Modesto's General Plan can be a bright green "blueprint" for the region

Over the past few months, ClimatePlan staff have been working with key partners in the city of Modesto - Catholic Charities of Stockton, Tuolumne River Trust and the Sustainable Stanislaus Community Coalition - to help plan for the city’s upcoming General Plan Update.

The General Plan Update is a major milestone for the city of Modesto. Kicking off this process gives Modesto residents an opportunity to provide their feedback and ideas for how they want their communities to evolve in the years to come. A General Plan Update serves as a “blueprint for the city’s future.” The city of 214,000 residents is gradually growing due to increasing growth pressure from nearby San Francisco and San Jose. Modesto is in the 21-county Northern California MegaRegion (Bay Area Council Economic Institute) and it’s housing, land use, jobs, transportation, and environment are all being impacted by nearby growth. Modesto residents and elected officials will be looking to both local and regional dynamics to make crucial decisions for their city.

Below are a few of the ways ClimatePlan is engaging in the General Plan Update process and supporting our partners in lifting up the community’s priorities.

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State Policy: Opportunities and Challenges at the end of 2019

In October, we at ClimatePlan were elated to announce Governor Newsom’s latest effort to tackle climate change – Executive Order N-19-19 – which required the State Transportation Agency will leverage $5 billion in annual state transportation spending to:

  • Align the state’s climate goals with the state’s transportation spending.
  • Reduce driving by strengthening the connection between jobs, housing, and transportation.
  • Reduce congestion by investing in innovative strategies that encourage people to shift from cars to other modes of transportation.
  • Invest in transportation options that improve Californians’ health such as walking, bicycling, and other active modes.
  • Mitigate costs for lower-income Californians.

This type of action is critical if California wants to avoid even more destructive wildfires.

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Planning Holistically in the Face of Climate Change

In 2018, Local Government Commission released a report entitled, Bringing Water and Land Use Together. This report focused on identifying the challenges -- as well as the opportunities -- around moving California toward a more holistic approach to managing water and land resources. As noted in ClimatePlan’s Strategic Direction, Californians are already experiencing the impacts of climate change. From wildfires, droughts, and flooding, it is critical that California starts to pursue integrated approaches around water and land use to address the challenges California faces.

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Governor releases ambitious Executive Actions. What’s next for California’s transportation system?

Almost two weeks ago, Governor Gavin Newsom released an ambitious set of executive actions targeted at advancing California’s climate leadership. California continues to set the bar for the nation in its efforts to fight climate change through its innovative policies. With laws like SB 375, which require regions in California to develop plans to show how they will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) from passenger vehicles and light duty trucks—and an ambitious target of reducing emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030—it’s clear that California’s leadership on climate change provides a model with global implications.

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Taking a step forward: A better way to condition transportation funding on housing performance

This past Monday, Governor Newsom announced that climate pollution continues to drop–which is great news! However, greenhouse gas (GHG) emission continues to rise from the transportation sector, primarily from passenger vehicles. Back in January, Governor Newsom released a bold proposition in his first budget: the state would withhold gas tax funds from regions who did not meet state housing goals. While the details were murky (as you can see in this excellent article from Streetsblog California), the idea was tantalizing to many sustainable transportation advocates.  Why? Because transportation and housing have a clear nexus: they help to determine the true “affordability” of a place, as shown by the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s H&T Affordability Index. Transportation is also one of the biggest drivers for sprawl development, which leads to longer commutes, poor air quality, lack of access to social services, and encroachment on agricultural lands and wildlife habitats.

However, legislators pushed back strongly on tying transportation funding and housing performance.  A compromise was reached for the budget: the state can fine communities that don’t plan for affordable housing construction. While ClimatePlan’s staff and partners understand and value compromise, California needs ambitious and thoughtful solutions to solve the deeply intertwined and complex problem of housing affordability, climate change, and transportation. Transportation cannot remain in a silo from housing and climate; to solve these issues we have to recognize (and act on) their inherent connections. 

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