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Landmark Land Use Bill to Cut Sprawl and Carbon Emissions

Marking the largest change in California land use laws in a generation, the California legislature has approved SB 375, a bill which promotes both affordable housing and less sprawl in the state.  In a coalition as landmark as the legislation itself, affordable housing advocates, the building industry, environmentalists, and local governments came together to endorse legislation that will encourage more compact development along transit corridors.  The legislation's key feature is to integrate what are now three separate planning processes -- regional development, affordable housing and transit development -- into a synchronized system.  This is considered a critical step in achieving California's goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as established in 2006 through AB 32.

Key Features of SB 375 include:

  • Transportation and planning:  The California Air Resources Board (CARB) will set regional greenhouse gas reduction targets, which will then be incorporated into each region's Regional Transportation Plan (RTP).

  • Housing Planning:  Local jurisdictions' share of regional affordable housing will become aligned with the land use plan.

  • Anti-Sprawl Incentives:  New developments that follow transportation planning needs will get quicker approval under state environmental review systems.  Local governments will also have regulatory and other incentives to encourage more compact new development and transportation alternatives.

The bill was supported by the California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) who were elated over passage and have now turned their attention to Governor Schwarzenegger, who must sign the bill for it to be enacted.  Tom Adams, CLCV Board President, said “SB 375 is not just another example of California’s national environmental leadership. That the cradle of car culture is the first to tackle the global warming problem of long commutes is a watershed moment.”?

California's SB 375 is building on a range of smart policies, from inclusionary zoning to financial incentives for higher density communities, in order to better coordinate state planning and local municipal zoning while also promoting more affordable housing and smarter, more environmentally sustainable growth in California.

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