Senate Bill 375 – the so-called “climate change smart-growth bill” – is going to become a law if Sacramento politicians ever agree on a state spending plan.
The law, which has had scant public scrutiny to date, is a broadly-defined growth management law, which ties transportation funding to growth patterns.
Ideas similar to those in SB375 have been kicked around the state Capitol for the past two decades.
But until the passage of Assembly Bill 32 – a mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by issuing carbon credits – there was no issue in Sacramento overpowering enough to break the decades-old logjam among environmentalists, the powerful construction industry and city and county governments.
Depending on your perspective, SB375 is either the reductio ad absurdum of the climate change law—or its logical successor.
The law calls for each region in California to create a preferred growth scenario that will cut greenhouse gas emissions.
It also ties state transportation funds to projects that conform to that scenario.
This is the key idea contained in the smart-growth bill, mirroring a similar effort put into place in Maryland about a decade a go.
A policy similar to that contained in SB375 is in effect in Contra Costa County thanks to a 1990 growth management initiative, which created an urban limit line and requires city and county governments to adhere to a growth policy to qualify for transportation funds.
The goal is to put cities and towns in a growth management vise, where the only way they can meet both housing and “smart-growth” mandates is to build much higher density communities.
Schwarzenegger also is pushing his “strategic growth council,” which is supposed to address growth issues, but seems to be designed to promote public-private partnerships on transportation construction projects.
One of the problems with SB375 is that nobody has asked whether California’s suburb-loving families are willing to buy the high-density housing the new laws will force builders to erect.
This is a big roll of the dice for a state that is without a fiscal 2008-09 spending plan in September.
Getting AB32 up and running first might be a better idea.