Now that the California Air Resources Board has released its draft targets for greenhouse gas emissions reduction under SB 375, it's time to do some math. What follows is nerdy and a little dense, but it's important – and planners need to be able to follow the bouncing ball on 375.
The bottom line is that the math doesn't yet add up – and that's because what AB 32 calls for and what California's regional planning agencies think is realistic don't line up with each other.
California Environmental Quality Act lawsuits may be the next victims of the state's ongoing recession. Democratic and Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation that follows up on Gov. Schwarzenegger's call to exempt 100 projects from judicial challenge based on the environmental law. Citing the ongoing recession, both supporters and opponents of the idea say this just might be the year that lawmakers are willing to take a bold strike at CEQA.
The Schwarzenegger administration's proposed state budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year promises more of the same, as the spending plan mostly mirrors the current year's version in regards to local government funding, infrastructure and land conservation.
State lawmakers have approved a bill that would exempt a proposed football stadium in the City of Industry from having to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, as well as state planning and zoning law. While Gov. Schwarzenegger has signed the stadium bill, he has vetoed some of the year's most significant land use bills. Among them: two fire-safety planning bills; legislation funding regional and local planning; and a bill giving local government more authority over the conversion of mobile home parks to condominiums.
State lawmakers wrapped up the first year of their two-year session without taking action on numerous bills regarding land use planning, development and natural resources. But some of the legislation could receive consideration before the end of the month because lawmakers are likely to return for special sessions called by Gov. Schwarzenegger.
The Legislature passed bills that would require fire safety to be a larger factor in land use planning, allow farmworker housing to be built on agricultural land and give local government the authority to limit the conversion of mobile home parks to resident-owned condominiums. Schwarzenegger has until October 11 to sign or veto the bills.
Two bills that would require greater consideration of fire safety in land use planning appear likely to reach the governor's desk before the Legislature recesses its regular session on September 11. Moreover, a late move to link the fire planning bills to disaster relief legislation could increase the chances that Gov. Schwarzenegger will actually sign the bills.
State lawmakers have introduced an extraordinarily diverse collection of bills regarding land use planning, natural resources and infrastructure this year. While lawmakers' interest in affordable housing and redevelopment reform appears to have waned, the number of bills related to climate change or renewable energy has increased dramatically in 2009.
Legislators have proposed at least five measures that would place water bonds before voters. Other measures are aimed at enhancing the health and changing the governance of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Bills concerned with development in fire-prone areas have returned after failing last year, as has a measure to ease use of tax increment financing for infrastructure around transit stations. There is also a bill that would raise vehicle license fees to fund at least some of the regional planning required by last year's SB 375.
Supporters and opponents alike are touting SB 375 as the most significant land use reform bill in recent California history. When he signed it in September, Gov. Schwarzenegger called it the biggest bill since the California Environmental Quality Act 38 as approved years ago. Meanwhile, the hilariously over-the-top Orange County Register has called the bill "one of the most authoritarian, far-reaching and elitist bills that has ever made it to the governor's desk." In fact, it is neither.
Construction activity may have declined dramatically, but the number of ballot measures seeking to slow or guide growth remains high. Voters across California will face close to 50 growth-related local ballot measures in November.
It's not unusual for the number of slow-growth measures to increase at the end of a real estate boom. Construction often continues and the real estate market dies, and slow-growth measures are often a reaction to construction rather than the market. In other words, slow-growth ballot measures are a lagging economic indicator of the real estate market. This November's total is down from the 78 measures on the November 2006 ballot, partly because California had two primaries this year.