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Join the planning process for the future

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It is hard not to feel helpless about global warming, at times.  But, take heart; besides carpooling, taking the bus, bicycling, and walking more often, there is something new that local people can do to fight against climate change.  Community members can participate in an exciting new regional planning process in response to global warming.  Four vital regional agencies, the County of San Luis Obispo, the Air Pollution Control District (APCD), the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG) and the Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO), as well as districts and cities are embarking on an exciting new regional planning process this month.
 
Residents will have many opportunities to testify during the upcoming revisions to the Air Pollution Control District’s Clean Air Plan and the San Luis Obispo Council of Government’s (SLOCOG) Regional Transportation Plan.  These plans will contribute significantly to a framework for achieving greenhouse gas reduction goals and flesh out the vision for future sustainability and prosperity already set out in SLOCOG’s excellent Regional Blueprint (Community 2050).
 
The Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) mandates that the state reduce greenhouse gases to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.  Toward that end, SB 375 provides that land use development patterns must be updated to reduce vehicle miles traveled, especially those in single occupant automobiles. This makes encouraging bicycling and public transportation more important than ever. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is slated to set targets for reducing vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions, specific to San Luis Obispo County, in late 2010. 
 
Ironically, even though SB 375 mandates reduction in vehicle miles traveled, which can only be accomplished by increasing the use of public transportation, the new state budget has completely eliminated the State Transit Assistance (STA) program. This was a long-standing source of funds for operation of the bus systems, including SLORTA and San Luis Transit.  If you would like to help reverse this situation, please contact Sam Blakeslee, 1104 Palm Street, San Luis Obispo 93401 (assemblymember.blakeslee@asm.ca.gov (549-3381) and Abel Maldonado, 1356 Marsh Street, San Luis Obispo 93401 ( senator.maldonado@sen.ca.gov) (549-3784) and urge them to do everything possible to reinstate STA funding immediately. 

And, as long as you have your state representatives’ ear, consider also telling them that you support AB 596 (Evans), a bill promoting sustainable and livable communities through grants. This bill would create a fund to implement provisions enacted through SB 375 (2008). Specifically it would establish the Community Planning Grant and Loan Fund and authorize the Strategic Growth Council, upon appropriation by the Legislature, to provide competitive grants and loans for planning projects that promote sustainable and livable communities. Local planning plays such an important role in addressing climate change, providing affordable housing, and protecting important resources. However, (surprise!) there is not a source of state funding to assure that local agencies have the resources to adopt, update, and implement their plans.
 
AB 596 takes an important step in this direction. While this bill is not intended to be a complete source of funding for planning, it creates a new competitive grant and loan fund that local governments could then leverage to complete a planning project or update an existing project. This bill passed out of the Assembly Local Government Committee on April 29 and will be heard within the next few weeks in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Take action and send your letter of support today. A sample letter can be found online at www.cacities.org/billsearch by entering “AB 596” in the search field.
 
An upcoming step in the regional planning process is the development of comprehensive regional planning scenarios with practical performance measures. Many cities are doing greenhouse gas inventories as a precursor to developing Climate Action Plans for each jurisdiction. These Climate Action Plans will then be incorporated into the region’s Sustainable Communities Strategy. They will also provide crucial information for the cities and the county as Land Use and Circulation Elements are updated and as individual projects come forward during public hearings.
 
Coordinated regional planning is not only necessary to fight global warming, but also at the heart of making all of our communities more vibrant, fiscally healthy, energy efficient, and sustainable. At the same time, it is important to preserve and promote each community’s unique local character.  This is yet another reason that active resident participation in this public planning process is so important. If enough people take part in the fight against global warming, the resulting groundswell will greatly increase the chance for success. So, please bone up on the issues, talk with your elected officials, skip taking the car once in a while, and speak out in favor of regional planning for sustainability.

Jan Howell Marx is a San Luis Obispo City Councilmember and board member of SLOCOG, SLORTA, and APCD.  Contact her via the editor at econnolly@newtimesslo.com.

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