California to Disincentivize Sprawl--If We're Lucky
From the Los Angeles Times
Legislature takes aim at urban sprawl and global warming
A bill calling for financial incentives to target greenhouse gases
would be the first in the nation.
By Margot Roosevelt
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 21, 2008
Will Californians drive less to reduce global warming? Maybe not on
our own -- but state officials are ready to nudge us.
The Legislature is on the verge of adopting the nation's first law to
control planet-warming gases by curbing sprawl. The bill, sponsored
by incoming state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), is
expected to pass the Assembly today and the Senate on Friday.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not taken a position on the bill, but
sponsors expect him to sign it once the state passes a budget.
The legislation, SB 375, would offer incentives to steer public funds
away from sprawled development. The state spends about $20 billion a
year on transportation, and under the new law, projects that meet
climate goals would get priority.
An earlier version of the bill was blocked last year by the building
industry and by organizations representing cities and counties.
Developers feared their suburban projects would be delayed or halted.
Local officials were wary of ceding zoning powers and transportation
planning to the state.
But momentum for the legislation has grown as the state seeks to
implement its landmark 2006 global warming law, which would slash
California's greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, a 30%
cut from expected emissions. To accomplish that, state officials say,
fuel-efficient cars and factories won't be enough. Subdivisions,
commercial centers and highways must be planned so that Californians
can live and work closer together, reducing the amount they drive.
"Our communities must change the way they grow," Steinberg said.
A compromise 17,000-word bill was hammered out this month and
endorsed by builders, environmentalists and local officials. It
requires the state's 17 metropolitan planning organizations and its
regional transportation plans to meet concrete targets to reduce
global-warming emissions. The targets will be set by the state Air
Resources Board. "California led the way into our culture of car
dependence, so it is only appropriate that the state lead the way
out," said David Goldberg, a spokesman for Smart Growth America, a
Washington-based nonprofit. The law could "provide a model for other
states," he added, noting that the number of miles Americans drive
has risen at more than double the rate of population growth in recent
Scientists agree that the earth is heating up at a dangerous pace, in
part because of excess carbon dioxide and other gases from vehicles,
power plants and other human sources. The expected effects in
California include coastal flooding from rising sea levels, reduced
water supply and the disappearance of many species of plants and
animals, according to researchers.
The legislation would lead to better-designed communities and save
consumers on gas bills, advocates said. Thomas Adams, board president
of the California League of Conservation Voters, called it the most
important land-use bill in California since the Coastal Act in the
1970s. "It is also the first legislation to link transportation
funding with climate policy," he said.