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Review of Local Governments General Plans in Post-SB375 California

PI: Sciara
Funder: ITS MRPI

The realization of transportation-related greenhouse gas reductions sought by California’s Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008, known as SB375, depends on how cities plan for future growth. The General Plans produced by California cities are thus a key component of SB375’s success. This cross-sectional study of General Plans and the policies they contain assesses whether cities are incorporating SB375 principles into their land use planning. General Plans articulate city by city—the government level that exercises land use authority—how the state will grow and develop. If General Plans seek to accommodate growing population and employment with physical development and transportation systems that are automobile reliant, our ability to meet GHG-reduction targets will be limited. However, SB375’s success may seem more likely if General Plans reflect the compact and center-focused land use and development principles that promise to bring jobs and housing closer together, to enable people to make fewer, shorter auto trips, and to increase the use of non-driving modes. Protocols for such General Plan assessments are well established in the plan quality literature (Berke & Conroy, 2000; Berke & Godschalk, 2009; Jun & Conroy, 2013) and are applied here to review General Plans for a stratified sample of California cities. This work will provide both an important measure of how well local planning has taken up SB375 principles since the law’s passage and a baseline against which future planning progress on SB375 may be assessed.

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