Saturday, June 27, 2009

Let's Grow Our Way Into Reducing CO2!

What has the graphic above got to do with SB 375? It's the whole enchilada.

SB 375 essentially establishes unofficial growth boundaries in California (similar to Portland's urban boundary strategies) but in exchange it strips local governments of the protections under CEQA for projects that have transportation or housing elements within urban boundaries, and enforces the imposed housing numbers developed by SCAG. Devil's bargain, just like Prop 13 has turned out to be. Major proposed regional transit projects (which are actually cargo transit networks) that induce local growth would no longer be stoppable by small communities using CEQA, it strips cities of local control. It pits anticipated regional economic growth against the integrity of the local communities.

An analysis of the bill shows the following:

Opposition to this bill (many transit agencies and Counties) stated:

"SB 375 changes the well-established criteria for funding transportation projects through the STIP by imposing new, limiting criteria to determine if a project qualifies for funding. That new criteria focuses primarily on the location of a project. If a project is located within a preferred growth area it will likely qualify for funding. If the project is outside of a preferred growth area it doesn't even qualify to be considered for funding."

Author's amendments: The author proposes the following amendment to allow the individual counties within the SCAG area to develop transportation objectives to serve their own county residents, providing an option to having the preferred growth scenario independently developed through SCAG's regional governance perspective: Within a multi-county regional transportation agency, a county and the cities within the county may propose to the regional transportation agency a preferred growth scenario for that county. The regional transportation planning agency may adopt the county preferred growth scenario as part of the region's preferred growth scenario provided that the region's preferred growth scenario is consistent with the other provisions subparagraph (b)(2)

US National policy is now aimed at local supply of food and energy, not at the "supply import scenario" that this model for SB 375 is based upon. This agenda by SCAG is to increase the shipping and cargo infrastructure from the Port in San Pedro, a major contributor to carbon emissions and the underlying cause of massive amounts of energy use, pollution and waste generation, as well as the significant water consumption created by construction projects. SCAG is simply chasing the regional profits at the expense of the residents - the usual model of privatize profit, push the consequences to the public sector. Except that's building for an economy that happened in the decade behind us, not the decades that will be ahead of us.

The "Strength of Cities" approach outlines an appropriate Federal Urban public policy to reinforce the health of the big urban centers, focused on pedestrian transport linkages, walkability, green open spaces and an emphasis on regenerative strategies. This is a rebuild and streamline scenario that reduces consumption, not an economic growth model of "more building". Over investing in housing is financially leveraging the most unproductive form of capital.

Nouriel Roubini is quoted by James Fallows in the Atlantic July/August issue: "You know, the potential for our future growth is going to be lower, because of the excesses we've had. Sustainable growth may mean investing slowly in infrastructures for the future, and rebuilding our human capital. Renewable resources. Maybe nanotechnology? We don't know what it's going to be. There are parts of the economy we can expect to be more sustainable and less bubble-like growth. But it's going to be a challenge to find a new growth model. It's not going to be simple."