Tuesday, December 20, 2011

PCL Insider for December 19, 2011

The Planning and Conservation League
 PCL INSIDER: News from the Capitol


Last week, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) released a study detailing how California’s four largest metropolitan areas (Sacramento, Bay Area, Southern California and San Diego), which make up 80 percent of the state’s population, are seeing a trend in locational demands for housing. The dream of owning a home out in the suburbs seems to be shifting as young professionals, and those entering the workforce, care more about living in close proximity to areas served by mass transit, with better access to goods, services and their employment.  California’s most transformative recent environmental legislation, AB 32 and SB 375 (which, taken together, seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through more sustainable planning), seem to be aligning with the personal preferences of California residents. In fact, according to the ULI study, nearly “9 million households would like the option to live in locations served by public transit, but today only about 1.2 million California households can claim to have it.”  This fact alone should make enough of a case to cities, counties, developers and planners that sprawl development has become outdated, and is no longer the desired option as and more and more residents are heading for urban dwellings and high density housing options. 

Even as California’s population is projected to grow by 4 million people by 2020 and 12 million by 2035, there is already enough large lot, single family housing within the four major Metropolitan Planning Areas (MPO) that not one more house needs to be built to accommodate the expected population growth and demand for this type of housing for the next 23 years.  This in an obvious indicator of the change in desire for housing type; further stressing the point is that demand for housing close to transit stops is so high that if all new homes built until 2035 were placed next to transit stops, we still wouldn’t meet the demand. 

Now, as each of the 18 MPOs throughout California drafts its Sustainable Community Strategies (as required by SB 375), we hope they will take into account the growing demand for urban development over sprawl as we seek to get California on track environmentally and economically. As we continue to focus on better regional planning, in 2012 the Planning and Conservation League will also sponsor The Healthy Neighborhoods Act, authored by Assemblymember Roger Dickinson, which seeks to reduce the amount of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) at the project level by rewarding infill development and fostering improved project design and travel demand management programs. There will be more to come on this bill as the Legislature reconvenes in January.


Planning for California’s future and the future of our local communities involves a variety laws and ways to achieve better development projects.  Two sessions at the 2012 Symposium will focus on the legal issues surround regulatory reform and ballot box planning.

The Threat and Reality of Regulatory Reform

At its most basic level, regulatory reform focuses on making improvements to the quality of governmental regulations.   The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is perhaps the primary – but certainly not the only – law that has undergone regulatory changes in recent sessions. So, how do we make sure CEQA remains a vital law that effectively requires that environmental impacts of projects are evaluated and mitigated, and that decision-makers and the public are properly informed of a project’s impacts? And what other environmental laws may be on the chopping block?   This panel will focus on the latest legal and legislative developments for proposed regulatory reform, and how Californians can get in front of a ‘real reform’ agenda. 

  • Michael Endicott, Sierra Club
  • Kip Lipper, Office of Senator Darrell Steinberg
  • Keith Wagner, Lippe Gaffney Wagner LLP

Recent Trends in Ballot Box Planning

“Ballot Box Planning,” as it is commonly referred to, is a method by which voters directly decide the fate of a specific project or land use regulations in general.  More and more often, initiatives and referenda are used to overturn planning decisions on local development projects.  This session will focus on current trends in ballot box planning, including legal challenges, a local activist perspective, and a case study on Wal-Mart’s efforts to circumvent CEQA and other environmental laws through the initiative process.

  • Tal Finney, Dongell Lawrence and Finney LLP
  • Robert “Perl” Perlmutter, Shute Mihaly and Weinberger LLP
  • Theresa Sears, Resident City of Orange

The Annual Environmental Legislative Symposium is Saturday, January 28, 2012 at the Sacramento Convention Center.  Early bird (discounted) registration is available through December 31.  We’ve secured a room block at the Citizen Hotel, room reservations must be made by January 6, 2012.


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1 comment:

  1. This might be a good heads up for everyone especially for the whole of California. With 2012 coming and nearing, I think they should well ponder on this one as much as possible.

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