I hate Los Angeles. If you live there and love it, my apologies, but I’m hardly alone. If its movie business is what LA is known best for, its toxic combination of sprawl, smog and blighted urban landscape certainly comes in second. But there’s hope yet for the city, as well as the conservation movement in California, if a new bill passes today, as it is expected to do.
The problem for many years has been that regional planning authorities blindly followed the desires of a car-obsessed culture, leading cities to explode into hundreds of square miles of development, all linked by roads. Measure SB 375 aims to link funds for transportation and housing to the state’s recently enacted clean air act. The LA Times has the full story on the bill’s political development.
New state funding would thus go toward funding smart development of roads, bus systems and more in existing areas over building out new communities, hamstringing endless urban expansion.
Outside of simply making sprawl-haters like myself happier, this bill could have some significant side-effects. One is the encouragement of electric cars. Today’s electrics, especially so-called neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs), have limited ranges. More condense communities would encourage their adoption, by individuals, businesses and the government itself. Light rail could also get a boost.
Another potential beneficiary is the green building market. More condensed communities means higher population density, which translates to higher property values. Combined with California’s recently enacted green building codes, the bill could help spur investment in newer, slightly pricier insulation and building materials, by both current owners and new developers. (Unfortunately, one aspect of SB 375 could weaken those same codes, so the benefit it by no means certain.)
The aims of the legislature in passing the bill are somewhat broader: Reducing traffic congestion and its attendant pollution, lowering fuel and energy use, and encouraging healthier communities. One can only hope it’s successful.
[Photo credit: Markus Kolb / flickr]