Housing, Transportation, Climate: It’s All Connected
Having just completed my first year in the California Senate, I’m taking a deep breath. Governor Brown just signed our major housing package, including my housing streamlining bill (SB 35) and several bills to fund affordable housing and push back against obstruction of housing. This spring, we passed the largest transportation funding measure in California’s history, including strong support for public transportation. And over the summer, we passed a robust extension of California’s cap-and-trade program — a model for the world for how we can cap and reduce carbon emissions while also funding investments in a de-carbonized future.
(Governor Brown signing my housing streamlining bill, SB 35, and other housing bills)
These aren’t three separate accomplishments. They’re all deeply connected, and we won’t succeed as a state without taking an integrated, holistic approach to our state’s future. Despite our accomplishments this year, we aren’t nearly done. Much work remains to keep our environment clean, to house everyone, and to make it easier for people to get around.
Climate change is an existential threat to our planet. Our housing shortage exacerbates climate change by pushing people into longer commutes that choke our air with carbon emissions. Our inadequate public transportation and rail networks, combined with insufficient zero emission vehicles, makes it even worse. 40% of California’s carbon emissions come from transportation.
Our housing shortage and inadequate transit infrastructure threaten our economy, health, and quality of life. When people don’t have adequate housing, they’re forced out of their communities and are less healthy. When employers aren’t confident that their workers will be able to find housing anywhere near work, they’ll think twice about locating or expanding here. When transportation systems are permanently gridlocked due to under-investment in transit, we explode carbon emissions, undermine productivity, and increase back problems and diabetes as people sit in cars for hours every day. When climate change leads to sea level rise that floods roads, transit systems, corporate campuses, and housing, we pay a huge price.
On the positive side — and I’m an optimist — this year we showed we have what it takes to do the hard work to address all of these inter-related problems. We developed strong coalitions of elected officials, community-based organizations, businesses, and labor unions that care deeply about the future of our state, and that recognize that we need to take concrete steps to address these interconnected problems.
So let’s celebrate our wins this year. Our work will lead to more housing, better roads and transit, and more aggressive efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
Yet, let’s also recognize that no single legislative session will end climate change, fix our housing shortage, or reverse decades of chronic under-investment in transportation. This is only step one — but it’s a heck of a step one. Now, let’s get back to work on growing our coalitions, building on our successes, and continuing our momentum towards a sustainable future.