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Fresno Supervisors Approve Resolution to Delay Vehicle Miles Traveled Law



Four pictures depicting the major issues surfacing with implementation of California's SB 743, which promotes bus ridership but will drive up housing costs
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The Fresno County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday backing a two-year delay on implementing a controversial law taking effect July 1.

Board chair Buddy Mendes and supervisor Steve Brandau co-sponsored the resolution.

The board weighed in on the implementation of Senate Bill 743, which changes how transportation-related fees for new housing projects are calculated.

Kate Gordon, the director of the state Office of Planning and Research, previously has said the deadline won’t change. She is also Gov. Gavin Newsom’s senior adviser on climate.

County Hears From SB 743 Backers

Two letters opposing the resolution were submitted to the county prior to the vote, which was moved off the consent agent.

In her letter, Fresno resident Marianne Kast wrote, “VMT evaluation does not increase the price of housing and other development when new projects are placed close to existing public transportation networks.”

A letter from Radley Reep, a retired teacher who has been critical of the county’s planning practices, stated:

“It’s evident that the Legislature was aware of housing needs when it enacted SB 743. Important to this hearing is the fact that there is no evidence before your Board that, since the bill’s adoption in 2013, the County has attempted either to implement the law or to conduct an analysis to support its claim that SB 743 is detrimental to affordable housing.”

SB 743 Changes

On July 1, projects will no longer be assessed a fee by how much traffic congestion is created.

Instead, VMT is applied to new developments. For instance, if a person drives to multiple places a day — work, store, soccer practice, etc. — all of those miles are counted up. Then the VMT fee is calculated for the development. The goal, according to bill’s supporters, is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

If you drive a lot, your number will escalate the price of a new house — or even rent for a newly built apartment. That’s because developers will have to mitigate the miles traveled, such as by funding vanpools or purchasing mass transit passes.

An official with the Building Industry Association of Fresno-Madera Counties has estimated that the VMT fees for a 20-unit project in Clovis would be $460,000 over 30 years — or $23,000 a unit. And, while the developer bears the costs upfront, it is passed on to homebuyers and renters.

Critics of the law say that it discriminates against minorities and lower-income families, and will put homeownership out of reach for many Californians.

BizFed Central Valley Letter

In addition to the supervisors asking for Gov. Gavin Newsom to delay the law for two years, several Valley lawmakers signed onto a letter from Bizfed Central Valley also asking for the delay.

The bipartisan coalition of lawmakers includes state Sens. Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno), Shannon Grove (Senate Republican Leader, Bakersfield), Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger), Anna Caballero (D-Salinas) and  Assembly Members Devon Mathis (R-Visalia), Jim Patterson (R-Fresno), Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), and Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield).

(Disclosure: Darius Assemi, publisher of GV Wire and president/CEO of Granville Homes, is a past board chair of Bizfed Central Valley.)

Previous GV Wire Stories on VMT