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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION of GOVERNMENTS

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About the SCS

Image: Sustainable Communities Strategy Collage

What is the SCS?

The Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) is a newly required element of the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). The SCS will integrate land use and transportation strategies that will achieve ARB emissions reduction targets.

What is SB 375?

Senate Bill 375 (SB 375) was enacted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles and light trucks through integrated transportation, land use, housing and environmental planning. Under the law, SCAG is tasked with developing a Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS), a newly required element of the 2012 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) that provides a plan for meeting emissions reduction targets set forth by the California Air Resources Board (ARB).

On September 23, 2010, ARB issued a regional 8% per capita reduction target for the planning year 2020, and a conditional target of 13% for 2035.

SCS Requirements

According to SB 375, "Each metropolitan planning organization shall prepare a sustainable communities strategy, including the requirement utilizing the most recent planning assumptions considering local general plans and other factors. The Sustainable Communities Strategy shall:

  1. identify the general location of uses, residential densities, and building intensities within the region;
  2. identify areas within the region sufficient to house all the population of the region, including all economic segments of the population, over the course of the planning period of the regional transportation plan taking into account net migration into the region, population growth, household formation and employment growth;
  3. identify areas within the region sufficient to house an eight-year projection of the regional housing need for the region;
  4. identify a transportation network to service the transportation needs of the region;
  5. gather and consider the best practically available scientific information regarding resource areas and farmland in the region;
  6. consider the state housing goals specified in Sections 65580 and 65581;
  7. set forth a forecasted development pattern for the region, which, when integrated with the transportation network, and other transportation measures and policies, will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles and light trucks to achieve, if there is a feasible way to do so, the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets approved by the state board;
  8. allow the regional transportation plan to comply with the federal Clean Air Act."

How will SCAG develop an SCS?

The Sustainable Communities Strategy is envisioned to combine transportation and land use elements in order to achieve emissions reduction targets. If the emissions reduction targets cannot be met through the SCS, an Alternative Planning Strategy (APS) may be developed that shows how the targets would be achieved through alternative development patterns, infrastructure, or additional transportation measures of policies. SB 375 also offers local governments regulatory and other incentives to encourage more compact new development and transportation alternatives.

SCS development requires meaningful collaboration with local governments and stakeholders to identify areas for future land uses, residential densities and building intensities to accommodate the needs of our growing population, and fulfill State housing requirements. SCAG's approach is to partner with subregions, counties, cities, County Transportation Commissions (CTCs), and other local and regional stakeholders through an iterative and bottom up process.

While the SCS and GHG reduction targets are new elements to the RTP development process, SCAG has practiced integrated land use and transportation planning since the 2004 RTP, in which the Growth Vision Alternative was developed to demonstrate the benefits of a coordinated planning approach. Using the principles and benefits identified through that work, SCAG launched its Compass Blueprint program to assist local partners in integrated planning efforts.

This integrated approach was used in a number of alternatives under consideration for the 2008 RTP, with an emphasis on growth around transportation nodes and corridors that would potentially increase transit usage and reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT).

With a sustained commitment to collaborative and integrated planning, SCAG's new focus for the 2012 Regional Transportation Plan will be the development of the Sustainable Communities Strategy, founded on four key elements:

  • A Land Use growth pattern that accommodates the region’s future employment and housing needs, and that protects sensitive habitat and resource areas.
  • A Transportation Network that consists of public transit, highways, local streets, bikeways, and walkways.
  • Transportation Demand Management (TDM) measures that reduce or eliminate peak-period demand on the transportation network, such as carpooling, telecommuting, vanpooling, and other innovate programs such as "parking pay-out."
  • Transportation System Management (TSM) measures that maximize the efficiency of the transportation network, such as signal timing, freeway ramp metering, and bottleneck relief/auxiliary lane projects.

Outreach

A major component of SCS development is an extensive public outreach and public review process. This will be required to develop an SCS that truly reflects the vision and future of the Southern California region.

If you are interested in participating in the SCS development process, we invite you to attend any of the scheduled workshops and hearings posted on the Upcoming Planning Sessions section of this website.

Subregional Delegation

Unique to the SCAG region is the option for subregions to create their own SCS or APS. Two subregions have accepted delegation to create their own subregional SCS; Gateway Cities Council of Governments and Orange County Council of Governments. These subregional SCS will be incorporated into the regional SCS.

CEQA Streamlining and SB 375

SB 375 amends the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to add "Chapter 4.2, Implementation of the Sustainable Communities Strategy," which allows for a CEQA exemption or streamlined process for certain projects. SCAG has developed fact sheets to assist local governments in determining if they have projects that qualify for this benefit.