SB 375 sends the right message

Reducing greenhouse gases a pipe dream without land-use shifts

As the Butte County Board of Supervisors evaluates land-use options for updating the general plan, legislators in Sacramento will face a similar deliberation. That’s because Senate Bill 375 has headed to the Assembly, where passage would send it to the governor’s desk for signing.

SB 375 would offer incentives for local governments to adopt growth strategies that support “infill” development near transportation hubs and employment centers, giving residents the opportunity to make fewer car trips per day and helping to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. It was authored by Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), who knows that in order to reach the goals of the state’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act—a 25 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020—Californians will need to do more than replace a few light bulbs and recycle some cans. We’ll need to address larger issues of where people will live.

Like the general-plan update, this is long overdue. For almost half a century, California’s land-use policies have tended to favor sprawl over infill development, and the results speak for themselves.

Developers have all too often found that state environmental reviews have made it more difficult to gain approval for projects within cities than for projects outside existing urban cores. It’s been cheaper and easier to buy up cheap rural land; build vast expanses of tract-home developments lacking employment centers, schools and services; and let the state pay for the roads and infrastructure needed to link these “leapfrog” developments to the places where residents will work, go to school and shop.

With California predicted to gain as many as 11 million new residents by 2025, there simply is no way to make the required emissions reduction without addressing land-use issues and growth. SB 375 points the way toward a future where we can accommodate the need for new housing yet still reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and fight global warming. We urge the Assembly to pass it, the governor to sign it and county leaders to follow its example.