Will Southern California's SB 375 Plan Pivot the Region in the Right Direction?

Clearly someone’s been paying attention. Southern California’s first Sustainable Communities Strategy under SB 375--officially released today by unanimous Regional Council vote--reflects today’s housing market realities. As a recent survey of Southern California voters confirmed, most people want to live closer to their jobs and shops, and 2 out of 3 would happily move into a smaller home if it meant a shorter commute. This plan takes a big step in the direction of providing more of what the people want: more walkable neighborhoods and more options for getting around.

In response to this demand, this plan will: 

  • Increase the percentage of new homes that are apartments or townhomes to 68% in next 25 years, (up from 39% in past 25 years);
  • Increase the percentage of new homes with transit options to 51% (up from 34%) and new jobs to 53% (up from 39%); and by doing so,
  • Save 400 square miles of open space from development.

And while the plan increases funding for transit and active transportation, we still believe there is a real opportunity to make this plan even more effective. As SCAG First Vice President Glen Becerra noted: “Before we go back to the public and ask them for additional revenues, we have to prove that we are using resources given to us today effectively and efficiently. We should be looking at doing everything we can to cut costs.”

We agree. SCAG is facing a $150 billion shortfall. Rather than assuming eye-popping amounts of new revenue, we recommend that SCAG, in consultation with its County Transportation Commissions, continue to examine the ways that we’ve traditionally planned for people to move around the region, and carefully consider whether these projects—particularly those with 10 figure pricetags-- are still the best use of taxpayer dollars.

Still, we do recognize the challenges posed by the sheer size and complexity of the region, and with some improvements between now and final adoption in April, believe this plan can be an inflection point for Southern California. As one SCAG staff member described it, “This plan doesn’t get us all the way there. Maybe the next plan will do that. But this plan is the pivot.” We agree.

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