The Southern California Association of Governments has unveiled a new "conceptual land use plan" that concentrates development on a half-million acres of land near rail, bus rapid transit, and local bus lines in the six-county SCAG region. Initial numbers suggest that this plan would only get SCAG 60% of the way toward the region's likely SB 375 emissions reduction target.

During SCAG's annual conference in La Quinta, Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata emphasized that the new map is simply "the starting point of a conversation" and that SCAG would not force local governments to take an allocation number for emissions reduction purposes because SB 375 does not require it.

"We are not here to tell people what to do," Ikhrata said. "We do not have the power or the inclination to do that. We are here to help cities implement SB 375 in a way that is beneficial to everybody."

Councilmember Larry McCallon of Highland, who chaired the meeting of SCAG's Committee on Economic and Human Development, added: "We're not going to ask SCAG dictate to you what needs to be done. We're going to put these out there for discussion. Whatever we put out there as a region reflects your input. This is a law we are trying to implement good or bad and you are not obligated to use anything, it's not mandatory. You are welcome to come out with your own ideas on how to make this whole thing work and get involved in process."

Reaction from local elected officials on the SCAG Regional Council was predictably unenthusiastic. Several local officials said they thought emissions reduction targets should be balanced on other sectors of the economy, such as cleaner fuels for both cars and trucks and energy efficiency. But heavy trucks and energy efficiency are being dealt with outside the SB 375 process. Others feared that if they were already built out and did not densify they would lose transportation dollars. Ikhrata assured them that they would not, though SB 375 directs SCAG to dole out transportation dollars so as to maximize emissions reduction.

SCAG is assuming that when the California Air Resources Board issues regional targets for emissions reduction sometime next year, the six-county Southern California region will be required to take about half the reduction in the state � or about 2.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. Alone among regional planning agencies in the state, SCAG is permitted under SB 375 to downshift implementation of these emissions reduction targets to some or all of its 14 subregions. But unlike with the regional housing assessment, SCAG is not required by law to give the subregions � or individual cities and counties � a hard target for emissions reduction.

To read more about the plan and proposed methodologies for distributing emissions reductions, click here.�

� Bill Fulton