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Most California locals are tackling climate change -- and using parking reductions to do it

CP&DR Staff on
Jan 15, 2014

The vast majority of California jurisdictions are now addressing greenhouse gas emissions, and increasingly they are using reduced parking requirements to achieve the "smart growth" land use changes that go along with emissions reductions. 

That's the not-so-surprising conclusion of the annual Office of Planning & Research survey of local jurisdictions in California. The OPR survey covers a wide range of topics, but is very focused on the things OPR is currently focused on "smart growth" development strategies, climate change, and renewable energy.

Among other things, the survey shows just how deeply engrained in California planning climate change has become. More than 70% of jurisdictions said they are either preparing a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or are have already adopted one. This finding comes after a decade of being pounded by the state on the importance of GHG reductions through the passage of AB 32, SB 375, and lawsuits from the attorney general's office.

However, California jurisdictions are not nearly as far along in planning for climate adaptation. Only 36% say they are planning for adaptation.

In the case of both emissions reduction and adaptation, however, the vast majority of jurisdictions say they use climate action plans as the policy document.

OPR also conducted a detailed survey of different tools and what they are used for in achieving smart growth. Not surprisingly, the state density bonus law was most cited as the most common tool used to achieve higher densities more than 50% of jurisdictions reported using density bonuses to achieve higher densities. 

The survey also spoke to the frequency with which jurisdiction use specific plans in urban or smart growth settings about 50%, give or take, which is a surprising number considering the fact that specific plans were traditionally used most frequently to facilitate the development of large single-developer greenfield projects.

Perhaps most surprising, however, is the frequency with which California jurisdictions are now using reduced parking requirements in smart growth situations. As the chart below shows, more than 50% of the responding jurisdictions said they are using parking reductions to facilitate mixed use projects and close to 40% say they are doing so for infill projects generally. Parking reductions are less frequently used for higher density and transit-oriented development only about 25% in the latter case, though that may be partly due to the fact that TOD opportunities are concentrated in a relatively small number of jurisdictions with good transit service.