Governor Brown Gives "Thumbs Down" to Healthy Communities, Misses Chance to Cut Traffic and Boost Investment

When NRDC released its new sustainable communities report last week with Move LA, we were optimistic that California Governor Jerry Brown would continue his long record of supporting good planning and economic development by signing SB 1156, the Sustainable Communities Investment Authority, authored by Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), in to law. 

This important bill would have given cities and counties a critical tool to support sustainable economic development that reduces chronic congestion and cuts air pollution; the kind of development that creates good jobs, affordable housing and a healthy environment. And the Legislature agreed, sending it to the Governor’s desk.

So imagine our disappointment when 36 hours before his deadline for acting on bills, he vetoed the very bill that NRDC and labor, infill developers, public health advocates, builders, affordable housing developers and many others worked so hard to realize. His veto is troubling. There was no known opposition to SB 1156 and the Governor’s veto flies in the face of the amazing progress California regions are making to improve local planning and implement SB 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008.

Despite the Governor’s rebuff, California localities are getting it right. San Diego, Southern California and the Sacramento region, home to nearly two-thirds of California’s population, are taking transportation, land use and carbon pollution reductions seriously. As highlighted in our report, Southern California and Sacramento have adopted plans that are truly transformative; patterns of development that put housing closer to more transit, giving people the choice walk more and drive less.

This effort should be rewarded; not starved of funding. SB 1156 would have given the opportunity to local governments to finance projects that bipartisan leaders in Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Diego have long supported. SB 1156 was carefully designed to fit smoothly with current state/local funding relationships, including schools and to avoid being “Redevelopment 2.0.” It was tightly focused on specific areas near transit and it clearly laid out what funds could and could not be used for.  

Time and again, the number one obstacle for regions willing to implement these plans is a lack of funding to build transit plans, develop new zoning codes and infrastructure projects that can foster significant change in our cities and the way we live and work.

In his SB 1156 veto message Governor Brown said he recognized that “the investment envisioned by the bill would help develop and redevelop a California that is sustainable and thriving.” He had a prime opportunity to do that and he missed the mark.

We stand ready to work with the Governor and Senator Steinberg who plans to introduce SB 1 in the next legislative session to finish the job we all started this year.  NRDC will continue fighting for this sustainable funding source next term, but the Governor needs to meet us half way and we expect to hold him accountable.

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