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Higher density on its way
State mandates more homes per acre to clean air
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The day will come when Manteca has no choice but to allow higher density developments – as much as four times the homes per acre than in a typical residential neighborhood.

It is the mandate put in place when state legislators adopted sweeping guidelines that essentially impose mandatory higher density development patterns on Manteca and other California cities.

The bottom line is the new state laws require greenhouse gas emissions to be rolled back to 1990 levels by 2020. Thirty-eight percent of the state’s greenhouse gases come from transportation. The state plans to accomplish this goal by improvements in fuel efficiency, reduction in the carbon content of gasoline, and changing land use patterns to reduce the number of miles driven.

In 1990, cars and light trucks in California produced 108 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. By 2004, that figure increases to 134 metric tons. The California Air Resources Board is required to adopt regulations to attain those goals by January 2011 that maximizes technology and cost effective measures.

Three bills establish mandatory tie-ins between green house gas emissions and local land-use planning.

The end result means cities like Manteca must:

•change land development patterns to reduce vehicle miles driven.

•participate in regional planning that is tied into local planning although how that will work is still not clear.

•comply with regional strategies developed by Caltrans, the San Joaquin County Air Pollution Control District, and the San Joaquin Council Of Governments or else risk losing all state transportation funding.

•give incentives to projects that are 20 units per acre, 50 percent residential, and is located within a half mile of a major transit stop. (A typical single-family neighborhood has five homes per acre.)

•tie in affordable housing to infrastructure planning, and green house gas reduction.

•comply with the laws or else they will have an extremely difficult time securing state financing for new roads and freeway interchanges.

•move projects forward if at least  49 percent of the units are designated as affordable that meet local zoning requirements even if the community rejects them under the so-called “anti-Not-In-My-Back-Yard” (NIMBY) defense.

•more thoroughly scrutinize developments that may boost auto traffic and may require more privately financed transportation infrastructure.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail