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Land Use & Community Design – Snapshot of Local Agency Programs and Policies 2009


About the Snapshot

In Spring 2009, the Institute for Local Government’s California Climate Action Network surveyed cities and counties to gather information about activities, policies and programs in five areas related to climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions: commercial recycling, green building, land use and community design, efficient transportation, and civic engagement.

Case stories were prepared for ten communities to provide more detailed background information. While the information gathered does not reflect all of the commercial recycling programs in California communities, it does provide a snap shot of trends, opportunities, constraints and lessons learned.

This project was conducted in partnership with the California Air Resources Board.

Climate Action Connection: Land Use & Community Design

Well-planned communities with a balance of housing, jobs, shopping, schools and recreation give people the option of walking, biking or using transit rather than driving. This results in lower greenhouse gas emissions and also promotes physical activity and more vibrant, healthy and sustainable communities.

Snapshot Summary

  • Cities and counties throughout California are responding to climate change through their local policies and programs for land use and community design.
  • Local agencies are addressing climate change in their general plans and through their environmental review process.
  • Many communities are beginning to evaluate greenhouse gas emissions associated with land use and community design, either individually or regionally.
  • A number of previously adopted land use and zoning policies, such as those that promote in-fill development, transit oriented development and community-wide bicycle plans, are also recognized as ways of responding to climate change by reducing vehicle miles traveled.

Highlights of Local Agency Land Use & Community Design Activities

  • The number of new developments that incorporate pedestrian and bicycle friendly features is increasing.
  • Some communities are requiring new developments to be built to LEED for Neighborhood Development standards.
  • Many cities and counties are encouraging or requiring landscape designs that use less water, provide shade, and reduce pavement runoff to be incorporated into new developments.
  • Numerous counties and cities that have undertaken actions to support inter-agency or regional efforts to reduce land use-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Opportunities, Constraints and Lessons Learned

  • Virtually all of the existing policies and programs to promote sustainable development (i.e., in-fill, mixed use, and transit-oriented development) also reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions through land use and community design is tied to making transportation patterns more efficient, which reduces vehicle miles travelled.
  • Opportunities and constraints to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are different for built-out communities compared to those that are expanding.
  • Engaging the public in discussions related to land use and community design efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is critical for building public understanding, support and acceptance of new policies and programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the impacts of climate change.
  • Currently, calculating greenhouse gas emissions associated with different types of development patterns is more of an art than a science.

So, What are Counties and Cities Doing?

Click SNAPSHOT to learn what counties and cities are doing to:

  • help reduce locally generated greenhouse gases through land use and community design policies
  • support inter-agency or regional efforts to reduce land use-related greenhouse gas emissions

Tell Us About Your Agency’s Programs

Would you like your city or county’s land use and community design program be added to our list? Let us know what your community is doing to promote land use and community design programs to combat climate change by completing our short Climate Leadership Survey on Land Use & Community Design.

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