California Legislative Update: Parking Requirements, Cap-and-Trade Funds

bikeatCapitollabel2This week we’re tracking some of the bills that got left out of last week’s too-long legislative update. These bills relate to transportation funding, climate change, and urban planning.

PLANNING

Eliminating Parking Minimums: A.B. 744 from Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) would require a city or county to eliminate minimum parking requirements under certain circumstances, upon request by the developer. Special circumstances include housing near a major transit stop or that serves seniors or people with special needs, since fewer residents of those types of housing are likely to be drivers.

It’s a first, tiny step towards eliminating minimum parking requirements, which is one of Professor Donald Shoup‘s basic prescriptions for fixing parking and congestion issues (See The Trouble With Minimum Parking Requirements [PDF], a paper he wrote way back in 1999). This bill would only apply if the developer requests an exemption, so it would be a market-driven solution, as it’s fair to assume that developers will want to build parking if the market demands it.

For some reason, the California chapter of the American Planning Association, although officially in support of the bill, has suggested that developers should first produce a parking study, which is a real head scratcher. Why not just support the elimination of minimum parking requirements everywhere and be done with it? Developers will still build however many parking spots they think would be needed to sell units, but if they aren’t required to build a minimum number they can save costs for everybody, including future tenants. If there’s a fault with this bill, it’s that it’s too timid.

More bills after the jump.

CAP-AND-TRADE FUNDS

Transit and Intercity Rail: California is heading into the budget negotiation season, and a hot topic is the question of how best to spend funds in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which come from California’s cap-and-trade system. As predicted, it’s turning out to be a huge source of new funding.

Although a formula for allocating it was agreed on last year,  adjustments are already being sought.

S.B. 9, from Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose), seeks to change the focus of the portion that goes to the Transit and Intercity Rail program. That program receives ten percent of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which conservative estimates are putting at $200 million for this year.

Beall is seeking to limit eligibility for these funds to large capital projects that cost $100 million or more. His bill would also eliminate transit operations from eligibility under this program. That means that service expansions that could improve existing transit would not be able to apply for funding from this pot of money.

Beall’s argument is that large-scale transit expansion projects are more likely to produce greenhouse gas emissions because they encourage more people to switch to transit. But so do transit service improvements, and if done right they can be a lot less expensive. TransForm has taken an official “oppose unless amended” position on this bill, which has sailed through its committees and is waiting in Senate Appropriations.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Greenhouse Gas Emissions: A number of bills introduced this session seek to update and extend the greenhouse gas emissions targets in the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act. There is plenty of overlap among them, so presumably they will eventually be combined or otherwise made to work together. Right now all of the following bills are waiting in their respective Appropriations Committees for hearings:

  • A.B. 645 from Assemblymembers Das Williams (D-Carpinteria) and Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood). Currently the California Renewables Portfolio Standard requires that at least a third of the total electricity consumed in the state be from renewable sources by 2020. This bill would increase that target to 50 percent by 2030.
  • S.B. 350 has received more attention because it’s authored by Senate President ProTem Kevin De León (D-Los Angeles), but it would establish the same target for renewable energy. It would also add targets to reduce petroleum use by half and double energy efficiency in buildings.
  • S.B. 32 from Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), the author of California’s Global Warming Solutions act, would set a statewide greenhouse gas reduction target that is 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. It also calls for unspecified interim targets for 2030 and 2040, to be determined by the Air Resources Board.
  • A.B. 21 from Assemblymember Henry Perea (D-Fresno) takes a different approach to emission reduction targets. Instead of establishing specific ones now, this bill asks the Air Resources Board to develop targets and report to the Legislature by 2018. Presumably the information would be used at that time to inform bills setting new targets.

Climate Change Advisory Council: Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) originally introduced A.B. 33 to create new greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets. With all the other bills addressing that issue this session, it has been revised, and now seeks to create a Climate Change Advisory Council. This new council would establish consistent ways to quantify and measure greenhouse gas reductions and public health benefits of various state programs that seek to meet targets. The bill has passed its policy committees in the Assembly and is waiting in Appropriations.

  • Pingback: California Legislative Update: Budgets and Appropriations | Streetsblog California()

  • Pingback: Donald Shoup Interview, Part 2: Pasadena, Ventura, Mexico City, A.B. 744 | Streetsblog Los Angeles()

  • Melanie Curry

    Everyone did just get a bit of cash, in their utility bills, for exactly that reason. And remember that the cap on emissions is set to lower gradually over time, forcing more emissions reductions as industries figure out how to do it.

  • Mike S.

    Hi Juan, good report. High speed rail is particularly egregious. But even when using cap and trade funds for projects that cut emissions below the price of allowances, the result will not be fewer emissions (emissions will still rise to the level of the cap), it will just be a lower price of allowances. If the Legislature allowed the funds to be returned to people, you would see a whole different set of priorities. I read another article where Sen. Pavley joked “you can’t use these funds to cut university tuition.” But I think the funds should go to people and let them decide how to use them, rather than the lobbyists’ or the Governor’s pet projects.

  • Yep, smaller projects, especially for active transportation, are really very low-hanging fruit that’s practically falling off the vine on its own. While those considerations can be part of bigger projects, they’re generally extremely cheap in comparison and it’s pretty hard to get them to be expensive. For example, even Utrecht’s new $48mn bike parking garage for 12k bikes at the central train station, which is more than the bike parking budgets for the top 50 cities in N. America combined, wouldn’t qualify for funding under the proposal. Yet, good bike parking can be an integral part of getting people to bike, especially as part of transit trips.

  • Asher Of LA

    You can grandfather in the current residents at low/free prices, and then deny permits wholesale or charge much higher prices for them to residents of new buildings. Not ideal, and not very equitable in a narrow sense, but a great boon to people who don’t own a car – because you’ve saved them a bundle on rent and increased their housing options.

    I was told of this occurring somewhere, I believe in Madison, WI.

  • Chewie

    I wouldn’t characterize it as laziness. True, metering and preferential parking districts are ways of dealing with spillovers. However the political problem is that the average suburbanite doesn’t want to deal with spillovers, meters or a PPD. He/she just wants it to be easy and free to park in front of his/her house. Until THAT changes, getting rid of parking minimums will be politically untenable, despite the fact that it is good policy.

  • Asher Of LA

    The spillover effects can be solved – if the city isn’t lazy. It just has to institute some sort of metering/permitting system for street parking.

  • Asher Of LA

    Yeah that was my guess – APA Lobbies To Create Jobs For APA Members (While Contradicting The Work Of The Man To Whom It Just Gave A Lifetime Achievement Award)

  • This was basically going to be my comment. If you want to know why APA supports requiring parking study, just look at how many of the people doing those studies have AICP certifications.

  • Chewie

    Cities pass minimum parking requirements when they are afraid about people complaining about spillover parking. As long as protecting the curbs in front of single-family homes from cars that “don’t belong” is a higher priority than dealing with the downsides of requiring lots of parking, parking minimums will remain in effect . . . unfortunately. Of course the state can change that, but it could cause a political backlash.

    Be a part of the solution and don’t complain next time someone parks in front of where you live 😉

  • Joe Linton

    I think too many planners are currently getting paid to count parking spaces in plans. Seems like most planners want to make communities better, but too much planning code grew up alongside car culture, so it’s all too enmeshed for everyone to just walk away from.

  • Juan Matute

    Best bang for the buck for GHG reductions comes from the projects under $100M. See http://la.streetsblog.org/2014/03/25/report-in-cutting-emissions-cahsr-expensive-compared-to-local-upgrades/

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG