Protect the environment with creativity, not taxes

taxesViewpoint By Eric Eisenhammer

Most Californians want to do their part for the environment, but many cannot afford to pay higher taxes.  Unfortunately, a misguided proposal now making its way through the Legislature would override consumer choice in energy and housing while opening the door to new taxes and eminent domain abuse.

This bill, Senate Bill 1, or SB 1, is known officially as the Sustainable Communities Investment Authority and aims to corral more citizens into high-density transit corridors. The bill would allow low density communities, or areas where people enjoy large lots and ample breathing room, to be declared “blighted,” and redeveloped, with tax dollars redirected to newly created redevelopment agencies.

This diversion of tax dollars will take away money from other important services including fire and police protection, parks, and libraries, leading to higher taxes to make up for lost revenues.

Senator Darrell Steinberg, the bill’s author, believes high density communities created by SB 1 will reduce gas usage and lower carbon emissions by encouraging people to walk more and use more transit. However, technology may already have outmoded his proposal.

SB 1 is based on sustainability guidelines established in the early 1990’s but widespread internet usage now means people can work, shop and go to school all without even leaving their homes.

In fact, the Families and Work Institute’s 2012 National Study of Employers, found based on a sample of 1,126 employers, that 63 percent now offer employees flexible work options including the option to telecommute.  This is a dramatic jump from just 34 percent in 2005.  Flexible work arrangements have many benefits that make them popular with both employers and employees, giving businesses savings on overhead and higher retention rates while allowing employees better work-life balance.

Altogether, the Telework Research Network estimates if 40% of workers were to begin telecommuting, 52.8 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses would be cut and 288 million fewer barrels of oil a year would be consumed.

Meanwhile, a recent survey of academic leaders found the number of students enrolled in online courses has also grown exponentially, with 32.1% of college students enrolled in at least one online course as of 2011.

Shopping also is beginning to move to the online realm.  Anybody that has visited a crowded mall around Christmas knows that shopping online can be a great way for customers to avoid parking hassles, crowded stores and long lines.  A survey last year by found 75 million people now actively purchase items online and most of them are satisfied with the experience.

The idea that individuals need to be packed together near transit to live a sustainable lifestyle is simply not true anymore, but SB 1 ignores technological advances and imposes an outdated heavy-handed solution on all of us – one that raises taxes and changes the character of our neighborhoods to boot.

SB 1 is not necessary.  With a little creativity, we can work together to preserve both the American dream and our environment.  Somebody please tell that to Senator Steinberg.

Eric Eisenhammer is the Founder of the Coalition of Energy Users, a nonprofit advocate for access to affordable energy and quality jobs.


SB 1- from CA Legislature, 8/13


An act to add Part 1.86 (commencing with Section 34191.10) to Division 24 of the Health and Safety Code, and to amend Section 21094.5 of the Public Resources Code, relating to economic development, and making an appropriation therefor.



SB 1, as amended, Steinberg. Sustainable Communities Investment Authority.
The Community Redevelopment Law authorizes the establishment of redevelopment agencies in communities to address the effects of blight, as defined. Existing law dissolved redevelopment agencies and community development agencies, as of February 1, 2012, and provides for the designation of successor agencies.
Existing law provides for various economic development programs that foster community sustainability and community and economic development initiatives throughout the state.
This bill would authorize certain public entities of a Sustainable Communities Investment Area, as described, to form a Sustainable Communities Investment Authority (authority) to carry out the Community Redevelopment Law in a specified manner. The bill would require the authority to adopt a Sustainable Communities Investment Plan for a Sustainable Communities Investment Area and authorize the authority to include in that plan a provision for the receipt of tax increment funds provided that certain economic development and planning requirements are met. The bill would authorize the legislative body of a city or county forming an authority to dedicate any portion of its net available revenue, as defined, to the authority through its Sustainable Communities Investment Plan. The bill would require the authority to contract for an independent financial and performance audit every 5 years.
The bill would establish prequalification requirements for entities that will receive more than $1,000,000 from the Sustainable Communities Investment Authority and would require the Department of Industrial Relations to monitor and enforce compliance with prevailing wage requirements for specified projects within a Sustainable Communities Investment Area. The bill would deposit moneys received by the department from developer charges related to the costs of monitoring and enforcement in the State Public Works Enforcement Fund. By depositing a new source of revenue in the State Public Works Enforcement Fund, a continuously appropriated special fund, the bill would make an appropriation.
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