Louinda Vosloo Lacey
B.S., California State University, Sacramento, 2006
Submitted in partial satisfaction of
the requirements for the degree of
A Thesis
Louinda Vosloo Lacey
Approved by:
__________________________________, Committee Chair
Dr. Sudhir Thakur
__________________________________, Second Reader
Dr. John LaRocco
Student: Louinda Vosloo Lacey
I certify that this student has met the requirements for format contained in the
University format manual, and that this thesis is suitable for shelving in the Library
and credit is to be awarded for the Thesis.
Monica Lam, Ph.D.
Associate Dean for Graduate and External Programs
College of Business Administration
Louinda Vosloo Lacey
This Thesis seeks to determine whether SB 375 will successfully change land
use development patterns in California. Specifically, the Thesis focuses on the
fiscal and political barriers to the successful implementation of this Bill. Further,
this Thesis provides a case study of the potential for successful implementation of
the Bill in the San Joaquin Valley. The Thesis focuses on the San Joaquin Valley
because: 1) the area is projected to have the greatest population growth by 2050,
and 2) the California Air Resources Board set a single placeholder target for
greenhouse gas emissions reduction for each of the eight San Joaquin Valley
Metropolitan Planning Organizations.
This Thesis uses both qualitative and quantitative data to analyze the
foregoing problem. The qualitative data was mainly obtained from prior academic
studies and surveys in the relevant subject areas, including public policy, legal
studies and finance. The quantitative data was mainly obtained from California
government agencies (such as the California Employment Development
Department, California Department of Finance, California State Controller’s Office
and California State Board of Equalization), the United States Census Bureau, and
data compilations from academic studies.
This Thesis concludes that the present fiscal constraints on California’s
counties will require an allocation of land use development to increase property
taxes. As a result, counties will likely disregard SB 375’s goals to the extent that
they conflict with the maximization of property tax revenues. Further, the political
climate may require additional regulations to facilitate local governments’
compliance with SB 375, through the use of mandates, fines, penalties, etc. Indeed,
the case study of the San Joaquin Valley indicates that the individual counties differ
greatly based on population growth, development trends, the level of interregional
travel, employment trends and existing land use patterns, and constituents’ views
and opinions. Thus, it is unlikely that the eight San Joaquin Valley Metropolitan
Planning Organizations will meet CARB’s targets.
If California seeks to reduce GHG emissions, the most productive manner
may be to establish statewide standards and offset the available reductions based on
land use, projected population growth, approved land development, statewide
transportation, and natural resource allocation for future development. Although a
statewide program will face significant political opposition, it would be the most
effective method to facilitate collaboration and coordination among the various
Air is fluid; it travels unobstructed and uninhibited from one region to
another. This interconnectedness requires a broader and facilitated process to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions effectively.
_______________________, Committee Chair
Dr. Sudhir Thakur
I dedicate this Thesis to my husband, Brian, for all his love, support and
patience during my pursuit of the joint MBA/JD program. To all my professors at
California State University, Sacramento, and University of the Pacific, McGeorge
School of Law, for sharing their knowledge and inspiring my love for education.
To all my colleagues (in work and education) who taught me different perspectives
in business and law, and who challenged me to do my best at all times.
Dedication ................................................................................................................ vii
List of Tables.............................................................................................................. x
List of Figures ........................................................................................................... xi
List of Graphs ........................................................................................................... xii
List of Definitions ................................................................................................... xiii
1. INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................ 1
Overview: Climate Change .................................................................. 1
Overview: California Climate Change Laws ....................................... 4
Overview: California Land Use Planning ............................................ 6
Overview: SB 375 .............................................................................. 10
Overview: CARB Target Emissions Report ...................................... 18
Literature Review of S.B. 375............................................................ 25
VII. Defining the Problem ......................................................................... 32
2. FISCAL CONSTRAINTS .................................................................................. 34
Introduction ........................................................................................ 34
Background ........................................................................................ 34
Literature Review ............................................................................... 38
Data .................................................................................................... 42
Methodology ...................................................................................... 44
Analysis .............................................................................................. 44
VII. Conclusion ......................................................................................... 49
3. POLITICAL CONSTRAINTS ........................................................................... 52
Introduction ........................................................................................ 52
Housing Element Law ........................................................................ 52
MPO Political Structure ..................................................................... 63
Conclusion ......................................................................................... 67
4. CASE STUDY: SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY ....................................................... 70
Introduction ........................................................................................ 70
CARB’s Targets for the San Joaquin Valley ..................................... 73
Individual San Joaquin County Concerns .......................................... 74
Development Trends .......................................................................... 76
Interregional Travel ............................................................................ 81
Employment Trends and Existing Land Use Patterns ....................... 85
VII. Constituents’ Opinions and Views ..................................................... 90
VIII. Conclusion ......................................................................................... 94
Bibliography............................................................................................................. 97
Table 1: Elements of General Plan ............................................................................ 8
Table 2: Sample List of SB 375 Policies & Practices to Reduce GHG Emissions .. 19
Table 3: RTP Adoption Dates by MPO ................................................................... 24
Table 4: Changes in Homeowner Property Tax Allocation 1998-2008 ................... 46
Table 5: Revenue from State and Federal Government Agencies ........................... 47
Table 6: Revenue from All Property Taxes ............................................................. 48
Table 7: Housing Element Law Compliance 2004-2008 ......................................... 59
Table 8: Current and Projected Regional Population Growth in California ............ 72
Table 9: Population Growth in the San Joaquin Valley ........................................... 76
Table 10: Population Growth Between 2006 – 2009 ............................................... 78
Table 11: Single Family Building Permits 2006 – 2009 .......................................... 79
Table 12: Multi-Family Building Permits 2006-2009 ............................................. 79
Table 13: Unemployment Percentage Data.............................................................. 80
Table 14: San Joaquin Valley Commuting Patterns ................................................ 84
Table 15: San Joaquin Valley Commuting Patterns Percentage Breakdown .......... 85
Table 16: Percentage Distribution of Employment by Industry, 2002 .................... 89
Table 17: Most Important Issue Facing Central Valley Opinion Poll ..................... 91
Figure 1: San Joaquin Valley ................................................................................... 71
Figure 2: San Joaquin Valley MPOs ........................................................................ 72
Graph 1: Percentage Change in Homeowner Property Tax Allocation 1998-2008 . 46
Graph 2: Percentage Revenue from State and Federal Governments ...................... 47
Graph 3: Percentage of Property Taxes as Part of County Revenues ...................... 48
Graph 4: Population Growth in the San Joaquin Valley .......................................... 77
A.B. 32
S.B. 375
California Assembly Bill 32
Alternative Planning Strategy
United States Clean Air Act
California Air Resources Board
California Environmental Quality Act
Council of Governments
Environmental Impact Report
Greenhouse gas emissions
California Department of Housing and Community Development
Metropolitan Planning Organization
California Office of Planning and Research
Regional Housing Needs Assessment
Regional Transportation Plan
California Senate Bill 375
Sustainable Communities Environmental Assessment
Sustainable Communities Strategy
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
United States of America
United States Environmental Protection Agency
Vehicle Miles Traveled
Chapter 1
Overview: Climate Change
Climate change has been a controversial issue of debate (i.e. whether it
exists, whether the underlying science is accurate, and how to combat the effects)
throughout the world over the past few decades. At the heart of the global warming
debate is the need to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. According to the
United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), the principal GHGs
entering the atmosphere due to human activities are carbon dioxide, methane,
nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases.
Rising GHG emissions are causing a significant rise in the average global
temperatures, which “is predicted to lead to reduced food yields, significant water
shortages, sea level rise on a scale that will threaten many major cities, species
extinction, extreme weather and, ultimately, abrupt and large scale changes in
global climate.” (Marsden and Rye, 2010, p. 670.) Without affirmative action to
reduce the impacts of global warming, scientists predict climate change will bring
about great economic hardships in the form of reduced production, to the extent of
5%-20% of the world gross domestic product per year. (Stern et al., 2006.)
Worldwide climate change presents a unique political issue because it “involves
localized actions with global repercussions.” (Darakjian, 2009, p. 374.) In the
United States of America (US), it has often been said that “[e]ven for smaller cities
and counties, where the effects of local land use decisions may appear insignificant
in isolation, the accumulation of these incremental decisions will have a
considerable impact on the statewide greenhouse gas emissions.” (Stern, 2008, p.
The worldwide “ historic vehicle for climate change policies has been the
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its
associated Kyoto Protocol (Protocol).” (Whitman, 2003, p. 1.) The UNFCCC is an
international environmental treaty with the goal of reducing GHG emissions. Since
the Protocol’s inception in December 1997 and entry into force in February 2005,
193 parties have ratified the treaty. (United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change.) The US is notably absent from the list of ratification. Although
the US signed the Protocol in 1998, it has refused to ratify the treaty.
In December 2010, almost all world parties will attend a “Conference of the
Parties” to the UNFCCC with the intent of signing a new global climate change
agreement. It is unclear how the US will participate at the conference. If the US
were to enter into a treaty, it could change the landscape of greenhouse gas
emissions administration in the US, which is handled almost exclusively by the
individual states.
In the US, the individual states (rather than the federal government) have
enacted climate change programs to reduce GHG emissions. (McKinstry and
Peterson, 2007, p. 62.) In fact, prior to 2007, the USEPA refused to regulate GHG
emissions under section 202 of the Clean Air Act (CAA) until the US Supreme
Court’s (USSC) decision in Massachusetts v. EPA (2007) 549 U.S. 497. In this 5-4
decision, the USSC held: (1) the USEPA has authority to regulate GHG emissions
(including carbon dioxide) as “pollutants” under the CAA; and (2) the USEPA
failed to articulate adequate reasons for its failure to regulate such emissions.
(Massachusetts v. EPA, supra, 549 U.S. at pp. 529-535.) Further, the USSC found
“[t]he harms associated with climate change are serious and well recognized,”
acknowledging Massachusetts’ interest in the outcome of the litigation because a
precipitate rise in sea levels would continue to swallow the state’s coastal land. (Id.
at p. 499.) This case is significant because it recognized standing by individual
states premised on concrete harms resulting from climate change. (Id. at pp. 521526.)
The USEPA responded to Massachusetts v. EPA by: (1) adopting
mandatory GHG emissions reporting requirements for some economic sectors; (2)
adopting the “Light-Duty Vehicle” rule in conjunction with the Department of
Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; (3) finding GHG
emissions from new cars and trucks cause or contribute to conditions that endanger
public health and welfare; and (4) adopting the “Tailoring Rule.” (Rubalcava,
2010.) However, the future of the USEPA’s rulemaking on GHG emissions is
unknown. The USEPA is embroiled with numerous lawsuits challenging the
“Endangerment Finding” and “Tailoring Rule,” and proposed legislation (Waxman-
Markey and Kerry-Lieberman) seeks to remove GHGs from the CAA altogether
(and thus the USEPA’s authority). (Rubalcava, 2010.) Perhaps the future of GHG
reduction programs will remain with the individual states rather than the federal
The state GHG reduction programs have ranged “from voluntary
agreements and incentive-based approaches to regulatory mechanisms that include
both traditional codes and standards and new market-based systems.” (McKinstry
and Peterson, 2007, p. 62.) This thesis focuses on California’s approach to GHG
emissions reductions – more specifically, California’s latest adoption of Senate Bill
375 (SB 375), which seeks to reduce GHG emissions from the transportation sector
through land use regulation.
Overview: California Climate Change Laws
On September 27, 2006, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
signed into law Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32), also known as the Global Warming
Solutions Act of 2006. (Health & Safety Code § 38500 et seq.; Darakjian, 2009, p.
372.) AB 32 established the first economy-wide climate change regulatory
program in the US, requiring California to reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by
2020. AB 32 grants the California Air Resources Board (CARB) broad authority
to: (1) require any “source” of GHG emissions (including automobiles and light
trucks) to participate in programs to reduce GHG emissions; and (2) to “monitor
compliance” with the statewide GHG emissions limit. (Health & Safety Code §§
38505(i), 38562 et seq.)
In November 2010, Californians defeated Proposition 23, which sought to
suspend the implementation of AB 32 until unemployment dropped to 5.5% or less
for one full year. The defeat of this initiative seemingly sends a strong message to
California’s politicians – Californians intend to set the stage for GHG emissions
reduction programs in the US. Even without federal participation in GHG
emissions reductions, California’s dedication to the program could have great
national and international consequences, because “if the state were a nation, its
yearly GHG emissions would place it somewhere between the tenth- and sixteenthhighest contributors globally.” (Darakjian, 2009, p. 377, fn. 21.)
SB 375, also known as the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection
Act, was enacted in September 2008 to support AB 32 by building “on the existing
regional transportation planning process (which is overseen by local elected
officials with land use responsibilities) to connect the reduction of [GHG]
emissions from cars and light trucks to land use and transportation policy.”
(Higgins, 2008, p. 1.) “SB 375 seeks to harmonize three distinct areas – regional
housing need, transportation infrastructure development and statewide air quality
goals – in one comprehensive program.” (Darakjian, 2009, p. 372.) The law has
three main goals: (1) use the regional transportation planning process to achieve
A.B. 32’s goals; (2) encourage infill residential projects by using California
Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) streamlining as an incentive to reduce GHG
emissions; and (3) coordinate the regional housing needs allocation process with
the regional transportation planning process. (Higgins, 2008, p. 2.)
SB 375 is a “program” within the CARB’s authority for the automobile and
light truck sector. (Health & Safety Code § 38562.) The focus on transportation
emissions stems from the fact that California’s transportation sector is the state’s
single largest producer of GHGs (at approximately 38% of overall emissions), with
passenger vehicles being responsible for about 30% of the total GHG emissions.
(Darakjian, 2009, p. 378.) The CARB projects a 5 million metric tons reduction in
carbon dioxide emissions in California from SB 375 by 2020. (Peter, 2010.) Land
use strongly influences transportation decisions, and “density and accessibility to
job centers are significant drivers of automobile use.” (Malaczynski and Duane,
2009, pp. 80-81.)
Overview: California Land Use Planning
Generally, the federal and state governments are superior in power to local
governments, and limit local governments’ power in many ways. (Baer, 2008, p.
52.) “Land use is the major exception.” (Baer, 2008, p. 52.) California
Constitution Article XI, section 7 states: “A county or city may make and enforce
within its limits all local, police, sanitary, and other ordinances and regulations not
in conflict with general laws.”
Local government’s planning power is subject to various laws, including:
General Plan Law (Government Code § 65300 et seq.); Planning, Zoning and
Development Laws (Government Code § 65000 et seq.); Subdivision Map Act
(Government Code § 66410 et seq.); California Environmental Quality Act (Public
Resources Code § 21000 et seq.); Community Redevelopment Law (Health &
Safety Code § 33000 et seq.); Cortese-Knox Local Government Reorganization Act
(Government Code § 56000 et seq.). The primary source of state authority over
local land use regulation is the California Planning and Zoning Law (Government
Code § 65000-66499.58). This law requires all cities and counties to develop a
general plan to guide future development decisions. (Stern, 2008, p. 616.) The
general plan must address seven substantive elements as described in detail in
Table 1: land use, circulation, housing, conservation, open space, noise and safety.
(Government Code § 65302.) “All local zoning ordinances and project proposals
must be ‘consistent’ with the general plan.” (Stern, 2008, p. 616; Government
Code § 65359.)
“[L]ocal governments operate under a regime of self-imposed
environmental law and state imperatives are injected indirectly through the primary
tools of air quality regulation, transportation funding, and the California
Environmental Quality Act.” (Stern, 2008, p. 615, citing Cal. Pub. Res. Code
sections 21000-21177 (West 2008).)
Table 1: Elements of General Plan
Land Use
The most basic part of the plan, which deals with such matters as
population density, building intensity, and the distribution of land
use within a city or county
Must deal with all major transportation improvements. It serves
as an infrastructure plan and must also be specifically “correlated”
with the land use element – that is, the infrastructure must address
the development patterns expected by the land use element
Must assess the need for housing for all income groups and lay out
a program to meet those needs
Deals with flood control, water and air pollution, and the need to
conserve natural resources such as agricultural land and
endangered species
Is supposed to provide a plan for the long-term conservation of
open space in the community
Must identify noise problems in the community and suggest
measures for noise abatement
Must identify seismic, geologic, flood, and wildfire hazards, and
establish policies to protect the community.
Source: Fulton, 1999, p. 106
The CEQA was passed in 1970 and forces consideration of the
environmental effects of land use planning. The CEQA requires the controlling
public agency (generally a city or county), known as the lead agency, to prepare an
Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for proposed land use changes that could have
a significant adverse effect on the environment. (Malaczynski and Duane, 2009, p.
84.) The lead agency must document significant adverse environmental impacts of
the proposed project, offer alternatives to the proposal in the EIR, and must offer
plans for mitigation of the documented significant effects. (Malaczynski and
Duane, 2009, p. 84.) The proverbial “stick” of the CEQA process is the threat of
litigation, which has added significant uncertainty and expense to the planning
process. (Olshansky, 1996.)
Historically, local governments did not include significant analysis of the
impact of GHG emissions in the EIR process. However, in 2007, California’s
Attorney General sued the County of San Bernardino for the city’s failure to
address climate change in its general plan update. (State ex rel. Brown v. County of
San Bernardino (2007) No. CIVSS 0700329.) Although the case resolved in
settlement, the impact of the suit was clear. In 2006, only two environmental
assessment documents contained a discussion of climate change; compared to the
149 environmental assessment documents addressing climate change impacts in
2007. (Stern, 2008, p. 633, fn. 123.) In response to the San Bernardino suit, the
legislature adopted Senate Bill 97, requiring the Office of Planning and Research
(OPR) to develop emission mitigation guidelines by 2010 that “will assist local
agencies by providing policy tools to make climate-conscious land use decisions.”
(Stern, 2008, p. 633.) The OPR is “the state executive agency tasked with
overseeing statewide land use planning,” but does not have “any direct operating or
regulatory powers over land use, public works, or other state, regional, or local
projects or programs.” (Stern, 2008, p. 617.)
The OPR’s newly developed guidelines now require the lead agency to
consider whether the cumulative effect of the project complies with “plans or
regulations for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,” and outline procedures
to determine the significant impacts from GHG emissions. (Guidelines for
Implementation of the CEQA §§ 15064(h)(3), 15064.4.) These procedures require
the lead agency to: (1) use a model or methodology to quantify the GHG emissions
resulting from the project; and then (2) consider various factors to determine
whether the project results in significant GHG impacts (including whether it
increases or decreases GHG emissions, whether the emissions would exceed the
threshold of significance, and whether the project complies with other statewide,
regional or local GHG emissions reduction plans.) (Guidelines for Implementation
of the CEQA § 15064.4(a)-(b).) These CEQA guideline amendments became
effective on March 18, 2010.
Overview: SB 375
The primary goal of SB 375 is to reduce “vehicle miles traveled (VMT)
among California’s 23 million licensed drivers.” (Darakjian, 2009, p. 372.)
Central to SB 375’s “smart growth” concept is the “location of housing, jobs, retail,
services, recreation and retail within proximity of one another to promote compact,
walkable communities that use resources and infrastructure efficiently.”
(Greenway, 2010, p. 434, fn. 9.)
SB 375’s provisions only apply to California’s 17 Metropolitan Planning
Organizations (MPOs), which includes 37 of the 58 counties in the state
(representing 97.7% of the statewide population). (California State Association of
Counties, 2008, pp. 1, 4.) Traditionally, these MPOs assisted with implementing
the state’s housing need allocation at the local level, and creating and updating the
federal transportation plans. (Darakjian, 2009, p. 385.) The MPOs and councils of
governments (COG) “have acted as an interface between state and local
governments and it is toward this middle stratum that SB 375 directs the majority
of its mandates.” (Darakjian, 2009, p. 385.) However, the law primarily relies on
“incentives, market forces, political leadership, and public education to be the
driving forces for change.” (Greenway, 2010, p. 439.)
SB 375 requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to establish
GHG emissions reduction targets for each MPO at the regional level. (Higgins,
2008, p. 3.) The process for establishing these targets is considered a “bottom-up”
approach, because the CARB must first share and exchange technical information
with each MPO prior to setting the targets. (Higgins, 2008, p. 3.) Further, the
MPOs may recommend a target for the region. (Government Code §
65080(b)(2)(A)(ii).) The CARB-appointed Regional Targets Advisory Committee
would review each MPO’s technical information and would recommend factors
and methodologies to be used in setting the standards. (Government Code §
65080(b)(2)(A)(i).) The CARB released the regional targets on September 23,
a) Sustainable Communities Strategy
After the release of the regional targets, each MPO must prepare a regional
land use plan, called a Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS), to meet the CARB
required targets. (Government Code § 65080(b)(2).) The purpose of the SCS is
show how the integration of the forecasted development pattern with the
transportation network, policies and measures in the region will reduce GHG
emissions from automobiles and light trucks to the GHG emissions reduction target
set by the CARB. (Higgins, 2008, p. 5.) The SCS is included in the MPO’s
federally required Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), “expressing its underlying
land use assumptions and becoming a blueprint for how the region will meet its
GHG targets if it is feasible to do so.” (Greenway, 2010, p. 436; Government Code
§ 65080(b)(2).)
Under federal law, local governments must prepare a RTP that includes a
land use allocation plan based on the region’s realistic development pattern over a
20-30 year time span. (California State Association of Counties, 2008, p. 3.) The
development pattern must be based on “current planning assumptions,” such as
local general plans and sphere of influence boundaries. (California State
Association of Counties, 2008, p. 4.) The RTP informs the decision-making
process for transportation funding. If the federal government finds the projected
growth development pattern unrealistic, it may withhold federal transportation
funding. (California State Association of Counties, 2008, p. 3.) The “action
element” (that portion of the RTP that “describes the programs and actions
necessary to implement the plan”) and the “financial element” (that portion that
“summarizes the cost of plan implementation”) of the RTP must be consistent with
the SCS. (Government Code §§ 65080(b)(3), 65080(b)(4)(A).)
Prior to adopting the SCS, each MPO must first quantify the GHG
emissions reductions projected from implementation of the SCS and must set forth
the difference between that amount and the region’s target. (Government Code §
65080(b)(2)(G).) Consistent with federal regulations for the RTP, the SCS must be
based on the “most recent planning assumptions considering the local general plans
and other factors,” and the best practically available scientific information
regarding resource areas and farmland in the region. (Government Code §
65080(b)(2)(B); Higgins, 2008, p. 5.) The SCS must identify the general location
of uses, residential densities, building intensities, and a transportation network to
service the transportation needs of the region. (Higgins, 2008, p. 5.) Further, the
SCS must identify areas sufficient to: (1) house all economic population segments
over the RTP planning horizon, and (2) house an 8-year projection of regional
housing need for the region. (Higgins, 2008, p. 5.) Because the SCS is based on
“current planning assumptions,” a regional agency would have difficulty including
types of development patterns unlikely to emerge from local decision-making.
(Higgins, 2008, p. 5.)
SCSs are expected to respond to SB 375 by: (1) promoting compact
development patterns located near transit; (2) coordinating between the location of
employment and housing; (3) support transit use; (4) concentrating economic
activities into existing communities; and (5) incorporating a mix of housing types.
(Urban Land Institute, 2010, p. 2.) Compliance with the SCS is expected to
produce: (1) shorter commutes, VMT reduction and congestion relief; (2) reduce
GHG emissions and air pollution; (3) less fossil fuel consumption; (4) greater
conservation of farmlands and habitat; (5) opportunities for more housing choices
for all economic population segments; (6) reduce infrastructure costs; (7) higher
quality of life; and (8) greater certainty for the development community. (Urban
Land Institute, 2010, p. 2.) However, the law does not require local jurisdictions to
comply with the SCS to receive transportation funding. (Higgins, 2008, p. 9.)
Thus, the SCS is a plan without authority.
Only the CARB has authority to approve or reject the MPOs’ SCSs.
(Government Code §§ 65080(b)(2)(J), 65080(b)(2)(I)(ii).) Within 60 days
following submission of the SCS, the CARB must accept or reject: (1) the
quantification of the GHG emissions reductions the proposed strategy would
achieve; and/or (2) the methodology used to arrive at the determination.
(Government Code § 65080(b)(2)(J); California State Association of Counties,
2008, p. 5.) The CARB may not issue conditional approvals and may not otherwise
interfere with local decision-making. (California State Association of Counties,
2008, p. 5.)
b) Alternative Planning Strategy
If the CARB finds that a MPO’s SCS fails to meet the regional GHG
emissions reduction target, the MPO must prepare an alternative planning strategy
(APS). (Government Code § 65080(b)(2)(H).) Similar to the Clean Water Act and
the CAA, SB 375 applies a “feasibility” standard to limit and define administration
of reduction measures in the regional SCS. (Darakjian, 2009, p. 399, fn. 117.) The
term “feasible” is broadly defined as “economic, environmental, legal, social, and
technical factors” that may pose obstacles to meet GHG emissions reductions
“within a reasonable period of time.” (Government Code § 65080.01(c).) If a
MPO cannot meet the regional emissions reductions targets under the SCS through
“feasible” means, it must prepare an Alternative Planning Strategy (APS).
(Government Code §§ 65080(b)(2)(B)(viii), 65080(b)(2)(H).)
The APS must “identify the practical impediments” to achieving the
regional targets through a SCS and must demonstrate how GHG emissions could be
achieved through “alternative development patterns, infrastructure, or additional
transportation measures or policies.” (Government Code §§ 65080(b)(2)(H).)
Unlike the SCS, an APS is not incorporated into the RTP and “therefore does not
automatically affect the distribution of transportation funding.” (Government Code
§§ 65080(b)(2)(H), Higgins, 2008, p. 6.) Preparation of an APS rather than a SCS
does not preclude access to the CEQA streamlining benefits under the bill. (Public
Resources Code §§ 2155(a), 21159.28(a).)
Similar to a SCS, only the CARB has authority to approve or reject the
MPOs’ APSs. (Government Code §§ 65080(b)(2)(J), 65080(b)(2)(I)(ii).) Within
60 days following submission of the APS, the CARB must accept or reject: (1) the
quantification of the GHG emissions reductions the proposed strategy would
achieve; and/or (2) the methodology used to arrive at the determination.
(Government Code § 65080(b)(2)(J); California State Association of Counties,
2008, p. 5.)
c) CEQA Streamlining
SB 375 seeks to encourage high-density and infill development by
providing incentives, including CEQA streamlining for qualifying projects.
Residential or mixed-use residential projects consistent with the land use
designation, density, building intensity and applicable policies in the region’s SCS
or APS, and incorporating certain mitigation measures (such as traffic control
improvements, street or road improvements, transit passes), will not be required to
“reference, describe or discuss”: (1) growth-inducing impacts; or (2) any project
specific or cumulative impacts from cars or light-duty truck trips generated by the
project on global warming or the regional transportation network. (Public
Resources Code § 21159.28(a); Higgins, 2008, p. 13.) Further, such projects will
not need to consider any density alternatives. (Public Resources Code §
21159.28(a).) A residential or mixed-use residential project generally requires that
at least 75% of the total building footage designated for residential use; however,
for infill sites located in primary urban-zoned areas, only 50% of the total building
footage must be designated for residential use. (Public Resources Code §§
21159.28(d), 21155(b).)
Transit priority projects may receive a full CEQA exemption (subject to
strict requirements) or may prepare a Sustainable Communities Environmental
Assessment (SCEA), which allows for a shorter comment period and the
deferential “substantial evidence” standard of review. (Public Resources Code §§
21155.1, 21155.2.) A priority project is one that: (1) contains at least 50%
residential use; (2) has a minimum net density of 20 units/acre; (3) has a floor area
ratio of not less than 0.75 for nonresidential use; and (4) is located within one half
mile of a “major transit stop” or “high-quality transit corridor” (Public Resources
Code §§ 21064.3, 21155(b), 21155(a).)
d) Implementation
The two important aspects that remain untouched in SB 375 are: (1) local
governments retain their traditional exclusive land use authority; and (2) state and
federal funding is not expressly contingent on compliance. (Darakjian, 2009, p.
386.) However, it is important to note that the law specifically provides that SCSs
and APSs do not supersede local land use decisions, and that local general plans,
specific plans and zoning ordinances need not be consistent with the SCSs or APSs.
(Cal. Gov. Code § 65080(b)(2)(J).) Thus, cities and counties retain their traditional
exclusive land use authority. The statute is “built on faith that cities and counties
will voluntarily implement the SCS or at least respond to regional political pressure
to do so.” (Darakjian, 2009, p. 403.)
Further, SB 375 does not provide any funding for planning or investment
for infrastructure to support infill or higher-density development. Other legislation
makes some grant funds available to local agencies for planning related to SB 375,
but the RTAC has observed the SB 732 funds will be insufficient to support local
government planning efforts envisioned by SB 375, noting “planning staffs are
struggling to keep pace with current planning demands, leaving little capacity for
comprehensive, sustainable long range planning.” (Regional Targets Advisory
Committee, 2009.)
Overview: CARB Target Emissions Report
On September 23, 2010, the CARB adopted regional GHG emissions
reduction targets pursuant to the Staff Report on “Proposed Regional Greenhouse
Gas Emission Reduction Targets for Automobiles and Light Trucks Pursuant to
Senate Bill 375.” (CARB, 2010.) The CARB projected that the proposed targets
“would result in a reduction of [GHG] emissions of over three million metric tons
of [carbon dioxide] per year (MMTCO2/year) in 2020, and 15 MMTCO2/year in
2035.” (CARB, 2010, p. 22.)
The CARB used “a bottom-up process” to establish the GHG emissions
reductions targets, by relying on the “MPOs experience in regional transportation
planning, housing policy, and regional sustainability” to “provide baseline
information and growth projections” for future target years. (CARB, 2010, p. 20.)
The CARB used an emissions model to convert the travel activity and vehicle
speeds from the MPOs’ travel models into GHG emissions. (CARB, 2010, p. 17.)
Various assumptions in the MPOs’ models influence the CARB’s estimates,
including “the types, ages, and number of vehicles that are on the road in the future;
as well as the CO2 emissions per vehicle mile.” (CARB, 2010, p. 17.) The
Department of Transportation is presently working on development of a statewide
travel model, including interregional and goods movement travel throughout the
State. (CARB, 2010, p. 19.)
Most of the MPOs provided the CARB with suggested reduction targets or
projections. The MPOs based these targets or projects on various strategies,
including “increased compact development, expansion of transit networks,
improved jobs-housing balance, and various pricing strategies.” (CARB, 2010, p.
Table 2: Sample List of SB 375 Policies & Practices to Reduce GHG Emissions
· Increase infill and development in areas with existing infrastructure
· Increase opportunities for redevelopment/reuse (e.g., brownfields)
· Increase residential/commercial density near transit (e.g., transit
oriented developments)
· Increase use of compact building design in new and existing
· Increase mixed use development (e.g., residential and commercial
uses in infill, reuse/redevelopment or greenfield projects)
· Increase transit oriented development
Distance to Transit
Open Space and
Agricultural Land
Location of
Transit Facilities and
Infrastructure and
Bike Infrastructure and
Among Alternative
Road Quality and
Parking Management
· Improve connectivity of streets and pedestrian network (e.g., through
· Improve neighborhood and site design (e.g., traffic calming,
· Increase residential/commercial density near transit (e.g., transit
oriented development)
· Make developments transit ready
· Increase local housing for local workforce (e.g., jobs-housing fit,
· Integrate affordable and market rate housing
· Improve accessibility of housing to transit
· Reduce pressure on greenfields by directing growth to existing
developed areas
· Adopt mechanisms to protect key natural resources
· Locate major regional activity centers near existing development
(e.g., “destinations”)
· Locate schools in neighborhoods that house the student population
or maximize access by alternate modes
· Implement other location-related policies
· Provide financial incentives (e.g., grants, tax credits) for nontransportation
investments like housing, parks, and storm water management
· Provide regulatory relief (e.g., expedited permit processing)
· Provide recognition programs
· Expand transit network
· Improve transit facilities (e.g., safety)
· Reduce passenger travel time (e.g., more frequent headways)
· Adopt competitive fare structure
· Improve pedestrian facilities and infrastructure
· Improve pedestrian environment (e.g., beautification, access)
· Implement “safe routes to schools” program
· Improve bicycle facilities and infrastructure
· Improve cyclist environment (e.g., safety, access)
· Implement “safe routes to schools” program
· Improve linkages between modes of travel
· Use Intelligent Transportation System technologies (e.g., “smart
· Rehabilitate and maintain pavement
· Use transportation system management (e.g., congestion
· Implement effective pricing
· Alter parking requirements and types of supply (e.g., maximum
parking, shared parking)
· Improve circulation efficiency through information (e.g., signage)
Commute Trip
Other Trip Reduction
Parking Pricing
Road User Pricing
Fuel Tax
Transportation System
Transportation Demand
· Encourage telecommuting and flexible/alternative work schedules
· Implement and coordinate use of employee vehicle sharing programs
and alternative modes (e.g., incentives for carpool, bike, transit,
vanpool use)
· Improve employer parking management (e.g., employee parking
out”, unbundling parking cost from property cost)
· Implement vehicle sharing programs (e.g., car sharing, bike sharing,
park and ride lots)
· Provide local shuttles
· Implement metered pricing
· Implement parking "cash-out" program
· Implement congestion pricing
· Implement High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes
· Implement area or cordon pricing
· Implement distance-based (VMT) pricing
· Increase fuel tax
· Eliminate or reduce highway and arterial projects that result in
additional “general purpose” lane miles
· Expand regional park and ride facilities
· Implement regional bicycle facilities and infrastructure
· Expand high occupancy toll (HOT lanes) system
· Implement traffic signal coordination
· Queue jumps/Bus priority at intersections
· Provide real time transit information
· Speed limit reductions to 55 MPH
· Ramp metering
· Incident management system
· Freeway travelers information system
· Anti-idling traffic codes for commercial vehicles
· Enhance vehicle inspection and maintenance programs
· Operation improvements to relieve bottlenecks
· Eco driver education
· Student carpool programs
· Staggered school class schedules
· On-site child care facilities
· Pay-as-you-drive insurance
Source: CARB, 2010, pp. 45-47.
The CARB adopted the following GHG emissions reduction targets for
2020 and 2035: (CARB, 2010, pp. 23-37.)
Four Largest MPOs: SCAG, MTC, SANDAG and SACOG
o Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)
2020: 8% reduction (matches MPO’s suggested target)
2035: 13% reduction (MPO suggested 5-6% reduction)
o Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) – Bay Area
2020: 7% reduction (matches MPO’s suggested target)
2035: 15% reduction (matches MPO’s suggested target)
o San Diego Council of Governments (SANDAG)
2020: 7% reduction (matches MPO’s suggested target)
2035: 13% reduction (matches MPO’s suggested target)
o Sacramento Council of Governments (SACOG)
2020: 7% reduction (matches MPO’s suggested target)
2035: 16% reduction (matches MPO’s suggested target)
Central Valley MPOs: due to significant expected changes in data,
modeling and decisions to be made in the Valley, the CARB only adopted
placeholder targets, which will be revisited in 2012
o Valleywide placeholder reduction targets:
2020: 5% reduction (the 8 MPOs individually suggested
between %1 to 6%)
2035: 10% reduction
Remaining 6 MPOs: Monterey, Butte, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara,
Shasta and Tahoe – the CARB adopted each MPO’s current projections and
will revisit these numbers 2014
o Tahoe Metropolitan Planning Organization
2020: 7% reduction
2035: 6% increase
o Shasta County Regional Transportation Planning Agency
2020: 0% reduction
2035: 0% reduction
o Santa Barbara County Association of Governments
2020: 6% increase
2035: 4% increase
o San Luis Obispo County Council of Governments
2020: 8% reduction
2035: 8% reduction
o Butte County Association of Governments
2020: 0% reduction
2035: 1% reduction
o Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments
2020: 13% increase
2035: 14% increase
In the Staff Report, the CARB acknowledged, “a significant portion of the
built environment in 2020 has been defined by decisions that have already been
made.” (CARB, 201, p. 15.) The CARB also acknowledged the state of the land
use environment:
“The nationwide recession created significant uncertainties for local
planning efforts in California. Economic assumptions that were made
in the last round of housing and transportation plans are likely
outdated. Furthermore, local governments have seen a decline in
revenues, resources, and funding for planning and infrastructure
investments. Planning departments rely on city or county general
funds and on developer fees to fun staff positions. Both of these
revenue sources suffered in recent years and many departments have
cut back their planning staffs. In many cases, California cities and
counties are being asked to do more with less, and planning efforts to
look even five years into the future suffer as local governments
attempt to deal with more immediate needs.” (CARB, 2010, pp. 1516.)
The CARB discussed various difficulties in establishing these targets,
including: (1) regions’ limited ability to impact and control interregional travel
(travel that passes entirely through the region); (2) the difficulty in measuring
interregional travel; (3) significant variations among the MPOs’ travel demand
models, their forecasting abilities and the models’ key assumptions; and (4) the fact
that long-term planning is very difficult given the inherent uncertainty in various
planning assumptions like the cost of travel. (CARB, 2010, pp. 11, 13, 16.)
Table 3: RTP Adoption Dates by MPO
Butte CAG
Fresno (COFCG)
Kern COG
Kings CAG
Madera CTC
Merced CAG
San Joaquin COG
San Luis Obispo
Santa Barbara
Shasta CRTPA
Stanislaus COG
Tahoe RPA
Tulare CAG
Date of Current RTP
Source: CARB, 2010, p. 41
Estimated Date of Next
Adopted RTP
June 2012
December 2012
July 2014
July 2014
July 2014
July 2014
July 2014
April 2013
July 2014
December 2010
July 2011
December 2011
March 2013
May 2012
July 2015
July 2014
October 2012
July 2014
Further, the CARB did not express much anticipation of significant land use
changes to achieve the GHG emissions reduction targets. Rather, the CARB said
that the MPOs’ proposed scenarios “reflect the reality that more time is needed for
large land use and transportation infrastructure changes, and show that most of the
change expected in this time period will come from improving the efficiency of
each region’s existing transportation network.” (CARB, 2010, p. 16.)
Based on Table 3, the first SCS or APS will be adopted between December
2010 and 2011, with the majority of SCSs and APSs adopted closer to 2014.
Literature Review of S.B. 375
a) Bill Higgins (2009)
After providing a brief overview of SB 375’s requirements, Bill Higgins
from the League of California Cities recommended, a “MPO or county
transportation agency must consider financial incentives for cities and counties that
have resource areas or farmland.” (Higgins, 2009, p. 11.) He explained: “The idea
is that to the extent that SB 375 drives more transportation investments to existing
urban areas, some consideration should be given to rural areas that nevertheless
help address the emissions targets by not building.” (Higgins, 2008, p. 11.) This
proposition is well taken given the interconnection between counties’ fiscal and
land use decisions. However, Mr. Higgins failed to provide any fiscal analysis to
support his conclusion.
b) John Darakjian (2009)
In 2009, John Darakjian contrasted the “slow growth” movement often
favored by California voters with the “smart growth” promises of SB 375.
Darakjian theorized developers and local governments would be receptive to SB
375 because “[w]here slow growth only tied the hands of developers and local
governments, smart growth promises to give them new tools” by not “simply
restrict[ing] development but also [] redirect[ing] it.” (Darakjian, 2009, pp. 380381.)
However, he identified various obstacles to implementation of the law.
First, Darakjian pointed to the lack of transportation infrastructure and funding to
support the expected higher density housing. (Darakjian, 2009, p. 396.)
Additionally, there is no requirement that SCS-compliant developments have masstransit infrastructure and the bill does not mandate additional public transit
infrastructure or maintenance funding. (Darakjian, 2009, p. 396.) The second
obstacle is the lack of direct authority for the MPOs under the bill. (Darakjian,
2009, p. 398.) The third obstacle is California’s budget woes, which resulted in the
Sacramento Regional Transit to announce cutting services and increasing fees in
August 2008. (Darakjian, 2009, p. 398.) The fourth obstacle is that “a claim of
infeasibility by any of California’s 17 MPOs will effectively place that region
outside the reach of significant portions of the statute.” (Darakjian, 2009, p. 399.)
Darakjian’s recommendations included: (1) peak-hour toll charges on main
thoroughfares; (2) imposing a feebate system for new vehicles falling below some
fuel economy benchmark; (3) extending the CEQA exemptions to projects other
than residential development; and (4) the CARB establishing clear guidelines to
assist local governments in quantification of emissions reductions. (Darakjian,
2009, pp. 407-409.)
Mr. Darakjian’s review of SB 375 provides interesting recommendations;
however, he fails to provide or include any analysis with regard to the potential
barriers to the implementation of SB 375 to support his findings or
c) Henry Stern (2008)
Stern reviewed AB 32 and briefly discussed his concerns regarding SB 375.
He said, “there remains the open question of how reductions achieved to meet these
regional ‘targets’ would count towards statewide emissions ‘limits’ under AB 32.”
(Stern, 2008, p. 634.) Further, he was concerned that “this bill runs the risk that
CARB would set regional targets insufficiently aggressive, thereby unlocking
valuable transportation financing dollars for localities that did little to advance
statewide goals under AB 32. (Stern, 2008, pp. 635-635.)
Similar to the literary works discussed above, Mr. Stern provided no
qualitative or quantitative analysis to support his findings.
d) Urban Land Institute (2010)
The Urban Land Institute believes SB 375 will: (1) provide more
consistency, coordination and clarity to the development process and land use
planning; (2) provide a greater balance between infill and Greenfield development;
(3) include positive net revenues to local governments through the reduction of per
capita service costs; (4) increased property values; and (5) sustained agricultural
economies. (Urban Land Institute, 2010, pp. 5, 7.) However, the Urban Land
Institute acknowledged, “infrastructure expansion in existing urban areas can be
more complex, more expensive and more difficult to finance than conventional
Greenfield development.” (Urban Land Institute, 2010, pp. 5, 7.) The Urban Land
Institute supports such infrastructure, stating that “the marginal increase in costs is
outweighed by the long-term municipal savings generated over the life of the
infrastructure.” (Urban Land Institute, 2010, p. 8.) Regarding transit funding, the
Urban Land Institute believes the “current system of funding public transit has
created unintended fluctuations in annual budgets that inhibit the effective longterm planning of investment in capital and operations” which has “resulted in
reductions in service levels and coverage.” (Urban Land Institute, 2010, p. 10.) To
stabilize public transit funding, the Urban Land Institute suggested “various
financing tools could be leveraged, which included, but are not limited to: (1) tax
increment financing for transit districts/state areas; (2) congestion pricing; (3) VMT
fees; (4) variable parking pricing; (5) fuel taxes; (6) the use of public-private
partnerships; and (7) value capture financing.” (Urban Land Institute, 2010, p. 10.)
Further, the Urban Land Institute suggested “[i]mprovements to transit
service, especially in the form of increased safety, improved on-time performance,
improved customer service, and ease of making a connection, can help make transit
a better alternative to these users.” (Urban Land Institute, 2010, p. 10.)
The Urban Land Institute identified six key problems with the bill: (1)
inherent conflicts between the federal, state, regional and local regulatory
requirements (i.e. flood zones, school location, etc.); (2) local governments have a
fiscal disincentive to build more housing close to employment centers due to the
allocation of tax revenue; (3) the bill focuses on the development of housing for
specific demographics and should not make other preferences unattainable; (4) lack
of linking between infrastructure investments and directed future growth; (5)
financing infrastructure expansion in existing communities may be more complex
and expensive of a per unit basis; and (6) need for cross-MPO coordinate due to the
connection of employment and housing in metropolitan regions to each other.
(Urban Land Institute, 2010, pp. 11-12.)
With regards to the CEQA streamlining provisions, the Urban Land
Institute suggests the provisions be “expanded to include projects that offer
employment opportunities” and be expanded to include projects that can achieve
GHG reduction targets similar to Transit Priority Projects. (Urban Land Institute,
2010, p. 14.)
The Urban Land Institute provides detailed recommendations and identifies
key concerns with regard to SB 375’s implementation. This study, however, lacks
any meaningful analysis with regard to the impact of this Bill on the California
counties who are charged with implementing these goals. In the absence of
evaluating the effect of the Bill at the base level of implementation, one cannot
evaluate the possibility of successful implementation. Therefore, this review falls
short of connecting the proposed pitfalls with actual analysis of present conditions
and barriers to the Bill’s implementation.
e) Brent Schoradt (2009)
In 2009, Brent Schoradt reviewed SB 375 and determined that the “ultimate
success of SB 375 will depend on the willingness of metropolitan planning
organizations to adopt sustainable communities strategies that meet GHG reduction
targets.” (Schoradt, 2009, p. 611.) Schoradt explained that “[b]y excluding the
[APS] from the [RTP], SB 375 does not prevent state and federal transportation
funds from flowing to transportation projects, such as highway expansions, that
increase GHG emissions.” (Schoradt, 2009, p. 614.) Therefore, Schoradt believes
that, to the extent MPOs adopt APSs rather than SCSs, SB 375 will fail to further
any land use changes.
As explained further in this Thesis, Mr. Schoradt’s opinion is well taken.
However, similar to the above scholars’ works, the review lacks any meaningful
analysis of either qualitative or qualitative impacts on the implementation of this
Bill at the county level.
f) Greg Greenway (2010)
In 2010, Greenway reviewed the public participation requirements under
SB 375 and discussed how the 2008 San Mateo civic commitment initiative may
provide positive support for the implementation of SB 375 projects. The author
suggested that, “[t]o bring its landmark climate change strategy to life, SB 375
needs an implementation plan.” (Greenway, 2010, p. 463.) The implementation
plan would “include guidance, resources and tools that local governments can use
to engage their citizens every time they make significant land use decisions.”
(Greenway, 2010, p. 463.) However, he acknowledged that the public
participation/engagement that would be necessary to implement this incentivebased initiative might appear prohibitively expensive, in light of the current
economic environment in California and throughout the US. (Greenway, 2010, p.
Mr. Greenway acknowledged the difficulty in the implementation of the
Bill given the present economic climate in California. Such factors are important
to consider in evaluating the potential success of the Bill as drafted. Although Mr.
Greenway acknowledges this limitation, he provides no meaningful analysis to
support his theories or recommendations. To determine whether public
participation or engagement would facilitate implementation of the Bill, one must
first analyze the present public opinions. Thus, this analysis fails to provide any
meaningful analysis to further evaluation of SB 375’s implementation.
Defining the Problem
This Thesis seeks to determine whether SB 375 will successfully change
land use development patterns in California. First, I will discuss two primary
barriers to the implementation of SB 375’s proposed higher-density, infill
development: (1) fiscal barriers, and (2) political barriers. Although various
authors have provided explanations of SB 375’s obstacles and discussed various
recommendations, none of the authors attempted to provide an in-depth analysis of
the above-referenced two barriers to the bill’s implementation. These barriers are
important given their direct impact on land use decisions. Indeed, counties often
make land use decisions based on political pressures and in furtherance of
increasing tax revenues. Given the present political and economic climate, these
factors are more important than ever in counties’ land use decisions. More
importantly, as discussed under the Literature Review section of this Thesis, no
other study provides meaningful analysis of the qualitative and qualitative barriers
to the Bill’s implementation. Although some of the reviews provide insight into
the potential success of SB 375’s implementation, such comments are hollow in the
absence of a thorough and detailed analysis of the factors that impact counties’ land
use decisions the most – fiscal and political barriers. Therefore, this Thesis will use
quantitative and qualitative data to discuss each of these two important barriers.
Because each barrier (each chapter) stands alone, each chapter includes an
introduction, analysis and conclusion.
To further provide insight into the Bill’s potential for successful
implementation, this Thesis provides a case study of the specific barriers and
concerns with regard to SB 375’s implementation in the San Joaquin Valley
counties. Because the San Joaquin Valley counties will incur the greatest growth
through 2050, these counties may have a significant impact on the potential success
of SB 375. Presently, the CARB is treating the eight San Joaquin Valley counties
alike by setting the same placeholder target for each of these MPOs. This Thesis
will use quantitative and qualitative data to discuss whether the San Joaquin
counties will meet the CARB’s targets, and whether any specific barriers within the
individual counties may inhibit successful implementation of SB 375.
Chapter 2
This chapter discusses the fiscal constraints to local governments’
implementation of the SB 375 objectives. The fiscalization of local land use
decisions describes how local governments have employed “land use regulation to
increase local revenue streams.” (Lewis, 2001, p. 4) Following 1978, when
California passed Proposition 13, a constitutional amendment to limit the property
tax rate and annual tax increases, local governments have focused on retail and
commercial development rather than residential development to increase their tax
base. This chapter concludes that the land use patterns in California are unlikely to
change in the near future without some additional fiscal incentives for local
a) Proposition 13 – Limits on Local Property Tax Revenues
In 1978, California overwhelmingly passed Proposition 13 in response to
growing concerns about escalating housing values and property taxes. (PPIC, June
2008, p. 1) The initiative “limits the property tax rate to 1% of the assessed value
of the home at the time of purchase and holds annual tax increases to no more than
2% until the property is sold.” (PPIC, June 2008, p. 1)
Further, only a two-thirds
vote of the legislature could impose new state tax increases and a two-thirds vote
by the voters would allow local special tax approval. (PPIC, June 2008, p. 1) This
resulted in a dramatic decrease in local property tax revenue to counties, cities, and
schools because, prior to the proposition, property taxes had been the largest
revenue sources for local and state governments. (PPIC, June 2008, p. 1.)
In addition to the limits on the property tax assessment, “[f]or the first time
in the state’s history, the state was put in charge of allocating the proceeds of the
locally levied property tax, with the rate and base defined by the statewide
initiative.” (Chapman, Sept. 1998, p. 3.) Therefore, Proposition 13 “effectively
transferred control of the property tax from local governments to the state
government.” (Shires, 1999, p. 7.) Although local governments impose, assess
and collect property taxes, the state determines the fair allocation of the taxes
among competing interests. (Shires, 1999, pp. 14-15.)
In 1998, the Legislature adopted AB 8 to determine the allocation of tax
receipts. (Chapman, Sept. 1998, p. 4.) Although AB 8 has undergone multiple
revisions, it is still the basic operating legislation. (Chapman, Sept. 1998, p. 4.)
The state further shifted additional property taxes away from cities and counties to
fund school districts. (Lewis, 2001, p. 21.) Although support for Proposition 13
has remained high, California residents are divided over the impact of the property
tax limitations on local government services. (PPIC, June 2008, p. 1.)
Proposition 13 and subsequent initiatives to constrain local government’s
ability to raise revenues locally reflects two policies: (1) “a desire to control and
limit the size of California’s governments,” and (2) “a basic distrust of
representative government: a belief that elected officials are, in practice, incapable
of imposing the public’s will when it comes to taxation and spending.” (Shires and
Habers, 1997, pp. 2-3.)
b) Responses to Proposition 13
Due to Proposition 13, local governments have become increasing
dependent on the state for revenue. However, the state has proven to be an
unreliable source of local revenue. In 1993, the state shifted $3.6 billion away from
local governments under Proposition 98. Between 2004-2006, Governor
Schwarzenegger shifted another $1.3 billion from local governments to the state
coffers for each budget year. In response to the fiscal uncertainty, local
governments have focused on sales-tax generating development such as “big box”
retail, shopping malls and car dealerships. (Stern, 2008, p. 618.) Further, local
governments have started to rely more on user fees, charges, and sales and gross
receipts tax increases. (Edwards, 2005, p. 18.) Under the Bradley-Burns Sales Tax
and Use Act of 1955, California local governments receive 1% of the sales receipts
collected in their jurisdictions.
Local governments’ need for revenue has highlighted the importance of
land use decisions, because “land use decisions have fiscal consequences and fiscal
decisions have land use consequences.” (Detwiler, 2001, p. 3.) Each form of land
use has attendant consequences on local government costs, in the form of
expenditure for infrastructure and services, and revenue, in different forms of taxes
or fees. Currently, California employs a situs-based method of allocating sales
taxes. The situs-based method essentially allocates taxes to the jurisdictions in
which the taxes are collected. Therefore, the more taxes collected in a county, the
greater percentage in tax revenue that county receives. Research indicates that the
situs-based method of allocating sales taxes, where a portion of the tax revenue
stays in the revenue-generating jurisdiction, incentivizes local officials to promote
retail developments. (Detwiler, 2001, p. 6.) Some studies indicate that retail
development generates a fiscal surplus (revenue exceeding the cost of services) in
contrast to competing land uses like residential and industrial. (Wassmer, 2002, p.
1310.) Further, the interaction between job growth and population growth furthers
the connection between local government reliance on sales taxes and sprawl – job
growth leads to population growth and population growth in an area leads to job
growth. (Carlino, 1985; Carlino and Mills, 1987; Glaeser and Kahn, 2001.)
In a recent survey of 330 California cities, “new sales tax revenues
generated” ranked first in motivation for new development, and was tied with “city
council support for the project” for redevelopment projects. (Lewis and Barbour,
1999.) The two most popular sales-tax-generating enterprises from a small area are
“big-box” retail and car dealerships. (Chapman, 1998, pp. 11-12.)
Literature Review
a) Michael Shires et al. (1998)
In 1998, Michael Shires et al. prepared a report detailing the public revenue
burden in California, using the time period between 1978 and 1995. (Shires et al.,
1998, p. 17.) For counties, the report used the California State Controller’s Annual
Reports. (Shires et al., 1998, p. 20.) The study found “that the largest revenue
source for state and local government is generally taxes, but that their importance
declined overall immediately after Proposition 13 and has remained relatively flat
since.” (Shires et al., 1998, p. 31.) The study concluded that “[b]ecause a large
share of state and local revenues is derived from taxes, it is unlikely that state and
local governments will experience funding shortfalls during periods of high
economic growth, when tax coffers swell. In recessionary periods, however, the
ability to raise additional revenues through increased license fees, service charges
and user fees – state and local governments’ response during the last recession –
will be constrained by both Proposition 218 and their extensive use during the last
recession. This combination could leave California’s state and local budgets
sensitive to economic shocks and could result in reduction in public support for
discretionary programs, such as higher education, with the onset of a future
recession.” (Shires et al., 1998, p. 64.) This study is important given that SB 375
was enacted in a recessionary period, in which local governments and the state are
experiencing significant financial difficulties.
b) Michael Shires (1999)
In 1999, Michael Shires undertook a study to determine the changes in state
and local finance trends since Proposition 13 (not necessarily as a result of
Proposition 13). (Shires, 1999, pp. 2-3.) The report showed “the locus of state and
local decisionmaking about revenues has generally shifted from local governments
to the state government.” (Shires, 1999, p. 61.)
Shires’ study found that “counties have taken the biggest hit of any local
unit of government” in the wake of Proposition 13, making the counties
“vulnerable to fiscal crises during statewide downturns in the economy.” (Shires,
1999, p. iv.) Between 1978 and 1995, county discretionary revenues declined from
57 percent to 31 percent. (Shires, 1999, p. 33.) The study predicted that “the
expanded imposition of statewide ‘average’ preferences on local communities,
coupled with the constraints on new revenues . . ., [would] make it increasingly
difficult for local communities to specify, finance, and exhibit their local
preferences for mixes of services and programs.” (Shires, 1999, p. 36.) The study
showed an increase in counties’ dependence on intergovernmental revenues,
reinforcing counties’ “agency role” to implement the policies, programs, and
initiatives of state and federal governments. (Shires, 1999, p. 45, fn. 5.)
The study concluded the “agency role of the counties has led to a sharp
decrease in their share of discretionary revenues.” (Shires, 1999, p. 45.) “The
overall result has been a marginalization of the role of the locally elected county
governments and, consequently, of local preferences.” (Shires, 1999, p. 57.)
Overall, the loss of local discretion and the imposition of user fees “has generally
increased the overall political tensions in the state between different levels of
government.” (Shires, 1999, p. 63.)
c) David J. Edwards (2005)
In his 2005 thesis at California State University, Sacramento, David
Edwards analyzed whether the fiscal aspects associated with land-use cause urban
sprawl. His thesis consisted of a multiple regression analysis based on U.S. Census
2000 data, comparing “statewide measures of municipal and county government
own-source revenue reliance on sales taxes, property taxes, income taxes and other
types of taxes” to the land area size of the 452 census-defined urbanized areas.
(Edwards, 2005, p. 2.) The broad study found statistical significance between
increased municipal own-source revenue reliance on property taxes or sales taxes
and increases in the land area size of urbanized areas. (Edwards, 2005, p. 74.)
Edwards concluded: “Authority over land use coupled with the ability to retain
portions of the property taxes and sales taxes generated within their jurisdictions is
resulting in local governments manipulating land use to increase revenue.”
(Edwards, 2005, p. 74.) This study supports prior findings that local governments’
fiscal incentives define the spatial growth or sprawl of their urban areas. (Edwards,
2005, p. 75.)
Importantly, Edwards found that a one percent increase in own-source
revenue from property taxes translates to 64 additional acres of development.
(Edwards, 2005, p. 68.) Further, a 10 percent increase in county own-source
revenue from sales taxes resulted in approximately 530 acres of additional
development. (Edwards, 2005, p. 68.) Edwards concluded that “county sales taxes
provide a sizeable impetus for sprawl.” (Edwards, 2005, p. 68.)
d) Paul G. Lewis (2001)
California employs the so-called “situs jurisdiction” for sales tax revenues.
A “situs jurisdiction” apportions sales tax revenue based on the location where the
revenue is generated. (Lewis, 2001, p. 21.) Thus, local jurisdictions with greater
tax generation receive a greater proportion of sales tax revenue from the State.
After Proposition 13, cities responded to the loss of property taxes by increasing
their income from fees, assessments and license charges. (Lewis, 2001, pp. 22-23.)
Further, competition for sales tax revenues, particularly retail land uses, increased.
(Lewis, 2001, p. 23.) Lewis’ study consisted of surveys sent to top administrative
officials in 471 California cities in late 1998, with usable survey responses from
330 cities. (Lewis, 2001, p. 26.) The surveys showed retail development as the
most favored type of land use for both vacant land and redevelopment, with office
development being a close runner-up. (Lewis, 2001, p. 26.) The least desirable
land use projects were residential and heavy industrial. (Lewis, 2001, p. 26.)
Regarding incentives, cities ranked retail uses the most likely to receive
incentives in their communities, with light industrial ranked second. (Lewis, 2001,
p. 26.) The key motivation for new development on vacant land was “new sales tax
revenues generated.” (Lewis, 2001, pp. 27-28.) Based on these results, Lewis
concluded “such factors as job creation, industrial development, or affordable
housing provision lags behind.” (Lewis, 2001, p. 28.) However, although local
policies or incentives indicate a preference for retail land uses, Lewis concluded
such preferences would unlikely change the volume of retail in California, because
market economic factors determine the level to which a community can support
retailers. (Lewis, 2001, p. 28.) Therefore, he found the preferences resulted in
“largely a fiscalization of municipalities’ land-use orientations rather than a
fiscalization of land-use outcomes.” (Lewis, 2001, p. 31.)
The three main sources of financial information for local governments are
the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Census of Governments, the California State
Board of Equalization and the California State Controller’s Annual Report. (Shires
and Habers, 1997, p. 8.) My analysis of counties’ fiscalization of land use is based
on data from the California State Controller’s Annual Reports and the California
State Board of Equalization’s Annual Reports, as discussed further below. This
analysis does not include data from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Census of
Governments, because “the data underlying the Census reports are largely those
included in the Controller’s reports.” (Shires and Habers, 1997, p. 12.)
a) California State Controller’s Office Annual Reports
The California State Controller’s Office collects annual information of local
government financial activity that “includes revenue, expenditure and debt
information” for each county. (Shires and Habers, 1997, pp. 9-10.) In 1997, Shires
and Habers undertook a study to determine the reliability of the local public finance
data published by the California State Controller’s Office each year. The study’s
purpose was to ensure the reliability of data used in subsequent studies regarding
“how California’s political institutions and processes affect policy outcomes” in the
wake of Proposition 13 and other revenue-and-expenditure-limiting initiatives.
(Shires and Habers, 1997, p. iii.) Regarding the revenue data pertinent to this
analysis, the study concluded the State Controller’s data “are highly accurate in
their portrayal of the revenues raised and received” by local governments. (Shires
and Habers, 1997, pp. 85-86.) Therefore, this analysis includes revenue data
derived from the State Controller’s Annual Reports.
b) California State Board of Equalization
The California State Board of Equalization’s Annual Report provides
detailed information on state, city and county tax receipts (including property and
sales taxes) on an annual basis. The data is reliable because the State Board of
Equalization is “the primary tax collector and distributor for the sales tax, the fuel
tax, the alcoholic beverage tax and the cigarette tax.” (Shires and Habers, 1997, p.
10.) Therefore, my analysis includes sales and use tax data from the State Board of
My analysis will focus on the changes in county revenue between 1998 –
2008 to determine how and whether the proportion of county revenue changed by
revenue category. The purpose of this analysis is to determine whether counties
have an equal or greater interest in one type of development over another. This
analysis assumes counties would have a greater preference for “general discretion
revenues,” such as property tax and sales tax, because (unlike other taxes
constrained by statute or the constitution for specific purposes) these taxes may be
spent for any purpose. (Shires, 1999, p. 31.)
a) Homeowners’ Property Taxes
As shown in Table 4, between 1998 and 2008, counties experienced a
significant decrease in the percentage of homeowners’ property taxes allocated to
them by the state of California. In fact, the data shows a consistent decrease in the
proportion of homeowners’ property taxes allocated as a part of the total “County
Taxes Allocated” by the State from 1.67% in 1998 to only 0.89% in 2008. This
decrease in the proportion of homeowners’ property taxes in comparison to other
“County Taxes Allocated” supports literature that local governments likely do not
favor revenue from homeowners’ property taxes.
b) Revenue from State and Federal Government Agencies
As shown in Table 5, between 1998 and 2008, counties experienced a
significant decrease in the percentage of revenue from state and federal government
agencies in proportion to their revenues. In fact, the data shows a consistent
decrease in the proportion of state and federal revenues received by counties as a
part of the total “County Revenue.” Between 1998 and 2008, the state agencies’
allocations to counties decreased as a percentage of their total revenue from
37.22% to 32.39%. Similarly, the federal agencies’ allocations decreased from
23.15% to 19.24%. Additionally, the table shows an actual decrease in the money
received from the state’s agencies over various years. This data illustrates that
revenue received from state and federal agencies has decreased as a percentage of
counties’ overall revenue. Therefore, counties must augment these losses by
generating revenues in other categories.
c) Revenue from Property Taxes
Although Table 4 shows a decrease in the proportion of homeowners’
property taxes allocated in comparison to other “County Taxes Allocated,” between
1998 and 2008, property taxes still remain a large percentage of counties’ revenue.
Table 6 illustrates the proportion of revenues generated from property taxes.
Between 1998 and 2008, the proportion of property taxes increased from 12.42% to
15.36% of the counties’ revenue stream. It is important to note that this number is
not solely homeowners’ property taxes, which are restricted by Proposition 13 (as
analyzed in Table 4). Rather, this figure includes all taxes generated from
government and private properties.
Table 4: Changes in Homeowner Property Tax Allocation 1998-2008
% Change
Total County
Taxes Allocated
Secured and
County Taxes
Less than
County Wide
Source: California State Controller’s Office
Graph 1: Percentage Change in Homeowner Property Tax Allocation 1998-2008
Table 5: Revenue from State and Federal Government Agencies
State Gov't
from State
Federal Gov't
% Revenue
from Federal
Fiscal Year
Total Financing
Sources and
Transfers In
Source: California State Controller’s Office
Graph 2: Percentage Revenue from State and Federal Governments
This increase in the proportion of property taxes to counties’ revenue is
important when considering the political impact property taxes changes may have
on local governments’ willingness to cooperate with the state. To the extent local
governments’ can control local land use decisions to maximize property tax
allocations, they are likely to do so. To the extent SB 375 is inconsistent with the
maximizing of these revenues, local governments will likely ignore the bill’s goals.
Table 6: Revenue from All Property Taxes
Fiscal Year
Total County
Revenue (in
% of Total
Source: California State Controller’s Office and Board of Equalization
Graph 3: Percentage of Property Taxes as Part of County Revenues
This section analyzed the fiscal constraints on the implementation of SB
375. The above data demonstrates that property taxes are a very important (and
seeming increasingly important) revenue stream for counties. However,
homeowners’ property tax allocations as a percentage of County allocated taxes are
actually decreasing. Therefore, these increases in property tax allocations likely
reflect counties’ management of land use decisions. Further, the data shows that
state and federal fund allocations to counties have steadily decreased over the past
10 years. This decrease and the increasing importance of property taxes to
counties’ revenue streams likely mean that counties will place even greater reliance
on its local land use decisions to fund its operations. To the extent the county can
allocate land use development to increase property taxes, the county will likely do
so. Due to the apparent importance of such land use decisions, counties will likely
disregard SB 375’s goals if they conflict with the maximization of property tax
In light of these findings, recommendations increasing counties’ revenue
from other sources would likely be the best motivation to comply with SB 375.
Such recommendations include: congestion pricing through peak-hour toll charges,
VMT fees through a feebate system, tax increment financing for transit oriented
areas, variable parking pricing, and other financing methods. Further, to the extent
counties seek commercial and retail development closer to residences, the state
could consider extending the CEQA streamlining to such projects. This would
secure cooperation by the counties by increasing their revenue stream, while at the
same time encouraging the goals of SB 375. By building commercial and retail
developments closer to existing residential developments, the state would
encourage less vehicle travel, and thus less GHG emissions. In conjunction with
such developments, the state should provide additional financing to support transit
development to facilitate public transport between the existing residences and the
new commercial/retail developments.
SB 375 seems to overlook an important fact: urban sprawl in the form of
residential developments is existent and cannot be reversed. Specifically, people
are less likely to leave their suburban homes to move to the inner-city to be closer
to their jobs. This is true especially given the increase in resale homes and
foreclosures on the market in recent years. Therefore, SB 375’s requirements will
have little impact on the majority of the present working population. In order to
influence the travel behaviors of the work force, perhaps the focus should be on
moving employment facilities closer to the sprawled areas to minimize VMT. If
the Bill were to provide incentives and support for counties to entice businesses
into the sprawled areas, counties may be more willing to comply with the SB 375
requirements. More importantly, increasing employment centers close to existing
homes may actually further SB 375’s goals, because a homeowner is more likely to
change jobs than to sell his/her home, especially if the home is located in a
desirable school district. It is more difficult to uproot an entire family with
established friends, schools, and neighborhood and community obligations, than to
uproot a single family member by providing similar or better job opportunities.
Further, given the economic climate and the decrease in homebuilding in
the California over the past 5 years (and little growth in the foreseeable future), the
focus of SB 375 seems misplaced. It is important to note that land development
generally takes years. Indeed, homebuilders generally have to proceed through
various red-tape procedures to get to land development (including CEQA, tentative
map, final map, Department of Real Estate public report requirements, and many
more city, county and state requirements). Moreover, in recent years, land
development has been plagued by various lawsuits related to endangered species.
Thus, most of the land development in the current pipeline for 2011 through 2020
have most likely already been approved or are far enough in the process that any
changes consistent with SB 375 may create significant cost exposure. As such, SB
375’s requirements may have little impact on land development and land use
decisions in the near future.
Chapter 3
Land use planning is a political issue. Elected officials must balance the
needs/wants of their constituents in a public forum. The political nature of
planning makes it inherently susceptible to manipulation by interested individuals
and groups. (Fulton, 1999.) Local governments are more responsive to local
preferences than the State “because people are more likely to know their city
councilmembers and are better able to assess their behaviors and successes at
election time than they are with their more distantly connected county, state, or
federal representatives.” (Shires, 1999, p. 10, fn. 4.)
This section analyzes the political constraints to the implementation of the
SB 375 land use development proposals. Specifically, this section will review the
historical non-compliance by local governments with the Housing Element Law
and the structure of the MPOs as a barrier to SB 375 implementation.
Housing Element Law
SB 375 attempts to focus local attention on regional issues, which may be
difficult especially when local and regional interests conflicts. Currently, the only
required general plan element that attempts to do this is the housing element. Thus,
the issues associated with the housing element may provide insight into the
problems that could potentially plague a good faith attempt to implement the SB
375 requirements.
a) Overview: Housing Element Law Requirements and Process
California’s Housing Element Law (Government Code §§ 65580-65589.8),
also known as the “fair-share” housing law, was enacted in 1969 and is “the major
means by which the state government tries to ensure that local land-use regulators
are dealing with unmet housing needs and planning appropriately for new housing
development.” (Lewis, 2003, p. 1.) The housing element is one of the seven
required elements of each city/county’s general plan, identifying current and future
local housing needs for all income groups and preparing a schedule to meet such
needs. (Lewis, 2003, pp. 1-2.) These plans “determine where housing, especially
low- and moderate-income units, should be built within a region according to such
criteria as placing housing where it will expand housing opportunity, where it is
most needed, and where it is most suitable.” (Listokin, 1976, p. 1.)
The state used the housing element law to encourage local planning for the
more fiscally burdensome residential development, rather than the retail and
commercial development favored by local policymakers for their local sales tax
revenues. (Lewis, 2003, p. 13.) Further, the regional needs assessment
“redistribute[s] the burdens of lower-income households more equitably across
geographic areas.” (Lewis, 2003, p. 18.) The philosophy behind the local housing
plans is to direct local “police power” toward the general welfare of the region,
rather than the just the specific locality. (Listokin, 1976, p. 19.)
Prior to SB 375, the regional MPOs allocated the state’s housing needs
according to the “fair share” standard, a top-down approach based on federally
generated population predictions. (Darakjian, 2009, 394.) The California
Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) sets regional housing
targets based on the Department of Finance’s population projections. “In a process
called the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA), the council of
governments (a planning body representing the cities and counties in a given
metropolitan area) must allocate this total number of housing units among the cities
and unincorporated county areas in its region.” (Lewis, 2003, p. 2.) The council of
governments (COG) must consider several factors during its local allocation of
housing growth goals, such as market demand for housing, employment
opportunities, availability of suitable sites and services, commuting patterns,
farmworker housing needs and the type and tenure of housing need. (Lewis, 2003,
p. 17.) The local communities must then identify “sufficient physical capacity to
accommodate projected housing needs” and must provide “a detailed land
inventory, summarizing the number of acres zoned for various types of residential
development and for nonresidential uses.” (Lewis, 2003, p. 19.)
In the local government’s five-year action plan, it must “identify a sufficient
set of potential sites for future housing development that could accommodate the
community’s need ‘by right’ – that is, without requiring a conditional use permit or
imposing vague conditions on potential homebuilders.” (Lewis, 2003, p. 19.) A
shortage of buildable land “does not relieve a locality of its responsibility to
provide adequate sites for new residential development.” (Lewis, 2003, p. 19.)
These localities should look to changes in land use, annexation, upzoning, a second
unit ordinance, redevelopment policy or infrastructure improvements to increase
the development potential of their land base. (Lewis, 2003, p. 20.) Local officials
believe the suggested changes to intensify land use conflict with other policy
considerations, such as lack of water or sewer capacity, traffic congestion, existing
land uses (such as industrial or commercial) or seismic, flooding or other natural
hazards. (Lewis, 2003, p. 20.)
The HCD reviews each local government’s housing plan to determine
whether the plans would meet each community’s goal for new housing units.
(Lewis, 2003, p. 2.) “The housing element is the only part of local general plans
that is subject to substantial oversight by the state” because housing is considered a
matter of vital statewide importance. (Lewis, 2003, pp. 2, 19.) If the plan meets
the statutory requirements, HCD certifies the housing element. (Lewis, 2003, p. 3.)
If it does not meet the requirements, HCD may provide suggestions to the local
government. (Lewis, 2003, p. 3.) However, the local government may adopt the
housing element plan without HCD’s certification and without incorporating
HCD’s suggestions. (Lewis, 2003, p. 3.) These plans are “out of compliance.”
(Lewis, 2003, p. 3.) Although the HCD’s review of local housing elements is only
“advisory,” the “carrot/stick” provisions in the law seek to encourage cities and
counties to seek HCD’s certification of their plans. (Lewis, 2003, p. 3.)
The so-called “carrot” for local governments to gain HCD’s certification of
the housing element is the presumed legal validity of the plan upon certification
(making it more difficult for parties seeking to invalidate the plan through legal
action). (Lewis, 2003, p. 3.) The housing element law’s “stick” to encourage
certification is the inability of noncompliant local governments to qualify for
certain affordable housing and to participate in certain housing and community
development grants. (Lewis, 2003, p. 3.)
In 2001-2002, Senate Bill 910 was introduced to provide greater “teeth” in
the housing element law through state fines on local governments for delayed or
noncompliant local housing plans. The bill died in the assembly and the housing
element law failed to add another stick to combat local noncompliance. (Lewis,
2003, pp. 32-33.) The failure of SB 910 “illustrates the long-simmering standoff
between state and local officials.” (Lewis, 2003, p. 34.) “Housing element policy
and enforcement has become a prominent source of intergovernmental
antagonism.” (Lewis, 2003, p. 34.)
b) Controversies Over Local Government Noncompliance
Some state officials believe local governments “are not energetic enough in
planning for housing and are trying to deflect their fair share onto other
jurisdictions.” (Lewis, 2003, p. 2.) In response, local officials claim: (1) the
HCD’s RHNA targets “are poorly justified, unrealistic, and unresponsive to the
physical limitations of their communities”; and (2) “affordable housing production
is stymied by both high land costs and the lack of state and federal funds for this
purpose. (Lewis, 2003, pp. 2-3.) State officials have sought to “beef up
compliance with housing element law or penalize noncompliant local governments,
whereas local officials [have sought] to protect local autonomy over land use.”
(Lewis, 2003, p. 5.) Some county officials believe counties and cities should be
treated differently in the housing element process, “given the greater capacity of
incorporated cities to accommodate new growth” and counties’ protection of
resource and agricultural lands. (Lewis, 2003, p. 28.) A Napa County supervisor
said: “Consider the fact that we’re an agricultural county, and the fact that the state
always laments the loss of agricultural land, and the fact that HCD equates
agricultural land and open space as land available for housing.” (Lewis, 2003, p.
Lewis identified four reasons that cities fail to comply with the housing
element law: (1) community social status and exclusion of low-income housing; (2)
local land-use characteristics (such as age of the housing stock and population
density) and unavailability of vacant land; (3) the local government’s resources and
planning capacity; and (4) local politics and residential growth policies (such as
reduction of residentially zoned land, annual limits or moratorium on building
permits, and an official “population ceiling”). (Lewis, 2003, pp. 37As of September 25, 2002, “about one-third of all cities and more than onefifth of all counties” had noncompliant housing elements. (Lewis, 2003, pp. 3-4.)
The problem with determining the noncompliance of various jurisdictions is the
difference in “planning periods” among these jurisdictions. HCD breaks the
regions down based on Planning Periods as follows:
San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG): 6/30/05-11
Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG): 6/30/08-14
Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG): 12/31/01-09
Fresno County Governments, Kern County Council of Governments and
Sacramento Council of Governments (SACOG): 6/30/08-13
Monterey Bay Area Governments (AMBAG): 12/31/02-09
All other local governments: 12/31/03-09
After reviewing the HCD’s annual reports to the California Senate and
Assembly, I found the statistics set forth in Table 7 for the period between 2004
and 2008. Although the compliance numbers appear to trend upward between 2004
and 2007, 2008 presents a sharp decline in compliance. A more detailed review of
the data suggested that a greater level of non-compliance is found at the beginning
of the planning period. Therefore, because many jurisdictions’ planning periods
begin in 2008, this period has a lower level of compliance than the periods before.
Although this data shows an increase in the general level of compliance, the data
also shows a significant level of non-compliance by local governments in any given
Table 7: Housing Element Law Compliance 2004-2008
In Compliance
Out of Compliance
Under Review
In Process
Not Yet Due
Source: HCD
In a 2009 study, California’s Housing Element Law was labeled as a “nearmodel program.” (Tars and Egleson, 2009, p. 211.) However, the authors
explained, “the fatal flaw in the law is that it is a requirement to plan for, not
necessarily produce, sufficient numbers of units to accommodate a city’s housing
needs.” (Tars and Egleson, 2009, p. 211.) They suggested the best model to end
homelessness would include the best aspects of California’s Housing Element law,
“but also add an enforceable duty on municipalities to execute those plans, together
with a corresponding commitment from federal, state and local governments to
provide adequate funding.” (Tars and Egleson, 2009, p. 212.) A 2010 study
echoed these criticisms of the Housing Element Law. The study cited two
fundamental problems with the housing element law: (1) the law requires local
governments to plan for housing, but contains no enforcement element; and (2) the
focus of the housing element law is on planning rather than focus, and local
communities do not need to show that they complied with the planned housing
projections. (Shanske, 2010, p. 708, fn. 130.) These criticisms seem to well
supported by the historical non-compliance of local governments with the Housing
Element Law.
Lewis suggested the following alternatives or modifications to the Housing
Element Law to further local governments’ compliance: (1) more penalties and
prescriptions for local governments to meet the requirements of the law (such as
financial penalties, legal action by the attorney general against noncompliant
governments, and state-imposed “inclusionary zoning” requirements); (2) selfcertification based on performance; (3) subregional allocations and joint housing
elements; (4) encouraging transfers of housing allocations among jurisdictions; (5)
rewards for performance through regional impact fees on commercial development
in job-heavy, housing-poor areas. (Lewis, 2003, pp. 71-76.)
To the extent that SB 375 is similar to the Housing Element Law, the
historical non-compliance of local governments foreshadow a similar response to
the requirements of SB 375.
c) The Housing Element Law and SB 375
To determine whether SB 375 will likely follow in the same noncompliance footsteps as the Housing Element Law, I analyze the similarities and
differences between the two laws.
Under SB 375, local jurisdictions will adopt their RTP/SCS and regional
housing allocation plans on the same schedule, every 8 years. (Government Code
§§ 65588(b), 65588(e)(7)(C).) Further, the SCS must accommodate the predicted
housing need in the RHNA, and the allocation plan zoning to accommodate the
RHNA must be consistent with the development pattern in the SCS. (Government
Code §§ 65584.04(i).) Within 3 years of adopting the housing element, the local
jurisdiction must zone parcels of unused land pursuant to the RHNA. (Government
Code §§ 65583(c)(1)(A).)
SB 375 provides that if a locality fails to zone for low and very-low-income
housing, it will be precluded from disapproving any general plan compliant
affordable housing project. (Government Code § 65583(g)(1).) SB 375 introduced
some teeth to the Housing Element Law by requiring local jurisdictions to complete
all zoning consistent with the approved housing element within three years or face
the risk of a suit. (Greenway, 2010, pp. 440-441.) Further, if “the approved
housing element indicates a site is suitable for residential development but the
jurisdiction has not completed the corresponding zoning, then authorities can deny
an affordable project that meets the applicable standards only for health and safety
reasons.” (Greenway, 2010, p. 440.) Advocates of SB 375 believe this is one of
the most important parts of the bill, because it aligns housing allocation,
transportation planning and affordable housing. (Darakjian, 2009, p. 395.)
However, SB 375 “did not change the way in which the housing element is adopted
except to the extent that the regional housing allocation plan must be consistent
with the SCS.” (Higgins, 2008, p. 15.)
SB 375 is very similar to the Housing Element Law. Both laws are
incentive-based. The Housing Element Law provides incentives through grants for
affordable housing development, and SB 375 provides incentives through CEQA
streamlining. Further, both laws are “planning” in nature, rather than actionoriented. Neither law requires the local governments to approve specific land
development; the laws merely require them to plan for specific development.
Additionally, neither law provides any serious penalties or fines for local
government non-compliance. In these aspects, SB 375 seems to follow in the same
path as the Housing Element Law.
However, it is also important to look at the overall political environment. In
November 2010, California elected Jerry Brown as the next Governor. During
Governor Jerry Brown’s administration between 1975-1983, HCD took “a more
aggressive posture toward the fair-share goals implied in the housing element law,
by which each local government is expected to help solve regional housing
shortfalls, particularly for low- and moderate-income households.” (Lewis, 2003,
p. 15.) Further, in 2007, while Jerry Brown was the California Attorney General,
he sued the County of San Bernardino for the city’s failure to address climate
change in its general plan update. (State ex rel. Brown v. County of San
Bernardino (2007) No. CIVSS 0700329.) Although the case resolved in
settlement, the impact of the suit was clear. In 2006, only two environmental
assessment documents contained a discussion of climate change; compared to the
149 environmental assessment documents addressing climate change impacts in
2007. (Stern, 2008, p. 633, fn. 123.)
From Jerry Brown’s prior actions in government, one could argue that he
may take a more aggressive stand against non-compliant local governments than
perhaps a different Governor. After all, the fear of litigation “is a major motivator
for local governments in expending time and resources on housing elements.”
(Lewis, 2003, p. 22.) Perhaps, in an effort to avoid costly and time-consuming
litigation, local governments will be more inclined to comply with SB 375 during
Governor Jerry Brown’s administration.
MPO Political Structure
SB 375 relies heavily on the cooperation of California’s 18 MPOs. As
explained previously, each of the MPOs is responsible for drawing up the SCS or
APS to meet the CARB’s regional GHG emissions reduction target. In order to
draw up the SCS or APS, the MPO must work with its regional counties and cities
to plan the regional land development patterns. Although regional planning, rather
than localized planning, provides various benefits in terms of resource allocation,
minimizing externalities and fostering cooperation, it may also create difficulties in
developing a comprehensive regional plan.
“It is worth noting that the decision-makers on the regional MPOs are made
up wholly of local elected officials.” (Higgins, 2008, p. 9.) These local elected
officials are comprised from various cities and counties within the region. The
regional organization must carry out the state mandate while, at the same time,
satisfying the expectations of their local governments. This places the MPOs in a
very difficult position and may present a serious political liability for a voluntary
membership organization. (Lewis, 2003, p. 26.) Some critics believe that the
“MPOs are not likely to support measures that limit the discretion of cities and
counties, particularly in those MPOs where every city and county in the region has
a seat on the MPO board.” (Higgins, 2008, p. 9.) “Without independent authority,
regional agencies have little wherewithal to overcome fundamental conflicts
between local and statewide interests.” (Lewis, 2003, p. 26.)
One of the three main goals of SB 375 is to encourage infill, high-density
residential development. (Higgins, 2008, p. 2.) However, local governments have
historically shied away from such development. “One of the main reasons that
higher density, infill development has not taken hold throughout the state, despite
strong support among professional planners, is that residents frequently organize to
oppose such development.” (Greenway, 2010, p 442.) Property owners in the
vicinity of proposed high density development frequently organize to defeat such
development. “[I]t is easier to mobilize constituencies against housing because
concerned neighbors live close to one another, can identify the source of potential
impacts, and are likely to experience those impacts directly.” (Greenway, 2010, p.
442.) “The kinds of local land-use decisions required for SB 375 to be successful
are precisely the ones for which it has been most difficult to build public support.”
(Greenway, 2010, p. 444.) Local elected officials are unlikely to vote for
development when current residents oppose the project, because to do otherwise
would likely be political suicide. Although there might be consumer demand for
higher density projects, local elected officials seek to be responsible to their
constituents who already live in their communities.
In a critical review of SB 375, Long argued a one-size-fits-all approach to
compact development would not work in California because “the ‘Manhattan
approach’ is inconsistent with the future westerners imagine for their place, and
they will not adopt something that does not achieve their desired vision of their
future.” (Long, 2009, p. 765.) The author claims that “substantial institutional and
cultural inertia exists resisting any move toward more compact development
patterns that could reduce vehicle miles traveled and allow for more efficient uses
of scarce, or CO2-producing, energy sources.” (Long, 2009, p. 797.)
These views are supported by a long-standing doctrine in property law – the
“tragedy of the commons.” As applied to SB 375, local governments appear to
have no rational incentive to reduce GHG emissions for global benefit through
local resource allocation. “Climate change is widely considered an excellent
example of the overexploitation of a commons resource similar to that popularized
by Garret [sic] Hardin’s parable of the tragedy of the commons.” (Engel, 2006, p.
1022.) According to Kirsten Engel, “[t]he extremely small dent in global
greenhouse gas emissions accomplished by state and local governments only seems
to underscore the seeming economic irrationality of the state and local
government’s actions.” (Engel, 2006, p. 1028.) Further, Jonathan Wiener explains:
“[B]ecause GHGs mix globally and have global impacts, local abatement actions
pose local costs, yet deliver essentially no local climate benefits. This in turn
suggests that local actions will often be difficult to enact.” (Wiener, 2007, p.
1965.) The doctrine of “tragedy of the commons,” which has historically been
applied to various natural resources, lends support to critics’ views that the MPOs
will have difficulty persuading local governments (cities and counties) to focus on
infill and high-density development as suggested by SB 375.
Various local governments’ statements in the wake of the CARB’s release
of the GHG emissions reduction targets further support these views. Waterford
Mayor Charlie Goeken called the CARB’s targets “arbitrary and detrimental” to the
small community’s budget. (Long, 2010.) Tustin Mayor Jerry Amante (also Chair
of the Orange County Transportation Authority) called the targets unsustainable –
“[t]here is no science behind them; they are driven by climate control zealots.”
(Long, 2010.) Further, Kern County responded to the CARB’s “Central Valleywide” targets, stating it was concerned that a single target for eight counties did not
take into account the individual differences of each county, and that the reduction
targets were too ambitious. (Kern Council of Governments, Sept. 2010.) Kern
County said the targets were “arbitrary, unfair and could have serious repercussions
to state environmental, economic and equity goals.” (Kern Council of
Governments, Sept. 2010.) These comments support literature doubting local
governments’ commitment to the SB 375 goals.
“Prominent legal scholars and economists have argued that the most
efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to targeted levels would be to
constrain greenhouse gas emissions from the top down through a ‘comprehensive’
cap-and-trade regime.” (Trisolini, 2010, p. 683.) Such an approach would mandate
local government compliance with the program; however, it would face strong
political opposition.
The structure of SB 375 and the Housing Element Law are almost identical
in terms of incentives and lack of enforcement mechanism. In fact, recently,
CARB’s Planning Liaison Terry Roberts said, “The statute doesn’t require cities
and counties to do anything. The point is not to set regulatory standards that have
to be met, but to get regions thinking about how to build sustainable communities.”
(Long, 2010.) However, SB 375 does add some teeth to the Housing Element Law
in the way of precluding a non-compliant local government from disapproving a
general plan compliant affordable housing project. Although this change seems
significant, it only applies to “affordable housing projects” and it does not change
the general nature and structure of the Housing Element Law. Whether this “stick”
will be significant enough to incentivize local governments into compliance
remains to be seen. Further, the election of Jerry Brown as the next California
Governor may also impact local governments’ compliance with SB 375 and the
Housing Element Law.
The political structure of each MPO, made up of locally elected officials,
creates another barrier to the successful implementation of SB 375. Many local
officials have already expressed discontent with the CARB’s targets and resent
state intrusion upon the traditional local powers over land development. Due to the
CARB’s continued lack of preemptive authority over local land use decisions, it
must rely “on local governments’ political inclinations to voluntarily adopt
statewide air quality priorities.” (Stern, 2008, p. 621.) Although some local
governments will likely be eager to further GHG emissions reductions, others will
not. Without the local governments’ participation to promote infill and highdensity products, SB 375 will likely be unable to meet its goals.
I agree with various scholars that the political climate in California may
require traditional regulations to require local governments to comply with SB 375,
through the use of mandates, fines, penalties, etc. However, given the political
tension between the state and local governments over revenues and power, the state
should focus on establishing cooperation with local governments prior to
implementing any mandates. Additionally, the state should ensure that the data and
methodology used to establish mandates are consistent across the state and are
scientifically defendable. The CARB acknowledged that its findings are based on
the various MPOs’ travel models, which differ significantly from one to the other.
Therefore, the CARB can’t reasonably expect local governments to take the various
targets seriously. Without a consistent methodology, a 5% reduction target in one
region may be completely different from a 5% reduction in another region. If the
State were to mandate compliance with SB 375, it will need to gain the local
governments’ confidence in the determination of the GHG reduction targets and the
subsequent compliance monitoring.
Chapter 4
The San Joaquin Valley presently represents approximately 10% of
California’s population, and is expected to grow to 14% of the state’s population by
2035. As defined here, the San Joaquin Valley covers approximately 27,000 square
miles and comprises of eight counties: San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera,
Fresno, Tulare, Kings and Kern and 62 cities. The northern San Joaquin Valley is
defined as the counties of San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced. These counties are
geographically connected to the San Francisco Bay Area and are thus subject to
direct spillovers in population and commuting. The southern San Joaquin Valley is
comprised of Madera, Fresno, Tulare, Kings and Kern Counties. In contrast to the
northern San Joaquin Valley, these counties are more rural and the cities more
freestanding. The southern San Joaquin Valley counties may begin to feel more
pressure from the Los Angeles Area in the near future.
“Each county has its own Council of Governments, which engages in
transportation planning and also allocates the state’s ‘target’ for housing production
within each county under the Housing Element Law.” (Teitz and Dietzel, 2005, p.
4.) Generally, each “city and county makes its own plans for future growth and
implements those plans – usually with little concern for the cumulative regional
effect of their actions.” (Teitz and Dietzel, 2005, p. 5.) Each San Joaquin Valley
county has its own MPO, as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 1: San Joaquin Valley
Source: Earth Techling
The reason this thesis focuses on the San Joaquin Valley for the case study
is simple: SB 375 seeks to influence land use patterns to reduce VMT and the San
Joaquin Valley is projected to have the greatest population growth by 2050, as
shown in Table 8. Therefore, the San Joaquin Valley will be instrumental in
determining the overall success of the implementation of SB 375.
Figure 2: San Joaquin Valley MPOs
Table 8: Current and Projected Regional Population Growth in California
Annual Population Growth
South Coast
San Francisco Bay Area
Inland Empire
San Joaquin Valley
Sacramento Metropolitan Area
Central Coast
Rest of State
Source: Authors’ tabulation of California Department of Finance Data:
2007a, 2007b, 2008
CARB’s Targets for the San Joaquin Valley
In CARB’s report, it stated: “the eight MPOs in the San Joaquin Valley
have special challenges in terms of resources and technical capability, and they are
exploring the potential for collaboration on the multi-regional planning process.”
(CARB, 2010, p. 2.) In contrast to the firm targets set for the remaining MPOs,
CARB set “placeholder targets” for each of the eight San Joaquin Valley MPOs at
a 5% per capita reduction by 2020 and a 10% per capita reduction by 2035. CARB
will revisit these targets in 2012 based on the proposed valley-wide blueprint
planning process, updated modeling techniques and capabilities, and in preparation
of the Valley’s RTPs, which are due in 2014.
In setting these targets, CARB considered the target recommendations
provided by the various MPOs. Three of the eight San Joaquin Valley MPOs
recommended targets prior to CARB’s report and four of the MPOs provided
target-setting scenarios. These MPO submittals spanned “a range in per capita
greenhouse gas emissions from a seven percent reduction to a twelve percent
increase.” (CARB, 2010, p. 5.) In fact, for the 2020 GHG reduction targets, the
Fresno County of Governments suggested a 5% reduction from 2005, the San
Joaquin County of Governments suggested a 6% reduction from 2005, and the
Kern Council of Governments suggested a 9% increase from 2005. (CARB, 2010,
Appendix, Excerpts from MPO Submittal of Target Setting Scenarios and Results
for the San Joaquin Council of Governments, p. 10.) This divergent range in per
capita GHG suggested targets illustrate the concern of treating the eight San
Joaquin Valley MPOs alike for purposes of GHG reduction targets.
Individual San Joaquin County Concerns
Several San Joaquin counties have raised concerns with regard to how the
proposed valley-wide target could disproportionately affect their individual
counties. These counties’ express concerns lend credence to the fear that SB 375
will be unsuccessful in wooing local governments to implement the initiatives and
strategies outlined in the Bill.
Specifically, Kern Council of Governments has argued that the county’s
“strategic employment resources,” such as military bases, wind farms and prisons,
make it unlikely that the county could meet the proposed target in future. (CARB,
2010, p. 5.) Indeed, after reviewing its scenarios analysis, Kern found little benefit
in GHG reductions through the implementation of SB 375 measures. (CARB,
2010, Appendix, Excerpts from MPO Submittal of Target Setting Scenarios and
Results for the Kern Council of Governments, p. 10.) In its target-setting scenarios
letter, Kern explained how the unique features of the county would prevent
conventional infill “as envisioned by the writers of SB 375.” (CARB, 2010,
Appendix, Excerpts from MPO Submittal of Target Setting Scenarios and Results
for the Kern Council of Governments, p. 8.) Not only does two-thirds of the
households in Kern reside in less than 10% of the area near the County center, but
also the largest employment growth sectors in the county include military, wind
energy and prisons, which are not conducive to infill locations. (CARB, 2010,
Appendix, Excerpts from MPO Submittal of Target Setting Scenarios and Results
for the Kern Council of Governments, p. 8.)
Similarly, Madera County expressed concern regarding the implementation
of SB 375 in the current economic climate. Specifically, Madera County explained
that “[r]eductions in local sales tax revenue and subsequent fiscal emergencies that
have gripped local governments raise serious questions about the feasibility of
implementing SB 375 in a depressed economy.” (Madera County Transportation
Commission Letter to CARB, June 23, 2010.) Accordingly, Madera County
requested a “delay in SB 375 implementation” to provide “relief for governments
struggling to remain afloat and give local planners additional time to prepare for the
drastic changes in development patterns that will accompany implementation.”
(Madera County Transportation Commission Letter to CARB, June 23, 2010.)
Based on the foregoing examples of the voiced concerns, one may deduce
that various individual counties do not support the CARB’s GHG reduction targets.
Indeed, if these counties express their concerns at the forefront, there is little reason
to believe that the counties intend to implement any of the goals or initiatives under
SB 375 in the future. However, these counties do have valid points with regard to
the individualized differences between the San Joaquin counties. Such differences
include population growth, employment patterns, interregional travel patterns,
constituents’ views and more. Therefore, these counties’ concerns are valid as to
how the same CARB target for the San Joaquin Valley counties makes little
practical sense in light of the existing differences between the counties.
IV. Development Trends
The San Joaquin Valley counties have experienced significant population
growth in recent years. However, the growth has not been uniform among the
counties, as shown below.
Table 9: Population Growth in the San Joaquin Valley
834,041 154,681
822,874 154,486
808,364 152,760
789,618 149,766
765,750 146,690
742,025 144,193
719,774 140,037
698,523 135,675
681,076 133,080
664,993 130,086
647,009 125,423
638,244 120,661
630,815 117,058
622,383 116,030
615,560 114,825
606,884 112,623
596,021 110,081
581,030 107,263
559,775 103,838
San Joaquin Stanislaus
Source: Authors’ tabulation of California Department of Finance data
Graph 4: Population Growth in the San Joaquin Valley
Indeed, based on the California Department of Finance’s data, Madera
County had the greatest percentage increase in population since 1991 at 66.48%.
The lowest percentage increase in population was in Stanislaus County at 38.38%,
with the remaining counties ranging between these outer limits. The most populous
county is Fresno County and the lease populous county is Madera County. These
numbers and statistics indicate a significant difference in the level of population
and growth applicable to the individual counties. Based on these differences in
population and growth, one may infer that the counties also directed and approved
different land use patterns based on the individual circumstances in each county.
Although the overall picture provides some indication of the population
growth experienced in these counties over the past almost 20 years, the growth
pattern looks a little different between 2006 and 2009. Indeed, as shown in Table
10, Kern County had the greatest increase in population between 2006 and 2009 at
5.63% with Tulare County following closely behind at 5.61%. Stanislaus showed
the lowest population growth at 2.36%. These population growth rates track the
building permit issuance in these counties as well.
Table 10: Population Growth Between 2006 – 2009
Joaquin Stanislaus
Source: Authors’ calculations from California Department of Finance data
In fact, the data relating to the issuance of building permits between 2006
and 2009 shows that Kern County granted the greatest number of permits at 11,607.
Tulare County also granted a large number of single-family permits at 7,333.
Therefore, the building permit issuance seems to track the population growth in the
individual counties, or vice versa.
Interestingly, Kern, Fresno and Tulare counties also paved the way with
multi-family building permits. Indeed, in addition to the 11,607 single-family
permits, Kern County approved 3,202 multi-family building permits. Based on the
foregoing, Kern County approved 27.91% of all of the building permits in the San
Joaquin Valley between 2006 and 2009. This may lend some understanding to
Kern County’s vigorous debate against the implementation of the GHG reduction
targets, and its projection of a 9% increase in GHG emissions as submitted to
Table 11: Single Family Building Permits 2006 – 2009
Source: California Employment Development Department
Table 12: Multi-Family Building Permits 2006-2009
San Joaquin Stanislaus Tulare
Source: California Employment Development Department
Further, it is important to note the difference in unemployment rates
between the counties. Unemployment is an important indication of economic
prosperity and greatly influences development patterns. As shown in Table 13, all
of the San Joaquin Valley counties have seen significant rises in unemployment.
Merced County has been hit the hardest with an unemployment rate of 21.2% as of
January 2011. As the unemployment rates rise, land use development decreases
because fewer residents are able to afford new home purchases. In return, as land
use development slows down, the strategies set forth in SB 375 become more
difficult to implement in order to meet the CARB’s targets.
In addition to population growth, an individual county’s land use patterns
are also influenced by the availability of development resources when determining
where and how much development is sustainable. Although water availability does
not directly impact VMT, it does influence development growth patterns. The
western part of the San Joaquin Valley has greater water scarcity than the eastern
Table 13: Unemployment Percentage Data
Source: California Employment Development Department
For example, Kings County is located in the western San Joaquin Valley
and has significant water challenges. (Kings County Association of Governments
Letter to CARB, May 20, 2010, p. 4.) Therefore, future development and the
county’s economic prosperity will be impacted by the availability of water supplies
In contrast, Kern County is a high growth area with a secure water supply. (Kern
County Association of Governments Letter to CARB, April 23, 2010, p. 9.) Thus,
this county may receive a disproportionate increase in future development due to
the availability in water supply. These differences between counties and the fact
that geographic limitations in one may affect the development patterns in another
county support the idea of a state-wide program implementation.
Interregional Travel
Interregional travel presents a great challenge in determining whether
individual MPOs will meet their target reduction requirements. Indeed, CARB
acknowledged the specific issue of interregional travel. CARB explained,
“[r]egions have limited ability to impact interregional travel, which includes travel
to and from regions as well as travel that passes entirely through regions.” (CARB,
2010, p. 11.) Although interregional travel is a statewide concern in the
implementation of SB 375, it is a significant concern for the San Joaquin Valley
where such travel is a large percentage of passenger vehicle travel in the valley.
a) Commuting Patterns Data
To analyze the individual application of commuting patterns on the San
Joaquin Valley counties, I obtained data from the 2000 Census by the U.S. Census
Bureau. Although some of the data from the 2010 Census are available, the
commuting data has not yet been released. Therefore, this analysis will have some
limitations. First, the analysis does not include the increased population and travels
between 2000 and 2010. This is a significant limitation, because the San Joaquin
Valley has seen great growth over the last 10 years. Second, the analysis does not
reflect how changes in geography may have influenced commuting patterns. For
example, as certain counties added more retail, airports, universities and other
amenities, the commuting patterns may have changed and adapted. In spite of
these limitations, the 2000 Census data does provide some insight into the
differences in commuting patterns between the San Joaquin Valley counties. The
U.S. Census Bureau’s data for the San Joaquin Valley counties is laid out in Table
b) Analysis of Commuting Patterns Data
The commuting patterns data shows a great disparity in the number of
travelers between the eight San Joaquin counties. Indeed, Fresno County has a
total of 319,056 commuters compared to Kings County which has a total of 48,860
commuters. Therefore, the VMT by county will vary significantly.
Mathematically, counties with a greater number of commuters would have to affect
the travel behavior of significantly more people than the counties with fewer
travelers in order to meet the same target decrease in GHG emissions.
Additionally, when the data is transformed to illustrate the percentage of travel
associated with the commuting patterns, as shown in Table 15, it is clear that some
of the San Joaquin counties experience a greater percentage of
inbound/outbound/through travel than other counties.
As Table 15 shows, Madera County has the lowest percentage of in-county
commuting at 55.43%. This seems to indicate that Madera County will have
greater difficulty in reducing its GHG emissions through SB 375’s suggested land
use patterns. In fact, 22.25% of the County’s residents commute to other San
Joaquin counties on a daily basis. Thus, in order for Madera County to reduce the
impact of these commuters, it must do one of the following: 1) attract businesses to
the residences in its County to reduce out of county commutes and shorten trip
lengths; 2) coordinate and develop an inter-county transportation system to remove
some of the commuter cars from the road; or 3) seek to relocate these commuters to
the county in which they work. The latter suggestion is illogical given that a
county has no incentive to lose taxpaying residents. The first suggestion does not
fit within the ambit of the SB 375 strategies; however, it may provide the County
with the greatest incentive because businesses provide an increased tax base.
Although the second possible strategy is feasible, Madera County would need to
determine where the majority of these commuters work. Further, this alternative
would require great capital layout, which may be infeasible in the current state of
the economy.
In contrast to Madera County, Kern County has the greatest percentage of
in-county commuting at 88.58%. Although the data seems to indicate that Kern
County would have the greatest control over reducing its in-county GHG emissions
relating to commuters, many of these commuters work at military or agricultural
operations, which limit the County’s ability to implement GHG emissions
reduction strategies as described further below.
Table 14: San Joaquin Valley Commuting Patterns
From other
SJ Valley
To other SJ
From other
To other
134,529 115,300
188,897 141,390
Source: Authors’ tabulation of data from U.S. Census Bureau (2000
Importantly, the data indicates that San Joaquin County receives 17.35% of
the commuters in its County from counties outside the San Joaquin Valley. These
commuters generally come from the Bay or Sacramento areas. The significance of
this information relates to how SB 375 treats the separate MPOs as independent
units. This data illustrates how interconnected the California counties are with
respect to VMT. This interconnectedness may create significant challenges for
counties to meet CARB’s GHG reduction targets without the coordination and
cooperation of all counties that affect commutes to and from the specific county.
Indeed, the interrelatedness of commutes between counties provides a basis for the
argument that, instead of applying SB 375 on a MPO basis, the focus should be on
a statewide initiative, which takes into account the interrelatedness of land use
patterns. The strength of this argument is further illustrated by the other
differences outlined below.
Table 15: San Joaquin Valley Commuting Patterns Percentage Breakdown
From other
SJ Valley
To other SJ
From other
To other
Joaquin Stanislaus
Source: Authors’ tabulation of data from U.S. Census Bureau (2000
VI. Employment Trends and Existing Land Use Patterns
A county or area’s employment distribution may have a great impact on its
ability to meet the SB 375 GHG reduction targets. As outlined below, the
employment distribution affects the geographic land use patterns, which, in some
instances, may make it difficult to reduce VMT. For example, Kings County’s
economy is primarily agrarian, consisting of dairy, agriculture and agribusiness,
because it “boasts some of the most productive and fertile farmland on earth.”
(Kings County Association of Governments Letter to CARB, May 20, 2010, p. 2.)
In fact, approximately 18% of the workforce in Kings County is employed in the
agricultural sectors. (Kings County Association of Governments Letter to CARB,
May 20, 2010, p. 3.) In addition to agriculture, “public facilities such as the Naval
Air Station in Lemoore and the State prison facilities at Avenal and Corcoran also
serve as major employers for the region.” (Kings County Association of
Governments Letter to CARB, May 20, 2010, p. 2.) Further, Kings County has
approved and is considering the addition of rural solar facilities within close
proximity to Interstate 5. (Kings County Association of Governments Letter to
CARB, May 20, 2010, pp. 2-3.)
Why is the geographic use within a county important in determining the
county’s potential compliance with SB 375 initiatives? The answer is simple –
some existing land use patterns are not conducive to infill development or shorter
a) State Prison Facilities and Military Bases
The “nature of prison employment is typically not conducive to short
commutes.” (Kings County Association of Governments Letter to CARB, May 20,
2010, p. 3.) This is so because “[w]orking as a correctional officer frequently
necessitates not residing in the same community as the prison itself,” and such
geographic characteristics are not subject to change “because of potential
complications for correctional officers to live and work in the same community.”
(Kings County Association of Governments Letter to CARB, May 20, 2010, p. 3.)
Similar travel patterns are associated with military bases. Indeed, security
requirements at military bases and prisons prevent public transit at the facility.
Based on the foregoing, San Joaquin Valley counties with significant
employment in military or correctional facilities may have greater difficulty in
reducing its VMT to achieve the GHG reduction targets.
b) Agricultural Employment
Farming operations and agriculture processing facilities are generally
located outside the urban core, requiring employees to travel long distances away
from the urban core. (Kings County Association of Governments Letter to CARB,
May 20, 2010, p. 3.) Therefore, increased infill in urban areas would have no
impact to reduce the VMT as applied to these economic sectors. Further,
suggesting residential development closer to agricultural employment would be
infeasible. First, such residential development would seek to convert prime
agricultural land, which is contrary to the anti-sprawl goals in SB 375. Further,
residential development in such areas would require the addition of other services,
such as schools, malls, restaurants, etc.; otherwise, the development would
encourage a counter-commute back to the urban core for such services, which
would defeat the purpose of moving residences closer to agricultural employment
in the first place.
c) Solar Energy Facilities
Similar to farming operations, solar facilities are generally in rural, isolated
areas. The location of these facilities usually depends on the availability of a power
grid (which generally runs along an interstate highway) and the location of military
bases (which require specific distances for safety reasons). (Kings County
Association of Governments Letter to CARB, May 20, 2010, p. 4.) The locations
of these facilities generally necessitate travel from urban cores and encourages
interregional travel for green collar professionals. Similar to the discussion under
agricultural employment, it would be difficult to reduce VMT associated with these
existing land use patterns.
d) Universities
Generally, universities are not suited for location in urban areas. Although
universities generally provide some on-campus housing and public transportation
to/from campus, most students drive to/from campus. Very few of the San Joaquin
Valley counties have universities within its borders. San Joaquin County has the
University of the Pacific in Stockton, a private university with a relatively small
enrollment of just over 3,000 full-time undergraduates in 2003. Stanislaus County
has the only public university, California State University, Stanislaus, which also
has modest enrollment numbers. Recently, the new University of California
campus in Merced opened its doors, attracting and influencing the migration
patterns and interregional travel patterns of high school graduates in the North San
Joaquin Valley. Because universities attract students to campus and additional
housing on-campus is infeasible, the counties with existing universities will have
greater difficulty in decreasing their VMT to meet the GHG reduction targets.
e) Employment Distribution
On a broader scale, the South and North San Joaquin Valley counties differ
dramatically in the distribution of employment, which affects land use patterns. As
shown in Table 16, the North San Joaquin has much less agriculture and
government employment than the South San Joaquin.
Table 16: Percentage Distribution of Employment by Industry, 2002
North San Joaquin
South San Joaquin
Trade, transportation and utilities
Educational and health services
Professional and business services
Leisure and hospitality
Natural resources, mining and construction
Financial activities
Other services
Total Employment
Source: Authors’ tabulations of California Employment Development
Department data
As discussed above, both of these industries generally necessitate greater
commute distances and times. Therefore, it would be more difficult for the South
San Joaquin counties to achieve the same GHG emission reduction targets as the
North San Joaquin counties based on the same initiatives in SB 375, which focuses
on land use patterns.
VII. Constituents’ Opinions and Views
The Public Policy Institute of California has done a lot of research on the
Central Valley of California in recent years. Included in these studies were surveys
to the residents of the Central Valley to determine their views on the key regional
problems facing their geographic areas. The results were divided into four
geographic areas: North Valley (Shasta, Tehama, Glenn, Butte, Colusa),
Sacramento Metro (Sutter, Yuba, Placer, El Dorado, Yolo and Sacramento), North
San Joaquin (San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced), South San Joaquin (Madera,
Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern).
Focusing on the San Joaquin Valley, the differences in the perception of the
“most important issue” facing the Central Valley are outlined in Table 17 below.
Significantly, the North San Joaquin and South San Joaquin counties disagree
greatly on the importance of air pollution. Indeed, the South San Joaquin counties’
perception that air quality is the most important issue was more than double that of
the North San Joaquin counties, at 32% versus 14%. In contrast, the North San
Joaquin counties’ perception that population growth, development and sprawl is the
most important issue was triple that of the South San Joaquin counties, at 15%
versus 5%. These differences in opinion may have a significant effect on the
implementation of SB 375. As explained under the Political Constraints chapter,
the views of constituents may greatly impact the local governments’ views on land
use development decisions.
Table 17: Most Important Issue Facing Central Valley Opinion Poll
North San Joaquin
South San Joaquin
Air pollution, pollution in general
Jobs, unemployment, economy
Population growth; development; sprawl
Water availability and quality
Crime, gangs
Traffic, transportation
Education, schools
Housing costs, housing availability
Don’t know
Source: Baldassare, 2004, p. 5
a) Transportation Projects
The willingness of constituents to tax themselves for local transportation
projects differs significantly between the North San Joaquin and South San Joaquin
counties. For example, 70% of the North San Joaquin poll versus 59% of the South
San Joaquin poll said they would vote yes on a ballot measure that would increase
local sales tax for local transportation projects by one-half cent. (Baldassare, 2004,
p. 9.) As local transportation projects are a significant part of the overall SB 375
initiative, the implementation of such projects may differ dramatically based on the
views of the individual counties’ constituents. Further, these views may also
significantly impact the cooperation among the various counties to reduce the
impact of inter-regional travel (which is a large portion of the travel within the
individual counties as described above).
The constituents of the North and South San Joaquin counties also have
divergent views on the types of surface transportation projects that should have top
priority for public funding. The South San Joaquin constituents focus more on
local streets and roads and show greater support for a public bus system and highspeed rail. (Baldassare, 2004, p. 9.) In contrast, the North San Joaquin constituents
show greater support for freeways and highways and a light rail system.
(Baldassare, 2004, p. 9.)
b) Air Quality Regulations
The Public Policy Institute of California’s study on the Central Valley
revealed key differences in opinion with regard to the South and North San Joaquin
constituents’ views on which government body should take primary responsibility
for setting air quality standards and plan for future growth.
In fact, the South San Joaquin counties show greater support for the state
and federal governments to take the reigns on air quality standards. (Baldassare,
2004 p. 11.) This coincides with these residents’ opinion that air pollution is a big
problem. Quite the opposite, the North San Joaquin counties prefer for regional air
resources boards and local governments to take primary responsibility for setting
air quality standards. (Baldassare, 2004, p. 11.) Similarly, the North San Joaquin
believes that planning for future growth should be left in the hands of city
governments rather than county or state governments, in contrast to the South San
Joaquin, which favors state and county government responsibility for such policies.
(Baldassare, 2004, p. 12.)
c) Analysis
These differences in opinion on fundamental ideological issues that form
the basis of SB 375 illustrates the potential for divergent implementation of the
proposed SB 375 goals and strategies. Indeed, the divergent views support the
suggestion that a statewide initiative would guide more uniform and collaborative
efforts to minimize VMT and GHG. If the implementation of these initiatives are
left in the hands of each MPO, who are subject to great political pressure based on
the views of their constituents, there should be no expectation of uniform
implementation. In fact, some counties may completely disregard these initiatives
based on their specific geographic, economic, and political climate.
Further, it is interesting to note that in the Central Valley, the San Joaquin
Valley cities are more willing to use pro-growth tools, such as annexation and
upzoning. (Johnson & Hayes, 2004, p. 92.) These pro-growth views are indeed
contrary to the SB 375 initiatives and goals, such that it may impact the individual
counties’ willingness to implement the proposed land use strategies. Also, the
South San Joaquin Valley region is more likely “to be active in regulating growth
through the initiative process, elections and their city councils’ actions.” (Johnson
& Hayes, 2004, p. 93.) Thus, these constituents may exert more pressure on their
local governments relating to their views and opinions than the North San Joaquin
Valley constituents.
The differences among the eight San Joaquin Valley counties illustrate the
difficulty in assigning the same GHG reduction target to the eight MPOs. Indeed,
each of these counties differ based on geography, natural resources, economic
viability, interregional travel, existing land development patterns, and constituent
views and opinions. Further, the individual concerns raised by some of these
counties underscore the political and fiscal pressure to maximize revenue and
minimize cost. Given that SB 375 is an incentive Bill rather than a mandatory or
regulatory law, it is unlikely that all of the San Joaquin Valley counties will meet
the prescribed target. Indeed, based on preliminary objections, some counties may
simply refuse to implement any of the SB 375 initiatives.
If California seeks to reduce GHG, the most productive manner may be to
establish statewide standards and offset the available reductions based on land use,
projected population growth, approved land development, statewide transportation,
and natural resource allocation for future development. Although a statewide
program may face significant political opposition, it may be the most effective
method to facilitate collaboration and coordination among the various counties.
Indeed, the success of SB 375 seems to depend on such coordination and
As explained under the prior two chapters, counties face significant political
and fiscal barriers. These barriers impact local land use decisions based on local
pressures and financial needs. To the extent land use decisions are focused on a
larger scale, such local pressures would have a lesser effect on land use decisions.
Moreover, a county is more likely to comply with and participate in a statewide
mandatory program, than a locally implemented incentive program. If the
incentives do not further the county’s own goals and needs, the county has no
reason to comply with the Bill’s requirements. This carrot without a stick approach
only works to the extent the carrot is desirable. As explained herein, not all
counties support or desire the incentives provided under SB 375. As such, I believe
the Bill is doomed to irrelevance. Without the proper support framework,
necessary incentives and/or mandatory requirements with real and actual
consequences, counties have little incentive to place the goals of SB 375 before its
own fiscal and political needs.
Air is fluid; it travels unobstructed and uninhibited from one region to
another. Thus, political decisions made in one county may significantly affect the
air quality in neighboring counties. This interconnectedness requires a broader and
facilitated process to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, this point is
illustrated through the broad range in projected targets provided by the various San
Joaquin Valley counties to CARB. A statewide coordinated and negotiated
development plan will produce the most effective and efficient use of the state’s
natural and financial resources. Further, it would minimize the fiscal and political
conflicts the individual counties face when deciding on future development and
implementation of the SB 375 initiatives.
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