WHEN URBAN PLANNING MANDATES FAIL TO CONSIDER CHANGING TECHNOLOGIES
When SB375 was approved in 2008, one of its main objectives was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles by reducing the miles they travel. That seemed to make good sense. An estimated 40 percent of California GHGs come from automobiles. Fewer miles traveled, fewer GHGs. To accomplish this, SB375 required large metropolitan regions like the Bay Area to prioritize building the vast majority of new housing in existing dense urban areas close to mass transit. Except that SB 375 failed to consider that not all vehicle miles travelled (VMTs) are created the same. Last year, California became the first state with more than 100,000 electric and hybrid vehicles on the road, with sales of these vehicles doubling from 2012-2013 and appearing to be on a similar pace for 2014.
The Bay Area Council is concerned that the disconnect between SB375 and changing automobile technology will have serious unwanted and unintended consequences in how we plan and invest to meet our future housing and transportation needs. At the same time we face a drastic housing supply and affordability crisis, the Bay Area is already 30 percent behind in meeting regional goals set under SB375 for creating new housing. Without sufficient housing, rising prices push out low- and middle-class workers and make attracting new workforce talent increasingly expensive. SB375 should be amended to recognize that not all VMTs are created equal and give credit not only for reducing VMTs but for successfully fostering and growing the use of low and zero emission vehicles. The Council is now exploring ways to amend SB375 to address this problem. To engage in our regional planning work, contact Vice President Matt Regan.