Different Attitudes, Divergent Results: Potential Regional Variations in implementation of SB 375

While the State of California has until September 30, 2010 to adopt regional greenhouse gas reduction targets (constituting the first step in the implementation of Senate Bill No. 375 (“SB 375”) 2008 Cal. Legis. Serv. 3997 (West)), this article considers how current attitudes toward the law may lead to potential differences in implementation of SB 375 in different regions of California. Specifically, this article examines the response of the Bay Area through the Association of Bay Area Governments (“ABAG”) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (“MTC”) and contrasts that with the response that SB 375 has received in San Bernardino County through the San Bernardino Associated Governments (“SANBAG”).

  1. Background

    1. Regional Agencies

      The following is a basic description of the regional agencies in the Bay Area and in San Bernardino County that have been tasked with implementing SB 375:

      1. The Bay Area

        ABAG, a regional entity implementing SB 375, is the official comprehensive planning agency for the San Francisco Bay Area region. For the purposes of ABAG, the Bay Area is defined as the nine counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma. The 101 cities and all nine counties within the Bay Area are all voluntary members of ABAG, which represent a significant portion of the region’s population. An elected official from each member city and county serves as a delegate to ABAG’s General Assembly, which determines policy annually, adopts the annual budget and work program, and reviews policy actions of ABAG’s Executive Board. Each delegate has one vote, and a majority of city and county votes are required for action. As an advisory organization, ABAG has limited statutory authority. The 38-member Executive Board, which assembles locally elected officials based on regional population, meets bi-monthly to make operating decisions, appoint committee members, authorize expenditures, and recommend policy. See generally http://www.abag.ca.gov/.

        The other regional entity implementing SB 375 in the Bay Area is MTC. MTC is the transportation planning, coordinating and financing agency for the same nine-county San Francisco Bay Area covered by ABAG. The Commission’s work is guided by a 19-member policy board, 14 of which are appointed directly by local elected officials (each of the five most populous counties has two representatives, with the board of supervisors selecting one representative, and the mayors of the cities within each county appointing another; the four remaining counties appoint one commissioner to represent both the cities and the board of supervisors). In addition, two members represent regional agencies — ABAG and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (“BCDC”). Finally, three non-voting members have been appointed to represent federal and state transportation agencies and the federal housing department. See generally http://www.mtc.ca.gov/about_mtc/.

      2. Southern California: San Bernardino

        The County of San Bernardino falls under the jurisdiction of the Southern California Council of Governments (“SCAG”), which is the largest of nearly 700 councils of government in the United States. SCAG functions as the Metropolitan Planning Organization (“MPO”) for five counties, in addition to San Bernardino, which are: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Ventura, and Imperial. The region encompasses a population exceeding 18 million persons in an area of more than 38,000 square miles. As the designated MPO, SCAG has a mandate from the federal government to research and draw up plans for transportation, growth management, hazardous waste management, and air quality. SCAG annually convenes a General Assembly to bring together the official representatives of SCAG’s membership and help set the agency’s course for the coming year. In addition, the General Assembly considers adoption of SCAG’s General Fund Budget for the next fiscal year and the new President, Vice President, and Second Vice President are announced for the coming year. Policy matters for consideration by the General Assembly are introduced via resolution by the 83 member governing board known as the Regional Council. If a resolution is presented directly to the General Assembly, a two-thirds vote is required for its consideration. A quorum of the General Assembly consists of official representation from one-third of the member cities and one-third of the member counties. See generally http://www.scag.ca.gov/about.htm

        SANBAG, is the council of governments and transportation planning agency for San Bernardino County. SANBAG is the sub-regional council of government entity under the jurisdiction of SCAG, and is responsible for cooperative regional planning and furthering an efficient multi-modal transportation system countywide. The mayors and city council members of 24 counties and the five members of the Board of Directors within San Bernardino County govern SANBAG. See generally http://www.sanbag.ca.gov/about/index.html

“Excerpted with permission from the Climate Change Law & Policy Reporter, September 2009, Copyright © 2009, Argent Communications Group. All rights reserved. For full article please visit www.argent.com.”