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SGC Awards Grants to Boost Smarter Urban Planning in CA Cities

The Strategic Growth Council, a state committee made up of representatives from six California agencies, awarded over $40 million in planning grants last week for projects large and small that are aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

California's Strategic Growth Council recently awarded $40 million for sustainability plan projects like this transit-oriented development above L.A.'s Metro Red Line Wilshire/Vermont Station. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

One of the grants went to the Los Angeles City Planning Department to help quantify the GHG emission reductions brought by infill housing development as a strategy to help meet the state's climate targets set under A.B. 32. The $491,770 grant will allow planners to develop ways to measure the reductions in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) from affordable housing and infill development near transit, and to quantify the trip reduction benefits of transportation demand management measures. Ultimately, the goal is to develop a VMT-based metric that can be used to satisfy California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements.

Other grants were awarded to L.A. Metro and the L.A. County Department of Regional Planning, as well as numerous other cities and counties throughout the state.

The grants were divided into two streams: the Sustainable Communities Planning Grant and Incentives Program, which awarded $16 million to 33 projects, and the Urban Greening Grant Program, which awarded $24 million to 40 proposals. A list of this year's planning grants appears after the jump.

The Sustainable Communities Planning Grants fund plans to build infill development and efficient transportation, local climate plans, and zoning plans for transit-oriented development and renewable energy, among others.

The Urban Greening Grant Program awarded funds to shovel-ready projects that create and develop parks and greenways, reduce runoff by creating bioswales and converting pavement to permeable surfaces, restore habitat, plant trees, and similar projects.

This is the third round of grants awarded through this program, which is funded by Prop 84, the Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Bond Act passed in 2006.

“The first two rounds recognized the dearth of planning funds in general due to the recession. Planning departments were losing capacity at a time when it would have been a great time to plan for new infill development that could reduce water use,” said Mike McCoy of the SGC. “This third round is the first time we've granted funds since we adopted the regional Sustainable Communities Strategies (SCS).”

Sustainable Communities Strategies are regional plans required under S.B. 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008, which mandated that each region develop a strategy to reach local GHG reduction targets, largely with better land use and transportation planning. “We want projects to be focused on transit use, compact growth, and GHG reductions," said McCoy. "In this round we saw more of what we hope will become widespread local support of statewide sustainable communities planning.”

Many of the projects that receive planning grants through this program are being used as matching funds to leverage additional grants, increasing the program's influence on development. “Our goal is five to one,” said McCoy, “meaning for each dollar we grant there are five more available to projects from other funders. We're working collaboratively with other agencies and even for-profit developers. There is profit to be made with these projects, but some of them still need incentives, especially in places where the market is soft and banks demand higher interest rates.”

In the future, these grants will likely be funded by the state's cap-and-trade program, for which legislators in Sacramento are currently negotiating a spending plan.

Here's a list of the Sustainable Communities Planning Grants awarded in round three. More details can be found on SCG's website.

    1. Cudahy: development impact fee (and parking variances) to support multi-modal transportation, $105,913
    2. Escondido: smart growth/redevelopment, $172,754
    3. Tulare: disadvantaged communities infrastructure needs analysis, $390,750
    4. Pasadena: walkable Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) planning, $491,770
    5. Los Angeles City Planning: quantifying VMT benefits of infill and TDM, $491,770
    6. Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG): overcome barriers to infill, $885,186
    7. Hawthorne: walkable, bikeable TOD, $422,922
    8. Colton: affordable housing, infill and compact development downtown, $228,181
    9. San Joaquin Valley Regional Policy Council: clean energy and sustainable development in disadvantaged communities, $981,055
    10. Antioch: TOD, ped/bike access to transit, $426,857
    11. Davis: reduce auto use, promote water conservation and energy efficiency, $591,108
    12. Sacramento: intermodal district planning with TOD, $491,770
    13. West Hollywood: promote active transportation and TDM, parking study, $245,885
    14. West Sacramento: urban infill development planning, $377,561
    15. Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) Plan Bay Area: implementation, $983,541
    16. Santa Clara: alternative fuel vehicles and infrastructure, $536,729
    17. L.A. Metro: GHG reduction strategies and technical assistance for adopting them locally, $885,048
    18. SF Planning Department; infill development, $490,672
    19. Santa Cruz County: renewable energy planning, $344,239
    20. Butte County: renewable energy overlay zone, $296,837
    21. San Jacinto: multi-modal, walkable downtown, $491,770
    22. Redding: incentives for infill, $275,175
    23. Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments: mixed use infill in transit corridors, $491,770
    24. Sonoma County Transportation Authority: encourage shifts in mode and fuel used for personal transportation, $868,463
    25. Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning: West Carson TOD, $491,770
    26. San Diego: TOD and bike/ped access to Balboa Avenue Station Area, $786,832
    27. Avenal: General Plan Update, $458,138
    28. Goleta: Pedestrian Bicycle Master Plan, $203,415
    29. Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG): various SCS e.g. Complete Streets Master Plan in Lancaster, form-based design guidelines in Pasadena, Climate Master Plan in Seal Beach, $983,541
    30. Holtville: promote active transportation and compact development, $248,836
    31. Anaheim: Beach Boulevard Transit Corridor Specific Plan, $491,770
    32. Arroyo Grande: Climate Action Plan implementation and monitoring, $102,940
    33. Burlingame: General Plan Update, $491,770

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