There is no denying that business will play a key role in the continuing vitality and future development of the economy and quality of life in Los Angeles County and, because Los Angeles County is the largest in California, the state as a whole. As businesses in Los Angeles work to emerge from our troubled economy, they are also learning about new requirements to comply with AB 32, the state's global warming law.
An additional bill to reduce greenhouse gases from cars and trucks passed in 2008, and the Regional Targets Advisory Committee, established under SB 375 signed last year by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, has been working diligently to define how much greenhouse gas reductions will need to come from cars and trucks if land uses are changed. Through regional housing and transportation planning, SB 375 envisions reductions in carbon emissions through measures including, but not limited to, vehicle miles traveled.
But there are many concerns with the current effort to set statewide guidelines that mesh housing and transit planning to fight sprawl and thereby reduce emissions. All businesses need to be aware of this effort and be involved in helping shape it, because as local jurisdictions plan future housing and transportation, they also need to plan for future jobs. To accomplish this, the Los Angeles County Business Federation, or BizFed, has stepped up to take a significant role in providing input into the implementation of SB 375.
"Smart growth" is a laudable goal, and appropriate in a state that is growing increasingly clogged, but planning and decision-making must come from the "bottom up" to define how each region will benchmark its starting place and then devise workable regional plans to achieve the greenhouse gas reduction targets.
Targets and plans need to weigh regional differences. Los Angeles County, for example, is unique in the state in that it has eight subregional Councils of Government, or COGs. Most counties only have one. Each of these subregional COGs can assume the duty of developing a regional housing and transportation plan to meet their greenhouse gas reduction target, or leave that job to the regional Southern California Association of Governments.
It seems likely that some or all of Los Angeles County's eight COGs will take on this task. While this provides many benefits, such as an in-depth understanding of local housing needs and transportation flows, it also significantly complicates finding a commonality that all can achieve. If there is not a unified consensus on how any new guidelines deal with that variety, it will result in a chaotic process that is doomed to failure.
The RTAC panel the one working on greenhouse gas emissions targets for regions across the state held its sole Southern California meeting earlier this month in downtown Los Angeles. And in one of the strongest showings of business interests across the state, nearly a dozen BizFed members attended and provided impassioned testimony to the panel. The resounding message was to make sure that, while targets may be aggressive, they must also be feasible.
Regional transportation funding also must be adequate for any new development plans. Without funding sources to enable infrastructure modernization, SB 375 goals cannot be achieved. And since not all regions are equal on this front, reduction standards need to be flexible in how they can be achieved. Increasing transit ridership is a viable and important strategy that will be even more successful when combined with other programs that reflect local difference.
As a grassroots alliance of more than 70 business organizations across Los Angeles County, BizFed will work as an aiding catalyst, convener, and facilitator of coordinating effort from the business community to find workable, economically viable solutions to help shape and reach regional environmental goals. As local and regional agencies work to develop housing and transportation plans, BizFed members will voice the need to plan for future job creation.
BizFed understands and is committed to reducing greenhouse gasses, and is committed to working with the panel and local agencies on implementation of SB 375. We all face a challenging task in addressing the individual needs of all the unique areas across Los Angeles.
Holly Schroeder is chairwoman of the Los Angeles County Business Federation and chief executive of the Building Industry Association, Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.
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