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Home » Amendments to California’s environmental law may lead to more bike lanes and housing near transit/developments

Amendments to California’s environmental law may lead to more bike lanes and housing near transit/developments

Last November, regulators released a long-awaited overhaul of California’s environmental law, which could potentially lead to the construction of more bike lanes and mixed-use developments closer to transit and other establishments.

According to regulators, the proposed amendments modify some of the rules stated under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and can help the state fulfill some of their goals with regards to combating climate change. Under the new changes, developers are now required to make efforts to reduce a project’s potential impact on the environment.

New approach to traffic

One of the most significant sections of the proposal will change the approach used by developers to analyze traffic.

Under current laws, developers are required to gauge how their new project can affect car congestion and traffic flow. This step is often a deterrent to the creation of bike lanes, as fewer car lanes result to increased vehicular pile up.

The proposed changes now require projects to take account of the number of miles cars will need to travel on roads surrounding the vicinity. The installation of bike lanes can be helpful in reducing automobile trips, and regulators are hoping the new changes will lead to the development of more bike lanes. The proposal also applies to residential construction, which makes it easier for developers to establish bike and pedestrian-friendly features, if they can prove that these will help reduce car usage.

Through changing the approach of all projects to vehicle traffic, urbanists and environmentalists are hopeful that the new regulations will reduce the creation of car-centered developments, which is a big step towards achieving the state’s climate change goals.  

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Under legislation SB 32, the state is required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by the year 2030. Regulators have stated that in order to meet that goal, the number of cars on the road will need to be reduced drastically.  

Reducing emissions will have an impact in nearly every aspect of life in California, including residences, electricity, food production, and how people get to work. The state has already been increasing efforts to provide solar power generation by offering subsidies for drivers to purchase electric vehicles and encouraging more developers to establish denser communities with access to mass transit.

However, research conducted by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory indicates that current regulations may only help the state reach the mid-point of the 2030 goal. California is currently nearing 1990 emission levels, which was a goal that was established about a decade ago through a previous law.

This means that more restrictive rules are likely to be imposed on more businesses and taxpayer and ratepayer money will be put to use in order to subsidize cleaner methods and technologies.

Hitting the target set by SB 32 is certainly an uphill climb, especially in a growing state such as California. The Golden State is currently home to about 38 million residents along with a gross domestic product amounting to nearly $2.5 trillion, making it one of the largest economies in the world.