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Land use effects on climate described
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Leaders of Ventura County’s open-space movement kicked off an effort Thursday to address climate change through land use decisions that cut gasoline use, driving down harmful emissions.
“We want to work with you to chart a new course,” Karen Schmidt, executive director of SOAR, told close to 200 people at a conference at CSU Channel Islands.
Schmidt and others say Ventura County can lead the effort to comply with SB375, billed as the nation’s first law to control greenhouse gas emissions by reducing sprawl. The legislation calls for cities and counties to plan development so that it reduces gasoline usage in cars and light trucks.
Some elected officials see that as state intrusion, but Ventura City Manager Rick Cole said sprawl is an issue that resonates throughout Ventura County.
“One common touchstone is we don’t want to be the San Fernando Valley,” he told the group. “We don’t want to become some crudspace of interconnected neighborhoods, one the same as the other basically sprawling from mountain to mountain.”
Under SOAR, or Save Open-space and Agricultural Resources, most cities in Ventura County require public votes on development of farmland. Proponents say the approach focuses growth within cities, so people can walk, shop and work without driving long distances. It also helps ensure a local food supply, Schmidt said.
Statistics, though, show the area is still heavily tied to the car culture.
Darren Kettle, executive director of the Ventura County Transportation Commission, said fewer than 1 percent of commuting trips are taken by mass transit. Fewer than 10 percent of trips involve car pools, meaning the vast majority travel alone in cars.
Paul Callaway, a Ventura engineer attending the conference, said he rode his bicycle to the event. He didn’t see many others.
“Basically, the way society is designed now, it forces everybody into cars,” said the president of the Ventura-Santa Barbara branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers. “We have to choose to do something different.”
On a daily basis last year, Ventura County’s cars and light trucks emitted 6,850 tons of carbon dioxide. The figure grew by 16 percent from 2000 to 2006, according to the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District.
Deputy Attorney General Sarah Morrison said her boss, Attorney General Jerry Brown, is serious about getting cities to comply with laws designed to cut emissions and slow down climate change. The agency has already sued a couple of cities, she said.
She predicted that climate change would lead to worsening wildfires and water shortages in the county. Rising sea levels would make 160 miles of highway vulnerable to flooding, she said.
“Point Mugu would be completely under water,” she said.
Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments, said population growth makes action imperative. Southern California’s population will increase by at least 6 million in the next 25 years, he said, with Ventura County’s up by perhaps 250,000.