Newswise — UCLA School of Law and the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law today released a new report showing policymakers how to boost climate-friendly real estate development in California. This type of development is typified by walkable communities near transit, jobs, and services and is key to reducing California’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The paper’s recommendations are the result of a March workshop at UCLA School of Law, where California Attorney General Jerry Brown and the state’s leading real estate developers and architects discussed ways to overcome the barriers to sustainable development in California.
“Real estate development has generated incredible wealth in California, but it has also—in far too many cases—contributed to grinding traffic jams, pollution and a disturbing separation between where we work and where we live,” commented Attorney General Brown. “This set of recommendations, if followed, would make neighborhoods and cities more livable and slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.”
The report, “Removing the Roadblocks: How to Make Sustainable Development Happen Now,” presents a comprehensive guide for federal, state, and local governments and business leaders to follow to make sustainable development easier, more affordable, and more widespread.
It identifies four major obstacles blocking environmentally-sustainable neighborhoods, including: aging utilities and scarce transit lines, the high cost of building multi-level structures, regulatory barriers from planning and zoning laws, and tax incentives that favor suburban sprawl. The report then recommends long- and short-term action steps that policy makers and industry professionals can take to remove these obstacles.
First, local governments need to develop comprehensive plans for walkable communities instead of undergoing project-by-project approvals that encourage haphazard and disconnected development. Second, state and federal governments should direct funds to support the infrastructure needs of areas ripe for sustainable development. Third, the state should allow local redevelopment agencies to raise revenue through “tax increment financing,” which taxes the increase in property values associated with new neighborhood development
The report’s primary author, Ethan Elkind, the Bank of America Climate Change Research Fellow at UCLA Law and Berkeley Law, said: “Sustainable development is a solution that’s in demand, but significant policy barriers have prevented the market from supplying it. Developers and policy makers now have an action plan for how to build healthier, more climate-friendly communities that work for businesses and residents.”
The participants agreed that such developments would not only help the state achieve its climate change goals, but would also benefit communities in more ways than traditional sprawl. In fact, a July 2009 Public Policy Institute of California statewide survey, which focused on climate change, air pollution and energy policy, found that 78 percent of Californians support encouraging local governments to change land use and transportation planning so that people can drive less.
“We all want communities that have less traffic, more open space and a smaller carbon footprint,” said State Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), the author of California’s first-in-the-nation law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “This report provides a thoughtful and well-researched approach for achieving sustainable development in California and reaching these goals. It continues the conversation on what neighborhoods at all levels can do to remove obstacles to better neighborhoods.”
Assemblymember Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) said: “The threat from climate change requires that we re-think how California develops to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from driving. Given that many residents want to live in walkable communities that don't require being stuck in traffic to run the most basic errands, this timely report gives elected officials at all levels a road map for removing the barriers that prevent these sustainable neighborhoods from being built.”
The workshop was the first of four, all of which are funded by the Bank of America Charitable Foundation as a part of the bank’s 10-year, $20 billion environmental initiative focused on addressing climate change. The workshops are organized by UCLA School of Law’s Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment and Environmental Law Center; Berkeley Law’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment; along with the California Attorney General’s office. Each workshop will result in a set of policy recommendations to encourage more sustainable business practices and help California’s business community prosper in an era of climate change regulation.
About UCLA School of LawFounded in 1949, UCLA School of Law is the youngest major law school in the nation and has established a tradition of innovation in its approach to teaching, research and scholarship. With approximately 100 faculty and 970 students, the school pioneered clinical teaching, is a leader in interdisciplinary research and training and is at the forefront of efforts to link research to its effects on society and the legal profession. For more information, visit http://www.law.ucla.edu.
About University of California, Berkeley, School of LawFor over a century, Berkeley Law has prepared lawyers to be skilled and ethical problem-solvers. The law school's curriculum - one of the most comprehensive and innovative in the nation - offers its J.D. and advanced degree candidates a broad array of nearly 200 courses. Students collaborate with leading scholars and practitioners working on complex issues at more than a dozen interdisciplinary centers, institutes, and clinical programs within its Boalt Hall complex. For more information, visit http://www.law.berkeley.edu/.