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Solutions for Climate Change, Greenhouse Gases, and Global Warming - Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act - California SB 375

By Ms. Alene M. Taber

In this Emerging Issues commentary, Alene M. Taber, an attorney with the firm of Jackson DeMarco Tidus Peckenpaugh, discusses California's landmark SB 375 legislation, the "Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act." The challenges posed by the legislation are analyzed. Ms. Taber also includes a guide for developers and developments to help survive this act. She writes:


"SB 375 was an outgrowth of California's Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32). It was based in part upon assumptions that the numbers of miles passenger vehicles are driven needs to be decreased in order to reduce GHG emissions, and that by redesigning communities people will drive less []. However, decreasing the amount of GHG emitted by passenger vehicles depends upon a trifecta of sorts: (1) carbon content of vehicle fuel; (2) vehicle fuel efficiency; and (3) the number of miles the vehicle travels. The first two are technological fixes to fuels and the vehicle, while the last element requires changes in human behavior."

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"Achieving any GHG benefit from VMT reductions will be a formidable task. Whether this new emphasis on redesigning communities will cause Californians to give up their cars to walk or ride the bus is anyone's guess. Despite the herculean efforts of planners and developers to improve urban connectivity, linkages to transit, and walkability, per capita VMT has increased steadily until very recently. Per capita VMT reached a plateau in 2004 and then dropped in 2007 for the first time since 1980. [Puentes, Robert and Tomer, A., The Road Less Traveled: An Analysis of Vehicle Miles Traveled Trends in the U.S., Brookings Institute (December 16, 2008).] Whether the modest decline in 2007 is due to fuel prices, the recession, unemployment, a desire for a less auto-dependent lifestyles, or whether per capita VMT will resume its upward trend when the economy turns around remains to be seen."

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"Once the GHG targets are adopted by CARB, the MPOs will begin preparing their SCS/APS. These plans will establish yet another standard and hurdle for development. Below are some strategies that developers and their advisors can employ to better position their development projects for SB 375 compliance."

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