California Set to Adopt Nation's First Anti-Sprawl Law

los angeles sprawl photo

Image from dsearls

While it remains to be seen whether California will be able to successfully meet the rigorous guidelines it laid out in its landmark AB 32 bill, the state is on the cusp of taking a huge step forward with the imminent adoption of SB 375. The bill, which would reduce sprawl by requiring California's 17 metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) and its regional transportation plans to meet strict GHG emission targets, was sponsored by Darrel Steinberg (D-Sacramento), the incoming state Senate Leader.

As LAT's Margot Roosevelt reports, the bill could go before the full Assembly as soon as tomorrow, to the Senate this Friday and on to the Governator's desk for his signature.

san francisco sprawl photo

Image from Phillie Casablanca
Renewable energy and fuel-efficient cars not sufficient to meet AB 32's tough guidelines
Investing in renewable energy and lowering the amount of miles driven will help, Steinberg said, but it won't be enough for the state to reduce its emissions 30% by 2020. To reach this goal, local officials and builders will also need to curb sprawl and make sound urban planning their focus. The targets hammered out in the new bill will be enforced by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

An earlier version of the bill had been blocked last year by (surprise, surprise) builders and local government organizations, which had objected to its stringent provisions granting more powers to state officials. I haven't yet seen any studies or reports linking better urban planning/sprawl reduction to emission cuts (I'm sure it's probably because I haven't looked hard enough), but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize the potential benefits could be significant.

While I probably don't need to tell you that sprawl is uniformly bad (even this so-called "green" sprawl) -- both for the environment and for the sake of fostering sustainable communities (among others) -- it can't hurt to get this primer from the Environmental Law Institute:

1. Sprawl development contributes to a loss of support for public facilities and public amenities.
2. Sprawl undermines effective maintenance of existing infrastructure.
3. Sprawl increases societal costs for transportation.
4. Sprawl consumes more resources than other development patterns.
5. Sprawl separates urban poor people from jobs.
6. Sprawl imposes a tax on time.
7. Sprawl degrades water and air quality.
8. Sprawl results in the permanent alteration and destruction of habitats.
9. Sprawl creates difficulty in maintaining community.
10. Sprawl offers the promise of choice while only delivering more of the same.

Via ::Green Car Congress: California to Adopt Anti-Sprawl Law (news website)

More about sprawl
::The Problems with Green Sprawl
::Ten Things Wrong With Sprawl
::Uncovering an Ancient City Felled by Urban Sprawl

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