Marten Law Group: California Promises to Streamline Environmental Review for Residential and Mixed-Use Projects that Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Marten Law Group: California Promises to Streamline Environmental Review for Residential and Mixed-Use Projects that Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

In this Emerging Issues Commentary, Alyssa Moir & Dustin Till of Marten Law Group discuss California Senate Bill 275, which uses the promise of a streamlined environmental review process to give incentives to developers to incorporate greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction strategies into new residential & mixed-use projects. The bill’s goal is to give housing developers a reason to build denser projects that reduce vehicles miles traveled and, ultimately, GHG emissions.

“To reduce GHG emissions from VMTs [vehicle miles traveled], the state and environmental advocacy groups have increasingly looked to traditional land use planning and permitting regimes, using the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) as a way to force review of GHG emissions impacts,” the authors write.  “Local governments, home builders and transportation authorities have pushed back, concerned about the current uncertainty in measuring and mitigating GHG impacts, the loss of control over land-use decisions, and possible loss of highway transportation funding. SB 375 emerged as a compromise to address these competing interests. . . .

“SB 375 directs CARB [the California Air Resources Board] to establish regional greenhouse gas reduction targets for emissions from automobiles and light trucks for 2020 and 2035. In setting these targets, CARB must consider a list of factors and their effects on greenhouse gas emissions, including the impacts of jobs-housing balance on interregional travel, reductions by improved vehicle emissions standards, and changes in fuel composition.

“Each of California’s 18 metropolitan planning organizations must, in turn, devise a sustainable community strategy (SCS) and incorporate it into their regional transportation plans in order to meet the greenhouse gas reduction targets established by CARB.”

SB 375 provides relaxed CEQA requirements for two types of development projects, but only if they are consistent with the applicable SCS, and the authors explain both types of projects.

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