation investments. When the California Legislature approved SB 375 in 2008, many planners thought the law might be a strong tool to limit sprawling development. This action by Sacramento County shows that tougher rules might be necessary to ensure counties don't return to their old ways.
SPUR blogged about the Sacramento region's Sustainable Communities Strategy a few weeks after its approval last May. With that plan, the 22 cities and six counties in the region decided where development can and cannot occur in the decades to come. The Cordova Hills subdivision would add 8,000 residential units, in addition to retail and office space, on 2,419 acres of what is currently rural open space — an area not intended for development under the Sustainable Communities Strategy.
Of course, the only way that SB 375 can be effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions will be if the cities and counties involved in joint planning efforts stick to their agreements. In doing so, California will be able to accommodate millions of new residents in walkable, bikable communities served by public transportation. If more development along the lines of Cordova Hills is in our future, however, we'll fail to meet our climate change goals. This type of development is part of what led to our current land use patterns, where too many Californians must depend on their cars almost any time they leave home.
Sacramento County is making a mistake by approving the Cordova Hills subdivision — it's a “body blow for smart planning,” as the Sacramento Bee’s editorial page puts it. We hope the backlash to the decision will cause the Board of Supervisors to reconsider its position.
- October 6, 2010BY LAURA TAM, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT POLICY DIRECTOR
CARB and MTC have adopted strong regional targets for reducing emissions through better planning and less driving.
[Photo Credit: flickr user Jovi Girl J]
In late September, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted unanimously to adopt a strong set of regional targets for passenger vehicle emissions reduction under SB 375, the state's anti-sprawl law. The historic vote was the culmination of a two-year effort which included the entire Regional Targets Advisory Committee process and report, intense research by modeling experts, proposed targets from metropolitan planning organizations, and public workshops around the state. In the end, CARB adopted the staff-recommended targets for the big four regions, including the Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) -- 13-16% by 2035, and 10% for the San Joaquin Valley. These percentages represent a reduction in per-capita greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicle trips, and will be achieved through regional planning that will align housing growth goals with transportation funding.
For MTC, which in advance of the CARB meeting voted to adopt a 15% reduction in per capita emissions from passenger vehicles (from a 2005 baseline), this is a very significant change. The region's adopted Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) otherwise would have increased these emissions by 2% in 2035.
At the same meeting, CARB approved a 33% renewable portfolio standard for energy utilities by 2020. This means that the state's investor-owned utilities like PG&E, which are now required to source 20% of their electricity from renewables, will have to increase that percentage significantly over the next 10 years. This policy is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 12-13 million tons/year beginning in 2020. While the SB 375 targets will remove only 3 million tons/year in 2020, it will ramp up to 15 million tons/year by 2035.
- September 9, 2010BY JORDAN SALINGER
[Photo Credit: flickr user sandy kemsley]
This post is the first in an occasional series that hopes to make sense of the issues surrounding the implementation of California's smart growth law, SB 375.
California's future demographic reality is clear. We will grow — perhaps not as quickly as in recent decades — but we will nonetheless continue to increase our population. The state projects a population of 44 million by 2020 and well over 51 million by 2035. Even if the recent economic downturn results in slower future population growth, the question still remains: how do we manage this growth with minimal environmental impact?
For much of the past century, this growth was accompanied by increased auto use. But California's 2008 smart growth law, SB 375 — now being implemented throughout the state — proposes a different approach.
A key recent policy decision relates to "Greenhouse gas reduction targets." In August, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released a set of regional targets for per capita greenhouse gas emissions based on decreased driving. The targets refer to how much less the average person will drive in the future. These numbers were submitted by each of the following metropolitan planning organizations, and then reviewed and accepted by CARB.
Targets for reduced per capita emissions from driving:
SCAG (Southern California) 8% 13%
MTC (Bay Area) 7% 15%
SANDAG (San Diego) 7% 13%
SACOG (Sacramento) 7% 16%
San Joaquin COGs 5% 10%
There are two simple ways to understand these targets. First, it is easier to make more significant change in average behavior for a region with a fast-growing population. So long as people in the future drive less than current drivers, the average goes down. That's why the fast-growing Sacramento region has the highest target.
Second, it is more difficult to achieve big changes in the short run. That's why all the targets are much lower for 2020 than 2035.
While the conclusion of these figures is simple — the average Californian is going to be driving less — the way we achieve these emission targets can be more complicated. Encouraging both new growth and infill development in transit rich cities, in turn shifting where people are both living and working, is important. We will also achieve these goals by pricing roadways differently, dissuading drivers from driving during peak hours on congested roadways.
Click here for a PDF of the full report.
- July 1, 2009BY LAURA TAM, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT POLICY DIRECTOR
NRDC has just released a guide to SB 375, the nation's first legislation to link transportation and land use planning with global warming. The goal of this legislation is to foster development patterns that reduce the need to drive. Household transportation is the single largest and fastest-growing source of global warming pollution in California. SB 375 will also help save money for households and taxpayers (through reduced infrastructure costs), reduce air pollution, conserve water, and protect farmland and open space.