You can't turn around at this year's CCAPA conference in San Jose without hearing the terms LEED, sustainability, carbon footprint, greehouse gas emissions and zero waste.
Forget about floor-area ratios, design review standards and conditional use permits. These people think land use planning can save the world.
Clearly, land use planners have gotten the green religion. Every session — heck, every conversation in the hallway — seems to touch on global warming. Monday's sessions specifically on AB 32 (the greenhouse gas law) and climate change were overflowing. Even sessions on dense subjects such as indirect source review were well-attended.
The big question for CCAPA attendees is how the need to address global climate change will affect their day-to-day practice vis-a-vis general plans, CEQA conformance and project review.
The fear that Jerry Brown will sue every city and county over each and every general plan amendment that doesn't take climate change into account is one big factor. But it's not the only factor. Stuart Cohen, of Transportation and Land Use Collaborative and a member of the Governor's Climate Action Team, said the bigger quetions are about policy and technical work.
What policies will emerge from implementation of AB 32? Will local governments be required to quantify emissions from new development projects? How do you compare emissions from different development scenarios?
Cohen said the Climate Action Team will likely focus on three things:
• Using better planning tools
• Shifting money around to promote green goals
• Requiring mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions from new projects.
All of this really comes down to increased air pollution regulation, which means, according to Joe DiStefano of Calthorpe Associates, more pressure to quantify greenhouse gas emissions from every project. And, as Walter Arenstein of Writrac Consulting pointed out, the science of measuring and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions has not advanced much in many years.
Clearly, this is all headed toward a far greater emphasis on infill development, mixed-use, public transit and anything else that will decrease vehicle miles traveled. And that means it's going to be far more difficult for NIMBYs to defeat the six-story building proposed next to the local transit station.
- Paul Shigley