Assemblymember Kevin McCarty Introduces Green Means Go Bill
Proposed law would govern how the infill-boosting program would be administered
March 31, 2021: SACOG’s Green Means Go plan got a big boost on February 19 when Assemblymember Kevin McCarty introduced AB 1209, which would govern how the pilot project would be administered.
Green Means Go will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by spurring infill projects that pair housing and transportation investments. It was created in response to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) establishing a new greenhouse gas emission reduction target for the Sacramento region of 19 percent per capita by 2035. The SACOG region (for it is SACOG that is responsible for ensuring the region meets that target) was the only region to have its target depend upon securing funding and commitments to help implement its transportation and housing plan. That is because the SACOG region, which is far less densely populated that California’s coastal cities, has fewer opportunities to lower GHG emissions.
Forty percent of California’s GHG emissions come from transportation so investments that help people drive cleaner, in the form of support for electric vehicles or EV charging stations, are part of Green Means Go, but electrification alone will not generate enough GHG reductions. The key is to get people to drive less. That is why boosting infill development is such a powerful tool. If jobs, retail, and housing can be brought closer together, it cuts the need to drive as often or as far. And if those destinations are also close to transit stops, it makes it more likely that people will not drive to reach them.
The theory is elegant. But implementing it is hard. Infill projects tend to be more expensive to build than greenfield projects, partly because land in already developed communities is usually more expensive than greenfield sites and partly because infill projects often face high costs to upgrade supportive infrastructure. For example, consider the challenges of building a 100-unit apartment building on a site that may have been an industrial warehouse. Sewer and water pipes would need to be replaced with infrastructure that could cope with much higher use and digging up roads to replace them is costly and time-consuming. Such infrastructure costs were one of the key barriers to developing infill projects that were identified by SACOG’s Commercial Corridors Task Force. The region’s current infrastructure was built to support old commercial corridors; it simply does not support high-density housing, nor do its cities and counties have the resources to upgrade sewer, water, drainage, and other infrastructure needs.
To overcome California’s housing crisis, we need to build a lot more housing. SACOG forecasts its six-county region needs 11,000 housing units per year, doubling the current rate, to meet projected regional housing demand, and 7,000 of those units need to be in infill areas to meet the region’s ambitious GHG reduction targets.
McCarty’s bill does not fund the Green Means Go program but sets up the legislation that would be required to administer it, if the state does fund the pilot program. The bill sets out how Green Means Go has led to local jurisdictions designating “green zones” and developing local policies to support and promote infill development and new transportation options. It defines green zones as key areas that must have infill capacity, be in an area planned for infill development, and be in a center and corridor community or established community, as identified in SACOG’s 2020 Metropolitan Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy.
The bill calls green zones, which have been identified by 26 of SACOG’s 28 jurisdictions, “laboratories for economic development projects that promote strategies to increase transportation options, including public transit, for shorter, cleaner, and fewer vehicle trips, increase housing near expanded travel options and other amenities, and make it easier for the Sacramento region to access electric vehicles for cleaner transportation.”
“Green Means Go is the Sacramento region’s commitment and solution to California’s housing, climate, and transportation problems and I’m proud to sponsor legislation to advance it,” said McCarty.
To support the bill through its hearings in the California Assembly Transportation and Housing committees, please contact Christina Lokke, SACOG’s policy manager.