The Ventura County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday took the initial step toward what could become the first effort in Southern California to curb air pollution by imposing restrictions on residential development.
The board directed its staff to apply for a $270,000 state grant to hire a consultant and conduct a study of how to mitigate air pollution caused by residential growth.
County officials envision the study leading to a plan that in its most dramatic form could give the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District veto power over new residential development. The plan might also involve measures like requiring developers to pay special fees for mass transit, car-pooling and other pollution-cutting programs.
Dave Calkins, a regional chief of air programs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said several states, notably Minnesota and Vermont, already tie commercial growth to reductions in air pollution. And several states and some California air pollution districts require new builders to develop traffic mitigation programs. But Calkins says he knows of no district that has attempted to levy pollution controls on residential developers.
Industrial sources that emit pollutants, such as factories, already must obtain air-pollution permits in Ventura County. But the idea of including housing developers in the smog equation process is a novel one that has never been tested in Southern California, according to Richard Baldwin, the county's air pollution control officer.
"From a developer's point of view it's very controversial," said Baldwin. "They don't want the air pollution district coming in and issuing permits to builders, but that's what this would do."
The proposal has already drawn criticism from the Ventura County chapter of the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California.
"We all concur that clean air is something that has to be pursued with vigor," association executive officer Paul Tryon said. "But we're concerned that air quality is becoming the sole driver for planning and land-use decisions in Ventura County."
Tuesday's action was lauded by local environmentalists.
"If they get the money and do this, it would be a significant step . . . an indication of the county's desire to really make the air cleaner," said Stan Greene, president of the group Citizens to Preserve the Ojai.
Air quality officials hope to finance the study through the state's Environmental License Plate fund, which collects about $22 million each year from car owners who purchase personalized, or vanity license plates. The money pays for projects that help preserve and protect California's environment.
If Ventura County receives its requested $270,000 grant, which would become available in July, 1989, "we'd be able to do a very comprehensive study," Baldwin said.
He said the study would look at regulating emissions created by all forms of new housing, from big subdivisions all the way down to single one-story houses.
"We have an incredible range of options to study," he said. "We have to look at all growth and see how we can reduce the emissions from it."
The air pollution control district would draw up a proposed ordinance and present it to the Board of Supervisors for approval, possibly as early as 1990, Baldwin said.