Land Use: Better Regional Plans

Where we live, work, and go to school has a major impact on our daily lives. Too many people must drive long distances to find work or homes that they can afford. This driving pollutes the air, emits greenhouse gases, and strains the budgets and time of California families.

We can do better.

The Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act, SB 375, launched a sea change in regional planning. It recognized that land use and transportation are inextricably intertwined: the locations of homes, jobs, services, and schools determine how much people must drive. The way that California regions spend transportation dollars shapes where we can live and work.

Better regional planning can not just reduce our our greenhouse gas emissions, but also improve Californians’ health, expand economic opportunities, conserve natural and working landscapes, and much more.

All the state’s regions have now created Sustainable Communities Strategies, as the law requires. Most have adopted their second plans.

We are now looking at how this approach is working. Are we making progress toward California’s ambitious climate goals? How can we make sure we meet them?

Current projects include:

Leading Practices

All eighteen Metropolitan Planning Organization regions in California have now adopted Sustainable Communities Strategies, making this an excellent time to spotlight what’s working best, and where innovation is still needed. Our "Leading the Way" report, released fall 2016, identifies policies and practices that can make our communities more healthy, equitable, and sustainable. In this report, we highlight:

  • Leading practices that have emerged so far in adopted Sustainable Communities Strategies, based on extensive input from ClimatePlan partners, transportation planners, and others.
  • Ways to go further with recommendations for challenging areas such as climate adaptation, water, affordable housing, and preventing displacement.

This report presents a selection of leading practices, prioritizing those that accomplish the most and are not yet uniformly adopted. Our goal is to open a conversation about what’s working best – what’s leading the way – and how California’s regions can do even better. We hope you will read the report, share it with colleagues, and build on these ideas to develop your own leading practices. Download the report here.

Assessing Progress

The benefits of strong plans can only be realized if these plans are implemented. In spring 2016, ClimatePlan released a report, “Toward a Sustainable Future: Is Southern California On Track?” that assesses the Southern California region’s progress on implementing its first Sustainable Communities Strategy. The “On Track” report was produced by ClimatePlan and eleven other partner groups. The report's findings and recommendations are also available in a PowerPoint and webinar.

With the passage of SB 150, the Air Resources Board is required to prepare a report by September 1, 2018, and every four years after, that will:
    •    Assess the progress made by each region to meet their regional greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.
    •    Discuss best practices, as well as the challenges faced by the regions to meet their targets.

This report will be developed with input from the regions and key stakeholders. It will be shared with the Legislature.

As a co-sponsor of SB 150, ClimatePlan is excited to partner with ARB, the regions, and other stakeholders to ensure that these plans are being implemented. We will continue to help identify the best practices that cities and towns are using to reduce the need to drive, improve communities, and lower greenhouse gas emissions. 

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