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Gov. signs bill that targets urban sprawl

October 05, 2008|Diane Wedner | Times Staff Writer

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday signed a landmark bill that will for the first time allow the state to use its transportation funds to reward plans that provide for housing near job centers and transit corridors and that slow the advance of urban sprawl. The measure was backed, after a great deal of negotiating, by home builders, local governments and environmentalists.

SB 375, written by Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), requires the California Air Resources Board to set regional targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by September 2010. The bill also will relax California Environmental Quality Act requirements for residential projects that are consistent with a sustainable communities strategy, thereby giving developers an incentive to build high-density housing near transit lines.

"This bill will help satisfy an important need as those entering their 20s and 30s enter the housing market in the next 10 years," said Richard Gollis of Concord Group, which advises developers, builders and financial institutions. "A large segment of them want to live in an environmentally sensitive way. Builders who want to be relevant over the next 10 to 30 years need to address this consumer group."

On another legislative note, Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 2447, which would have required counties to certify that the designs and locations of new subdivisions in high-risk fire areas be consistent with the state's design standards for slope, turnouts, water pressure and other factors.

Counties also would have had to certify that structural fire protection could be provided by local or state fire agencies in the area, and that firefighters and residents would be able to get in and out of the area from more than one direction.

"I look forward to working with the Legislature in the next session to pursue solutions that increase fire protection for Californians in ways that do not inappropriately combine or confuse the legitimate roles and responsibilities of the state and local governments," the governor said in his veto statement.

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