The First Sustainable Community Strategy Is Released - How Did it Fare?
By Traci Sheehan
California's Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act, or SB 375, is the nation's first legislation to link transportation and land use planning with global warming. The bill, passed in 2008, has the potential to truly transform California’s development practices by requiring local agencies to coordinate land-use, transportation and housing planning in order to curb sprawl, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lessen vehicle miles traveled, and promote social equity in our urban core. Such planning often happens in isolation in today’s regulatory structure.
While potentially transformative, SB 375 contained little in the way of enforcement; instead, it is incentive based, allowing regions to provide their own strategies to achieve the law’s goals. This makes it incumbent on local activists and concerned citizens to track what is happening at their planning agencies to ensure that SB 375 is being properly implemented on the ground.
San Diego is the first region to submit its draft Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS), and the feedback has been less than kind. The goal of SB 375 is to encourage infill development, create more walkable and bikeable communities, and reduce emissions through smart land use planning choices as opposed to what San Diego has proposed: massive road widening projects, getting more people to telecommute, and improve traffic flow by providing better signals and carpool incentives. In short, San Diego’s SCS remains fundamentally a ‘highway plan’ that continues to focus on building a city of the past, rather than a region for the future.
As the implementation of SB 375 moves forward and more regions within California submit their SCS’s, the Planning Conservation League plans to keep everyone updated and looks to work hard to create legislation that will uphold the framework of SB 375 and the true goals and intentions of the law.
Traci Sheehan is the Executive Director of The Planning and Conservation League, a statewide, nonprofit lobbying organization. For more than thirty years, PCL has fought to develop a body of environmental laws in California that is the best in the United States.