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Who says we can drive less?


California is about to adopt the nation's first legislation to control planet-warming gases by curbing sprawl. The bill, SB 375, sponsored by incoming state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), is expected to go before the Assembly as early as Thursday, to the Senate on Friday and then on to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for his signature.

The controversial legislation had been blocked last year by the building industry and by organizations representing cities and counties. Developers feared their suburban projects would be delayed or halted. Local officials were wary of ceding zoning powers and transportation planning to the state.

But California's landmark global warming law, passed in 2006, requires the state's greenhouse gas emissions to be slashed to 1990 levels by 2020, amounting to a 30% cut over expected levels. To accomplish that, state officials say, fuel-efficient cars and factories won't be enough. Subdivisions, commercial centers and highways must be planned so that Californians can live and work closer together, reducing the amount they drive. "Our communities must change the way they grow," Steinberg said.

A compromise version of the 17,000-word bill was hammered out this month and endorsed by builders, environmentalists and local officials. It will require the state's 17 metropolitan planning organizations and its regional transportation plans to meet concrete targets to reduce their global-warming emissions. The targets will be enforced by the state Air Resources Board.

Scientists agree that the earth is heating up at a dangerous pace, in part because of carbon dioxide and other gases from gasoline engines, power plants and other man-made sources. Global warming has already begun melting glaciers and polar ice, which could raise sea levels along coasts in California and elsewhere. Water supplies could become scarcer and many species of plants and animals could become endangered in the state, according to researchers.

Ann Notthoff, a California lobbyist for the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the Steinberg bill "historic," adding: "It will slow the insidious growth in miles driven by California drivers, which threatens to overwhelm other efforts to reduce heat-trapping pollution. It will result in better-designed communities with less spread out development. And consumers will save money during this era of rising gas prices."

-- Margot Roosevelt

Photo: Traffic on Interstate 5 outside Los Angeles. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (8)

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Jackmay said: The result is less money for roads which leads to higher stop and go congestion which produces increased fuel consumption, exponentially higher pollution, and increased CO2.

Which is just wrong (or is maybe a purposeful lie). Many studies have found that increasing mass transit options reduces traffic and thus reduces the need for new highways. On the other hand, studies also show that as you build new highways, more cars come along to fill them up which means more traffic, more congestion, more emissions, and a need for more highways.

And that's only one thing jack was lying about.

Re: David Pettit's comments on reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled, the benefits of shorter commutes aren't just environmental--they make for a better quality of life. Having experienced a bit of it living overseas, I can certainly say I prefer the extra time spent with my family not sitting in the car.

Regarding "Legislature takes aim at urban sprawl" Aug. 21):

According to the California Department of Finance, Demographics Department, the city of Los Angeles now has a population of more than 4 million people.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau's "Annual Projections of the Total Resident Population as of July 1: Middle, Lowest, Highest, and Zero International Migration Series, 1999 to 2100", we've been on pace since 1999 to reach that "Highest" series population projection level of---get this---one BILLION people nationwide by 2089---and growing.
It seems to me that by simply attempting to accommodate such a humongous growth in our population thru growing more vertically than horizontally (seemingly the essentials of so-called "smart" growth) is like planning to shrink our ever-widening bunions footprint, in exchange for a rise in a less obvious, at first, increasingly heel spurs "solution" to our growing overcrowding problems.
According to the same, Census Bureau, mind you, projections, with "Zero International Migration" (i.e., from 2000 to 2089)we would have a much more livable total population of just over 364 million come 2089. (Simply reducing our annual immigration quotas from a million a year to, say, one hundred thousand, would surely have a similar salutary effect in itself.)
So, talk about immigration reform (which we aren't doing much of in this presidential camapaign so far, obviously), how about our beginning a debate over an even more comprehensive, population growth rate policies' reform---STAT!

Harvey Pearson
Los Angeles


Transit is the most environmentally form of transportation. Its high cost, which is 25 time higher per users than roads. The result is less money for roads which leads to higher stop and go congestion which produces increased fuel consumption, exponentially higher pollution, and increased CO2. The people that push for more transit are know to be in a category called "Technology Laggards". They think everything in the past was better than the present. Passenger rail transit peaked in the 1890's and essentially died in the 1960's. Apparently the legislators are just basing their plans on urban legends, not on actual analysis by experts

@Mike Nelson I believe the point that your missing about the liberals all taking mass transit instead of driving misses part of the equation. In the built environment we have today the ability to use mass transit is impacted negatively. And although I don't know the details of this bill, it sounds as if they are looking at the built environment as a way to reduce pollution and congestion which they should.

hey mike. i work from home. 10,000 times better for the environment than any transportation or sprawl legislation. your turn.

If all the liberals in California (more than 15 million) would stop driving their automobiles and only take public transportation, we would easily cut our GHG emissions by 30% by 2020. It is really that simple. But they refuse to do so, so we are stuck with a mammoth new government bureaucracy to regulate GHG. If the liberals can't even be persuaded to go green, what is the point? Do you know any liberal friends who use public transportation. None of the Al Gore bumper sticker residents on my street do.

Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) has been rising faster than the rate of population growth and faster than the rate of new car registrations. SB 375 is an intelligent attempt to reverse this trend by providing incentives for new development where people can live close to work or close to public transit. Without substantial reductions in VMT, the goals of AB 32 will be in danger.


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