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California bill seeks to curb sprawl, commuting

SAN FRANCISCO — California, known for its far-ranging suburbs and jam-packed traffic, is close to adopting a law intended to slow the increase in emissions of heat-trapping gases by encouraging housing close to job sites, rail lines and bus stops to shorten the time people spend in their cars.

The measure, passed by the state Assembly on Monday and awaiting final approval by the Senate, would be the nation's most comprehensive effort to reduce sprawl. It would loosely tie tens of billions of dollars in state and federal transportation subsidies to cities' and counties' compliance with efforts to slow the increase in driving. The goal is to encourage housing near current development and to reduce commutes to work.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has not said whether he will sign the bill.

The number of miles driven in California has increased at a rate 50 percent faster than the rate of population growth for the past two decades. Passenger vehicles, which produce about 30 percent of the state's heat-trapping gases, are the single greatest source of such emissions.

The fragile coalition behind the measure includes some longtime antagonists, in particular home builders and leading environmental groups in California. Both called the measure historic.

"What California is doing for the first time is planning for housing needs, transportation needs and climate change needs all at the same time," said Ed Manning, a lobbyist who represents the state's 25 largest homebuilding companies.

California bill seeks to curb sprawl, commuting 08/28/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 2:30pm]

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