Last night's housing-policy forum in Mission Viejo was something of a landmark: For once, you walked away from the council chambers thinking less about the testy one-liners traded by council members and public commenters and more about, well, actual policy.
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Turns out, SB 375, a not-so-well-publicized bill passed by the state legislature last year, takes aim straight at that which makes Orange County so Orange County: car-intensive suburban sprawl. According to the way the bill was presented by consultants last night (and the state's official fact-sheet), if the bill has its intended effect, OC and surrounding areas within 30 years will have been greatly rearranged.
The law is part of Sacramento's effort to implement the greenhouse-gas reduction goals the state has set for itself. The way to do that? Reshaping land-use policy to discourage long commutes. It pushes the "Sustainable Communities Strategy," by which premiums are placed on the development of walkable communities near public transportation hubs. That's not a new idea, obviously, but the remarkable thing is that this it's being corralled into a widespread regional policy.
According to the presenting consultant's slides, the bill aims to "shift or re-direct future growth away from outlying areas (San Bernadino, Riverside and Imperial counties)" and "redirect growth and concentrate growth near transit/employment (Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties)." The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) has drawn up a model of how much land use will have to be rejiggered to meet SB 375's targets. Supposedly, by the year 2035, about 40,000 households (that's equivalent to the housing count of Costa Mesa) and 22,550 jobs (more than provided by Orange County's largest employer, Disneyland International) will have been moved to Orange County from outlying areas.
Obviously, rising population numbers means that local housing and human density will increase no matter what. But according to certain analysts, SB 375 will have the additional effect of move people out of, say, the 909 area code and into the 949. It's currently unclear whether they will be given a tutorial on how to not wear jeans to the beach.