Say what you will about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, I have, but the Governator has just scored serious “green” points with the signing of California State Bill 375. Endorsed by the California League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club California, Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, Environment California and the Transportation and Land Use Coalition, this bill is aimed at reducing sprawl and auto-induced air pollution.
Authored by Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), SB 375 offers incentives for local governments to adopt “infill” growth strategies that support development near transportation hubs and employment centers, reduce car trips per day and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to reach the goal of 25 percent reduction in greenhouse
gas emissions by 2020.
SB375 requires Regional Transportation Plans to include sustainable communities strategies and housing designations for all population growth, including all economic segments of the population.
Signed into law Sept. 30, SB 375 builds on the promise of AB 32, California’s first-in-the-nation law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, by adding the nation’s first law to control greenhouse gas emissions by curbing sprawl.
Gov. Schwarzenegger, always a cheerleader for a cleaner California, was clear about his reasons for supporting SB 375. “When it comes to reducing greenhouse gases, California is first in tackling car emissions, first to tackle low-carbon fuels, and now with this landmark legislation, we are the first in the nation to tackle land-use planning,” he said. “What this will mean is more environmentally friendly communities, more sustainable developments, less time people spend in their cars, more alternative transportation options and neighborhoods we can safely and proudly pass on to future generations.”
Who could argue with that?
SB 375 is not about mandating or slowing growth. SB 375 is not about conserving water or other resources. SB 375 is not about comprehensive change. What SB 375 is about is limiting the impacts of the continued population growth by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, reducing fossil fuel consumption and conserving more farmlands and habitat.
SB 375 requires improved transportation modeling for accurate accounting of the impacts of various land use choices on transportation. SB 375 recalibrates the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, for local governments conforming their land use plans to a sustainable communities strategy. Sustainable communities projects satisfying a checklist of environmental and land use criteria will avoid further CEQA compliance. Housing projects that fully mitigate their environmental impacts will be subjected to less litigation as a result of SB 375.
Projects that cannot satisfy the sustainable communities checklist would have to review their project-specific impacts. When fully implemented, SB 375 will help local governments avoid litigation related to CEQA compliance.
SB 375 allows local governments to set traffic mitigation policies in advance. Developers who comply will not be required to do additional traffic mitigation under CEQA.
It’s clear life as we know it will change in California with the signing of SB 375.
Mass transit and walkable communities are steps in the right direction.
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