California's population of 38 million is projected to grow to 46 million by 2030. A larger population means more people driving cars and pumping more greenhouse gases into the environment. To accommodate this growth the state will need more housing—but we must build it intelligently.
Passenger vehicles are the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in California, accounting for 30 percent of the total. In order to reduce those emissions, Californians' vehicle-miles traveled (VMTs) must be drastically reduced – in other words, it must be easier for people to get around so that they spend less time in their cars.
In order to reach California's greenhouse gas reductions goals set out in the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32), Californians must re-envision how we design our communities. This means planning for communities that rely less on automobiles and more on alternative transportation for routine trips, including going to work and school and running errands. Spending less time on the road is the most effective way for California to reduce its carbon footprint. It also means making the overall development of buildings and communities more “green.”
Examples of actions that promote smart growth: Signed into law in 2008, Senate Bill 375 by Senate President pro tem Darrell Steinberg is the nation's first law to control greenhouse gas emissions by improving land use and transportation planning and curbing sprawl. Co-sponsored by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the California League of Conservation Voters, environmental groups hailed SB 375 as the missing piece of the climate pollution puzzle. SB 375 provides emissions-reducing goals for which regions can plan, integrates planning activities, and provides incentives for local governments and developers to follow new growth patterns, and dramatically enhances the California Air Resources Board's (CARB’s) ability to reach the goals outlined in AB 32. The law will help reshape California's communities to be more sustainable, transit-friendly and walkable, with improved public health and increased quality of life.
Examples of actions that hinder smart growth: Although a number of California cities have adopted progressive “green building” standards, and many more would like to do so, state law appears to limit their authority to cases where local seismic or climatic conditions demand different standards. The California Building Standards Commission has lagged behind in seeing the benefits of green building standards (although it recently adopted “voluntary” measures). AB 2939 (Hancock) would have clarified that local governments have the authority to adopt green building requirements that exceed state standards, but it was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2008.