Global Warming | Local Planning | SB 375

With much fanfare, the Governor recently signed SB 375 (See Governor's online "Fact Sheet" - This complex piece of legislation is intended to direct development toward regional transportation networks, with the ultimate goal of helping California address potential global warming impacts. Although uncertainty exists today about the significance of the legislation, SB 375 carries the potential to cause the same type of sea change in future land use decision making as did the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) when it was first introduced.

One thing is certain. Anyone interested in development or redevelopment within any of the state’s 18 metropolitan planning areas will need to monitor how SB 375 is implemented. For the first time, local planning will be directly affected by the actions and plans of other agencies, notably the California Air Resources Board and each region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)1. For some, development will get easier. For others, opportunities may be forever lost as this regulatory regime may shift billions of dollars of land value across the state.

In the short term, as SB 375 creates new development-related acronyms and new development-related powers, you will want to add and/or reinforce the following acronyms to your lexicon:

  • GHG: Greenhouse Gas
  • CARB: The California Air Resources Board
  • MPOs: Metropolitan Planning Organizations, such as SCAG and ABAG/MTC
  • RTP: Regional Transportation Plan
  • RHNA: Regional Housing Needs Allocation
  • SCS: Sustainable Communities Strategy
  • APS: Alternative Planning Strategy

Here are some key provisions of the bill:

  • The CARB, after consultation with MPO’s, will set GHG reduction targets for various regions of the state by June 30, 2010;
  • Each MPO, in consultation with cities and counties and CARB will prepare a regional SCS. The SCS will be part of the RTP. The SCS will also set forth a forecasted development pattern for the region designed and intended to achieve the GHG reduction targets. Although SB 375 states that an SCS will not regulate the use of land, its intended purpose is to determine where dense residential development should occur within each region, and to reward local agencies and/or developers who plan and build accordingly;
  • If an SCS fails to meet CARB’s GHG reduction targets, the MPO is required to prepare an APS; an APS could include an alternative development pattern for the region designed to achieve the GHG reduction targets;
  • Future RTP funding decisions are required to be consistent with the SCS;
  • RHNAs will seek to implement the SCS. Cities and counties are required to rezone land necessary to accommodate RHNAs for all income levels and can be sued if they fail to do so;
  • Certain Transit Priority Projects that are consistent with the SCS or APS and meet a list of other environmental and land use criteria will be exempt from CEQA. To encourage development consistent with the GHG reduction goals, other projects may be able to use a short form of environmental assessment in lieu of the traditional CEQA process.

SB 375 requires multiple public meetings throughout the state to implement its various provisions. For example, regional GHG reduction targets and SCSs will be approved only after one or several public meetings. As noted previously, everyone involved with development in California should be prepared to monitor or participate in those proceedings. If you would like Luce Forward’s assistance in that regard or should have any questions about SB 375, please contact Tim Tosta, Brian Fish, John Truxaw, Steve Atkinson, Jennifer Renk, Clint Callan or any other member of Luce Forward’s Land Use Group.



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