California SB 375 Report Proposes GHG Reduction Targets to Curb Sprawl Emissions from Transportation

The California Air Resources Board released a draft report that proposes targets for land use and transportation planning in 2020 and 2035 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with passenger vehicle travel in the state’s eighteen Metropolitan Planning Organizations, including the four largest: Southern California, San Diego, the Bay Area, and the Sacramento region. The Air Resources Board will consider adopting these targets at its September board hearing. (Earlier post.)

The proposed greenhouse gas reduction targets are designed to help to produce sustainable strategies for growth and development for cities and regions over the next twenty-five years. The goal is for people to live close to where they work and play to reduce vehicle miles traveled and the greenhouse gas emissions that come from cars. The report is the first major milestone in implementation of SB 375, a law designed to improve how cities and counties plan for growth and development.

Developing the targets has been a bottom-up process involving strong and consistent input from cities, municipalities and the public. Work on the report began immediately after Governor Schwarzenegger signed the bill in September, 2008. The first step was the formation of a 21-person advisory committee of experts to recommend methodologies to be used when setting targets.

Following 13 public meetings, the Regional Targets Advisory Committee submitted its report to ARB in September, 2009 advising, among other things, that the targets be expressed as a percent reduction in per capita greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.

Developing the proposed targets took place over the past eleven months and included collaboration between ARB and the Metropolitan Planning Organizations, the agencies ultimately responsible for developing the regional plans under SB 375. ARB staff held public workshops throughout the state in May and July, and ARB staff provided an update to the Board in June. ARB staff also participated in numerous workgroups and meetings with public stakeholders, along with continuous transfer and sharing of modeling and data information between regional planners and ARB staff.

Over the past several months, a number of the planning organizations have proposed their own targets for ARB to consider. Those recommendations and the sound technical work behind them form the basis of the proposals described in the current report.

Modeling to develop the targets also reflect demographic shifts and a changing housing market in California as baby-boomers (and many young people) are moving away from single-family suburban homes to smaller lots and multi-unit housing closer to a city’s center.

The resulting targets for the four main regions also recognize the significant differences among the regions and the need to address the specific needs and requirements of growth and development in each. The report outlines proposed targets of per capita greenhouse gas reductions of 7 to 8% by 2020, and between 13 and 16% in 2035 compared to 2005 levels.

A separate approach was developed for the eight planning organizations that comprise the San Joaquin Valley, establishing placeholder targets of a 5% reduction in per capita emissions in 2020, and a 10% reduction in 2035. Targets for the remaining six Metropolitan Planning Organizations—the Monterey, Butte, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Shasta, and Lake Tahoe regions—reflect each region’s current plans for 2020 and 2035.

Once the targets are finalized, cities within each planning region will work together with their regional planning agency on developing a Sustainable Community Strategy that outlines where growth and development will occur, and how the transportation system can support that growth, so that their region’s targets can be achieved. Cities and municipalities retain full local decision making and zoning authority. Regions that meet the targets will receive incentives in the form of easier access to federal funding and streamlined environmental review for development projects.

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