SB 375, as you might or might not know, is a law whose stated goal is to reduce car driving by parking high-density housing near bus and train stations. The hope being that those living in these places will abandon their automobiles and eagerly embrace the excitement of commuting to work by bus, which will somehow save the world from global warming. Something that will require massive levels of development industry enriching new construction, which some have interpreted as the real world goal here.
Now we don't want to jump to any unfair conclusions here. It could be that there have been a lot of bear sightings the MediaNews papers needed to cover lately, and they just didn't have the space. But coming as this does on the heels of their blown coverage of possible additional funding for the Pasadena Unified School District through the use of city redevelopment funds (which by embarrassing coincidence came to light during the Measure CC debacle), this does fit a pattern. It could be that they just don't want to publicize things that do not benefit certain of their sustaining constituencies. Some of which love to spend our tax money on privately owned redevelopment and "transit oriented" projects.
But fortunately the MediaNews Group doesn't own all the local papers in California, and stories of discontent over SB 375 at the SCAG La Quinta festival of dreams did leak out. This from a publication called The Press-Enterprise:
Amid funding miseries, Inland officials want state anti-sprawl law shelved until economy improves - LA QUINTA: Elected officials from across Southern California expressed frustration Thursday with the state's anti-sprawl law and a lack of funding to implement its goals. The officials questioned how they will cope with new requirements during a weak economy and as the state seeks to withhold more money from local governments.
"We know it is law and we want to implement it," said Hemet Councilwoman Robin Lowe, president of the California League of Cities. "But is it appropriate at this time? What are the cities supposed to do? How do you think we are supposed to do this without any financial assistance?"
Many local officials at the conference Thursday questioned how cities and counties could put in place SB 375's requirements at a time when the state is raiding local funds. The state wants to divert more than $2 billion in redevelopment funds to school operations. Fontana Mayor Mark Nuaimi said many cities are doing what SB 375 aims to accomplish without Sacramento's heavy hand. Fontana, he said, concentrated new senior housing near its Metrolink station. Nuaimi questioned where cities would get funding to meet the legislation's goal.
Another report coming out of last week's SCAG fest in La Quinta also reported on anger over the widely suspected notion that an impoverished Sacramento might attempt to force the implementation of SB 375 by using local city property and sales tax revenue. This from MYDESERT.com, a site owned by The Desert Sun.
(SB 375) has been a point of contention for some valley cities and other small towns in California, where officials see its call for smart planning as code for the kind of high-density, multi-use projects they feel are inappropriate for their areas.
"I think Sacramento has to get its own house in order before they start dictating to cities," said Palm Desert Mayor Cindy Finerty ... "With the economy where it is, it's not time for implementation of AB 32 and SB 375. It's further going to shut down our economy." she said.
Now apparently our favorite planner that is formerly of the Soviet Union, SCAG Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata, had been feeling a little heat at this confab. So much so that he felt obligated to deny that SCAG is functioning here as little more than the enforcement arm of Sacramento's sprawl and greenhouse gas unfunded mandates. This only slightly bizarre quote from MYDESERT.com:
"SCAG doesn't want to tell cities what to do," he said. "Cities are doing what SB 375 wants them to do. We need to incentivize them to do more, not give them more regulations."
Now the quaint anthropomorphism shown in discussing what SB 375 might or might not be wanting aside, the notion of getting cities to spend their own tax cash to bring this law to life is not in any way denied by Ikhrata here. But given the rhubarb over funding, he did come up with a more novel approach. What Ikhrata was actually advocating here is a contest to get city officials to do just that, spend their city funds on SB 375.
At least one incentive will be a SCAG competition on sustainability initiatives, with the winning city getting a $2 million cash prize, he said.
Now that is an interesting idea. Use our state and Federal taxes as contest prizes designed to coerce Southern California city officials into spending their local tax money on vastly unpopular high-density development schemes. Can free lottery tickets and a Grand Slam breakfast at Denny's be far behind?
And I do have to ask, there can't possibly be local elected officials anywhere who would be simple-minded enough to sign on for that one, right?