$130M Approved Today for Sustainable Communities in California!

$130M Approved Today for Sustainable Communities in California!

Policy in Motion would like to applaud the Strategic Growth Council and agency partners for taking the time to revisit the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program Guidelines (AHSC) and approving them at today’s hearing.

The principle change in the guidelines was to make greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction per dollar the primary criteria for project selection.  While the public testimony was dominated by a discussion over the weight of scoring the affordability vs GHG reduction of projects, the SGC approved the updated guidelines to include the amount of GHG reduction achieved per grant dollar requested as a major focus of scoring criteria in order to ensure this program maximizes our limited dollars in the most effective way to meet our AB 32 and SB 375 goals.  Given this is the FIRST year we have done this brand new program, it is essential that we have metrics in place to assess the success of this program next year – GHG per dollar levels the playing field between large urban projects and smaller rural projects to equitably ensure that all applicable projects are competing based on how much GHG reduction they are getting from the amount of grant dollars requested.  Additionally, being able to point to this particular metric is critical for the long-term viability of the AB 32 Cap and Trade Program.  The first year AHSC program is going to yield 13-25 projects across the state that will be looked at next year as pilot examples for whether the process worked or didn’t – and the overall GHG reduction that was achieved from the total grant program will be pointed to by the Legislature, Administration, and stakeholders.

In addition to maximizing the investment in this program by highlighting GHG reduction as scoring criteria, the updated guidelines also include a greater role for the Metropolitan Planning Organizations in reviewing the applications to ensure that we are implementing regional SB 375 Sustainable Communities Strategies to best meet the needs of our communities.

GHG Methodology

Some concerns were also raised at today’s hearing regarding the use of perhaps outdated data in the CalEEMod and CMAQ tools that are to be used to score applications’ GHG reduction quantification.  CalEEMod doesn’t account for affordable housing very well, nor does it account for urban land use characteristics like the “8D’s” (major factors that reduce VMT).  These “8’Ds” are: density, diversity, design, destination, distance to transit, development scale, demographics, and demand management.  These D-factors are critical if we are to really examine how an integrated, land use and transportation project will reduce GHG emissions.  That said, new data that has been peer reviewed could be incorporated into CalEEMod.  However, why not use some of the latest tools SGC and nearly all of the state’s MPOs have been using for SB 375 GHG reduction quantification from land use already?: UrbanFootprint. What is unique about UrbanFootprint is that it is a platform that can hold whatever latest data is out there – whether that’s affordable housing or land use characteristics.  In fact, UrbanFootprint already includes a rigorous transportation and land use component based on the “8Ds.”  And what’s even cooler is that it has the capacity – with the help of pioneers like TNC and Sonoma County carving the path – to build a rigorous conservation and agriculture component so we could use ONE platform for both the AHSC program and its complimentary (smaller yet equally important younger brother program) Sustainable Agricultural Conservation and Lands Program. That way we can really look at both sides of the coin in a holistic way to implement SB 375 through both urban infill and rural conservation of land.

So What’s Next?

Project concepts are due in one month so time to roll up your sleeves!

Want More Background Info?

Check out Policy in Motion’s previous blog posts on this topic:

Lauren Michele, Principal/Founder, Policy in Motion.

Lauren earned a Master’s of Science degree from the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies after working as a transportation planning professional at Fehr & Peers, a climate change policy analyst at the Center for Clean Air Policy in Washington D.C., and an air quality program assistant at the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District.  At the UC Davis Urban Land Use and Transportation Center (ULTRANS) she focused on the links between California’s Senate Bill 375 and developing federal climate/energy legislation and the transportation reauthorization.  Her academic work includes teaching undergraduate courses in Transportation Policy at UC Davis and experiential learning while living and researching multi-modal transportation planning in Europe.

Lauren organized and served as Policy Director for the Transportation Coalition for Livable Communities — a coalition which includes the California Alliance for Jobs, California Transit Association, National Resources Defense Council, League of California Cities, State Association of Counties, and the Metropolitan Planning Organizations and Councils of Governments throughout the state. The Coalition promotes the investment of cap and trade revenue to address both the greenhouse gas reduction goals of AB 32 and critical transportation system maintenance and operation needs that build on the framework of SB 375 and other GHG reduction strategies.

Her firm, Policy in Motion, specializes in sustainable transportation policy.  Policy in Motion offers planning practitioners, policy makers, and public agencies an understanding of how to integrate sustainability policy into transportation infrastructure and land use decisions.  Lauren Michele’s 2011 book, “Policy in Motion: Transportation Planning in California after AB 32” explores the State’s evolving policies for sustainable living through transportation planning, and identifies how outdated regulatory frameworks must be aligned with supporting paradigm shifts if California is to move forward in a truly unified vision for “People-Oriented Development” and transportation.  Lauren’s 2012 film documentary, “Policy in Motion: Growing Beautiful Communities” continues to explore how an integrated approach to transportation planning and funding based on “People-Oriented Development” (POD) can improve community quality of life while meeting California’s environmental and economic goals. Policy in Motion’s book and film are available for purchase on-line at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and


By Lauren Michele

Lauren Michele – Founder/Owner of Policy in Motion – is a policy consultant/advisor and communications strategist, specializing in progressive and non-partisan politics. She helps candidates and clients build campaigns, coalitions, and communication strategies. Lauren has 15 years of experience working with federal, state, and local government agencies; non-profit organizations; foundations; universities; and political/issue campaigns, including a Presidential Campaign and a California State Bond. Ms. Michele has over a decade of experience working virtually both in team and individual environments, with Policy in Motion offices in California. Policy in Motion’s mission is to promote the environmental, economic, and social well being of communities —fostering a sustainable future for all people and the planet.

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