By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Brown’s message, that he’s willing to stop counties from pursuing long-planned zoning and housing expansions, was not lost on Senate Republicans. They promptly insisted on guidelines to help local governments mitigate greenhouse-gas emissions — still an area of intense debate over what really works.
While San Bernardino compliments Brown’s subsequent handling of the matter — he swiftly settled and tried to find money to cover the county’s legal expenses brought on by his lawsuit — Brown’s timing sucked. San Bernardino had just completed an environmental-impact report — a real big, time-consuming, superexpensive one — and the A.G. hadn’t bothered to point out any problems before suing. Hearings and hearings and more public hearings took place. Written comment ad nauseam.
Moreover, the enviros — who sued San Bernardino a few days after Brown did — had openly participated in the public review of the San Bernardino Environmental Impact Report. Yet, they didn’t say diddly about greenhouse gases, according to the county’s spokesman.
IT WAS LOOKING MORE AND MORE LIKE San Bernardino got bushwhacked by Brown and the enviros for press-coverage purposes. “There was plenty of opportunity prior to the plan being adopted to say, ‘You’re not doing enough about global warming.’ That was never said,” Wert says. “There’s proof” that the groups knew the details of San Bernardino’s plan but did not request changes — in order to sue later.
After suing San Bernardino, Brown sent comments to 23 localities, urging them to evaluate, avoid or reduce carbon-dioxide emissions through their land-development and zoning choices.
An attorney general who inserts himself into local planning is not new. Brown’s predecessor Bill Lockyer routinely sent comments to localities. An 11-page letter in 2006 from Lockyer to Glen Campbell, analyst for the Orange County Transportation Authority, says the same things Brown said in his San Bernardino lawsuit: Environmental-impact plans should consider climate change.
But Lockyer’s missive arrived in time for the county to address it rather than force a lawsuit, as Brown chose to do with San Bernardino. “I want to mobilize the political will of local governments,” insists Brown, who is promoting a series of workshops to educate localities on how to fight global warming and thus avoid getting a ruler across their knuckles. “I want to build the political base from the bottom up,” Brown says. “[California’s greenhouse-gas law] is top-down. These workshops are from the bottom up.”
Nobody really knows whether Brown and his workshop leaders — all advocates of “smart growth” — have an actual clue how to reduce emissions by tweaking housing- and land-use plans. Scientists studying global warming don’t begin to agree on what kinds of housing and commercial development are worse — or better. (See accompanying article.)
Brown, aiming for buzz as he pursues another stint as governor, isn’t concerned over that level of detail. Two days after Schwarzenegger leaves office in 2010, final state regulations for producing reduced greenhouse gases are due. If progress hasn’t been made, Brown says, the “whole thing will fall on his head” — meaning the next governor.
Some years after that, San Bernardino and other California counties under orders from Brown to change their development blueprints will be able to measure whether his views on reducing emissions work the way diamond lanes, freeway bans and the other legacies of Brown’s first governorship did.