One of the reasons California is experiencing a housing crisis is that state politicians have enacted silly and selfish climate laws that make it very difficult and expensive to build homes unless they are stuck in a already developed area.
The laws are silly because California produces about 1% of the world’s greenhouse gases, and even a complete shutdown of the state would have no effect on the global climate. They are selfish because at the mention of this fact, politicians stick their chin out and say that California needs to show leadership.
One of those laws is Senate Bill 743, signed by then Governor Jerry Brown in 2013. SB 743 is an “anti-sprawl” law that penalizes housing development projects for having increased the state’s total “vehicle kilometers traveled” or VMT. The idea is to force the development of “urban infill” near public transport and prevent new plots of suburban houses with garages for two cars.
SB 743 came into effect in July 2020. If you are wondering why it took so long, it’s because countless bureaucrats and consultants took so long to figure out how to calculate and implement this. new standard without suing every California government agency.
But a statewide coalition of community and minority advocates called “The Two Hundred” filed a lawsuit in San Bernardino County last year in an attempt to stop the implementation of the SB. 743. The group estimated that the requirement to mitigate “vehicle kilometers” by residents of new homes would add $ 40,000 or more to the cost of a home, depending on the percentage of VMT that needed to be mitigated in order to obtain approval for a particular development.
“It’s not a good day for minority Californians looking to own homeowners,” said group lawyer Jennifer Hernandez, who described herself as a Democrat from Berkeley. “It’s not about greenhouse gases, it’s about forcing people to get on elevators as tenants and take the bus.”
The mechanism for this process is the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, enacted by then Governor Ronald Reagan in 1970. Its purpose was to create transparency about the environmental impact of virtually any project requiring approval. ‘a public body. The law requires studies, reports and public comment before a shovel is driven into the ground. It also opens the door to costly lawsuits and delays.
It is one thing if the definition of “impact” refers to the area in which the project is located. It is different if the definition of “impact” is broadened to mean any potential effect on the earth’s climate – without the slightest need to provide evidence that the global climate would be measurably affected by the project.
Under CEQA combined with SB 743, suburban housing estates can be held hostage by requests for “mitigation” from a local agency, unions, competitors, pressure groups – anyone with enough money and lawyers can play this game.
But what are these “mitigations” and what do they accomplish?
Prior to SB 743, projects were analyzed for their impact on traffic, a metric called “level of service” or LOS. If a project were to slow traffic, a developer might have been forced to mitigate the impact by paying for the widening of a road or the installation of another traffic light. After SB 743, with LOS replaced by “kilometers traveled by vehicles”, acceptable mitigation measures for the impact of VMT may include the construction of bicycle lanes or footpaths, perhaps not even in the same area as the project, or the payment of high fees.
Because CEQA allows government agencies to require developers to bear the cost of mitigating the impact of their projects, and because driving is now considered an impact, SB 743 intentionally increased the cost of impact mitigation. cost of building new homes.
“The use of VMT as a measure of performance instead of level of service is intended to discourage suburban sprawl,” the Sacramento Area Council of Governments explained in its June 2020 report on SB 743 “ Implementation tools ”.
The Two Hundred Coalition says this is preventing people from owning property. In a letter last year to the Southern California Council of Governments following the adoption of a 25-year plan, the group wrote: “The Latin American, African American and Asian families (as well as the students and our young workforce) are disproportionately victims of the confluence of massively destructive state, regional and local housing policy choices. SCAG needs to be part of the housing solution – but this plan exacerbates all of those problems by recognizing a single political goal – to reduce vehicle miles.
In 2018, The Two Hundred sued the California Air Resources Board, alleging that the agency’s greenhouse gas regulations had caused disproportionate harm to minorities. California’s climate policies ensure that the prices of housing, transportation and electricity will continue to rise as jobs ‘bridge’ to the middle class for those without a college degree, such as the manufacturing and logistics, will continue to locate in other states, ”the lawsuit said. The group also filed a civil rights lawsuit against the state in 2019, arguing that state regulations “exacerbate the housing crisis and the crisis of poverty and homelessness.”
California climate laws have very negative consequences for the people of California. What are these laws doing for the global climate? Try asking a politician to answer this question.
Now-Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg was the author of SB 743 and another “anti-sprawl” law, SB 375, enacted in 2008. These two laws made it harder to build homes in California. and more expensive.
Laws can be repealed. If politicians are serious about building more housing in California, a review of climate laws that needlessly interfere with that goal should be on the table.
Write to Susan Shelley: [email protected] and follow her on Twitter: @Susan_Shelley.