SB-375

RECENT POSTS

Bay Area’s Controversial Housing & Transit Plan Clears Hurdle

State law requires that every metro area have one–but try pleasing everybody

ABAG/MTC

Drawing of a proposed string of high-density, bike- friendly, mass transit-oriented developments along a stretch of El Camino Real between Daly City and San Jose.

A sweeping “green” vision for the future of transit and housing in the Bay Area inched a step closer to realization in Oakland last night.

Officials from the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission voted on portions of Plan Bay Area, a 25-year strategy for land use and transportation for the Bay Area’s growing population, which is expected to surpass nine million by 2040.

The plan also proposes ways to meet the state’s greenhouse gas reduction target of 15% by 2035 outlined under SB 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act – namely by encouraging high-density housing near transit hubs and along corridors. Continue reading

State Joins Suit against San Diego Regional Transportation Plan

Critics say long-term, San Diego’s plan will add greenhouse gas emissions, not reduce them

Craig Miller/KQED

Critics say that San Diego's regional transportation plan focuses too much on freeways.

The spotlight is on San Diego to lead the way on regional transportation planning that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. But critics say that the regional planning agency’s proposal is anything but a model for sustainable planning.

San Diego’s regional planning agency, SANDAG, is the first to develop a plan since California passed a law requiring that regions try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through land use and transit planning. The law, SB 375, went into effect in 2010, and falls under the Air Resources Board’s Sustainable Communities program. The ARB approved SANDAG’s plan when it was submitted in November of 2011, saying it would meet short-term greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2020-2035. Continue reading

State Struggling to Reduce Vehicle Emissions

This post was originated by our content partners at California Watch.

Report says driving needs to be more costly to get us out of our cars

By Marie C. Baca

Drivers now pay $6 to cross the San Francisco Bay Bridge during peak traffic hours. "Peak pricing" is one strategy to push commuters to alternative transit. (Photo: Craig Miller)

California faces significant obstacles in complying with a 2008 state law aimed at reducing passenger vehicle usage, according to a report by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

The report points to unrealized rail transit investments and resistance to pricing tools like fuel taxes as factors that have slowed reduction in car usage.

The two-year-old SB 375 mandates that California’s major metropolitan areas reduce per capita emissions from driving by 7 percent by 2020 and by 15 percent in 2035. While the primary focus of the bill is a reduction in the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, the legislation places a special emphasis on addressing traffic and public health concerns by reducing the number of miles residents drive. Continue reading

Linking Sprawl and Climate Change

Mark Strozier

(Photo: Mark Strozier)

Transportation is the top source of greenhouse gas emissions in California. So in a state where car culture rules, what will it take to get us out of our cars?

That’s the goal behind SB 375, a bill passed in 2008 that links greenhouse gases to urban sprawl. Under this first-in-the-nation policy, the state’s 18 regional planning organizations must reduce the emissions coming from vehicles through land use and transportation planning. This week, the Air Resources Board is expected to release the draft emission reduction targets that the agencies must meet by 2020 and 2035.

While the chances of getting Californians out of their cars completely are slim, the idea is to reduce the number of miles traveled through more public transit, more “walkable” communities and denser development. (Learn more about that in this Quest story about transit villages).

According to a report released today, that development approach can have some dramatic benefits, considering how California is expected to grow. By 2050, some projections put the population at 60 million, adding seven million new households.

The planning firm Calthorpe Associates looked at those housing needs and ran a number of growth scenarios, in a study funded by the California Strategic Growth Council and California High Speed Rail Authority. They compared a business-as-usual approach of low-density suburbs (30% urban and compact growth) to a “growing smart” scenario with more urban in-fill and transit-oriented development (90% urban and compact growth). While that last scenario may sound like the land of endless condos, according to Peter Calthorpe, it would still be 53% single family homes. Calthorpe calls it “a shift back to what California used to build–bungalows.”

Here are some of the benefits they found for the scenario by 2050:

  • Reduces the number of vehicle miles traveled  by nearly 3.7 trillion
  • Saves more than $194 billion in capital infrastructure costs
  • Saves 19 million acre-feet of water
  • Prevents the release of 70 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, or 25% less than business-as-usual
  • Saves California households $6,400 per year in auto-related costs and utility bills.

In-fill development can often cost more than low-density development and this report doesn’t take housing prices into account. Indeed, costs may be one of the biggest challenges for SB 375, since both the state and cities are facing budget crises  and a lull in the housing market.

Under the bill, state transportation funding will be prioritized for projects that meet the SB 375 goals. But according to Hasan Ikhrata, Executive Director of the Southern California Association of Governments (one of the regional organizations doing the planning), financial incentives will be key to reaching the goals. “I think the biggest challenge is to find incentives to help cities, because cities want to do this, but they don’t have the resources to do it without help,” he said.

Green Index a Green Light for California Economy?

ggheadlands.jpgA new study from the privately funded think tank Next 10 will be released today, making the case for an economic revival based on giving the state and the nation a “green” overhaul. The study includes the latest reading in Next 10’s California Green Innovation Index, begun a year ago.

Next 10 is essentially using California as a case study, showing that you can have it both ways; growing and greening at the same time (the same argument advanced by President Obama and Al Gore, among others), and that other states can choose to follow California’s lead. According to the report, California’s “energy productivity” is 68% higher than the nation as a whole. Next 10 defines energy productivity as the total economic growth produced per unit of energy.

Much of the story is told in one especially interesting graph (p. 14 of the report), which shows diverging trend lines for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and GDP (gross domestic product, by which they really mean gross state product). The graph shows that since 1990, GHG emissions, measured per capita, have dropped, despite a fairly steady rise in GDP.

Next 10 interprets that divergence to mean that emissions need not be linked to prosperity. By extension, they’re also saying that prosperity and energy efficiency do go hand-in-hand. Next 10’s economists argue that a good chunk of those economic gains came from energy savings, as the state became more efficient.

There are some flashing yellow lights in the report. For instance, while Calfornians have been able to reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita, total miles keep rising with the growing population. Reducing vehicle miles is one of the most effective (and challenging) ways of reducing GHG emissions. The newly passed anti-sprawl legislation (SB-375) aims to reverse–or at least slow–this trend.

Loaded to the gunwales with  wonky goodies, the report is more a rear-view mirror than a predictive tool. When I reminded Next 10’s lead economist Doug Henton of the old investment caveat, “Past performance is not an indicator of future returns,” he said he sees no reason to think that California’s energy productivity curve is topping out, i.e. reaching that “point of diminishing returns” that they teach you in Econ 101. He cites a record $3.3 billion in venture capital for related technologies last year.