Three Perspectives on CA's 'Smart Growth' Bill

The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Sacramento Bee editorialize on the signing of SB 375, California's new landmark law that is intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing vehicle miles traveled through better land use.

From the New York Times:

"For years, while Washington slept, most of the serious work on climate change has occurred in the states, and no state has worked harder than California. The latest example of California's originality is a new law - the nation's first - intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by curbing urban sprawl and cutting back the time people have to spend in their automobiles."

"The bill contains significant incentives, including the promise of substantial federal and state money to regions whose plans pass muster. In addition, and with the consent of the environmental community, the state will relax various environmental rules to allow "infill" - higher-density land use in or near cities and towns.

Given California's size, these and other initiatives will help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions."

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

"It's a novel answer in many ways. While California has churned out rules for high-mileage vehicles, solar panels, clean-burning fuel, and efficient energy use, it's overlooked the everyday problem of long commute times from distant suburbs in carbon dioxide-spewing cars and trucks."

"The bill may take years to show its effects. As new homes and apartments go up, there could be a break from California-style sprawl as construction fills in city lots and residents see the opportunities close to city centers. On the atmospheric scale, some 30 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions presently come from cars and trucks, a figure that could gradually drop as driving patterns shift from distant suburbs to shorter routes closer to work."

From the Sacramento Bee:

"More than any previous law, Steinberg's seeks to address one of California's nagging flaws – its Wild West patterns of development. Housing separated from jobs has led to traffic jams, smog, long-distance commutes, loss of valuable farmland and transit systems that can't easily build ridership.

SB 375, by itself, won't stop this kind of "dumb growth." But it will discourage it – and help create more sustainable communities – with a mix of incentives and regulatory relief."

Thanks to Virginia Harris

Full Story: Editorial: Cut the Sprawl, Cut the Warming



Paul Shigley's picture

A Fourth Perspective

The Orange County Register has a little different take on SB 375. Very entertaining.

My fifth perspective

there are probably many more as well. My general thought on this bill is that it is like the Clean Air Act in that it penalizes and rewards government entities, not consumers, for actual emissions or reductions in them. There are some problems with this. What if a municipality in a certain region enourages some new smart growth projects that get built, but still exist in an overall metropolitan pattern of sprawl and emissions go up, not down? If mode switch does not occur, higher density will mean more pollution, not less. Thus, the region will be penalized, correct? For encouraging denser projects?

There would be far less red tape and far more positive results if CA just passed a VMT tax based on vehicle weight and age, charged at registration time. Then, they could relax, modify, or eliminate CEQA and developers would respond to the new needs of consumers (if zoniung would allow it-another problem).

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