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Local News

Communities Get Rolling on Developing Sustainable Transit, Land Use Plans

SBCAG's approach for meeting SB 375 standards to curb emissions and sprawl is raising red flags for one environmental group

Communities in Santa Barbara County and throughout California have been working to meet the state’s Senate Bill 375 obligations by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, curbing suburban sprawl and expanding public transit.

SB 375, also known as the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008, is designed to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions by revamping regional transportation and land use strategies for the next 25 years.

The Senate bill stems from Assembly Bill 32, the nation’s first law to limit emissions in 2006. The landmark measure required the state to cut emissions by about 30 percent. SB 375 was enacted to specifically address the transportation and land use components through a “sustainable community strategy.”

These strategies, according to a recent study by the Urban Land Institute, will promote compact development patterns near transit, support transit use, and coordinate the location of employment and housing. Those, in turn, will produce shorter commutes and less fossil fuel consumption.

“SB 375 will help the state, communities and developers meet the shifting market demand for housing, diversify the housing offerings on the market, allocate public resources more efficiently and ensure a better quality of life,” according to the report.

Supporters of the law say it will produce cleaner air and improve people’s mobility while curbing emissions. The California High-Speed Rail Authority said in a news release that SB 375 will save the average home more than $6,000 a year.

The release estimates that by 2050, the law will have saved $194 billion in infrastructure costs, 140 billion gallons of gas, more open space than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined, enough water to fill the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park more than 50 times, enough energy to power every home in the state for eight years, and help Californians drive 3.7 trillion fewer miles.

With goals set by the California Air Resources Board, 18 of the state’s metropolitan planning agencies will devise ways to reduce the amount of vehicle miles traveled. Also, any cuts in emissions under SB 375 would be on top of reductions from new car-emission standards and low-carbon fuel requirements.

The targets, which will be finalized by the California Air Resources Board in September, were released about a week ago.

Santa Barbara’s planning agency, the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, projected a 6 percent increase in per capita greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 while San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties are calling for 8 percent decreases. Santa Barbara ranks 17th out of 18 regions in its ability to reduce emissions.

The Community Environmental Council contends that SBCAG isn’t doing enough to maximize emission reduction potential.

It’s significant, CEC officials say, because Santa Barbara County consistently has one of the highest per capita rates of vehicle miles traveled in the state and an acute jobs-housing imbalance. Also, the county is investing nearly all transportation development act funds on transit improvements and witnessing large increases in transit ridership.

There is time until the targets are finalized, which the California Air Resources Board expects to approve by Sept. 30.

The SBCAG board will meet to discuss its plan at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 19 in the Board of Supervisors Hearing Room on the fourth floor of the County Administration Building, 105 E. Anapamu St.

Noozhawk intern Alex Kacik is a graduate of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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