C.R.I.B. – Car Reduction In-fill Bonus - a parked car "cap and trade" system
For multi-landowner, multi-tenant job centers
June 2007, last updated 6/7/08
A) “Transportation Improvement Consortium" (TIC) will implement transportation improvements (new shuttle bus system, personal rapid transit system, paid parking scheme, other demand management scheme, etc) in a 1,200-acre, 20,000 employee office park. The office park has about 100 landowners and 100 tenants.
B) A city “caps” cars in the office park at 17,000 cars. Verifiable counts of cars are taken a few times per year. There is a financial penalty to TIC for counts above 17,000 and remedies are prescribed. Palo Alto has implemented something similar: “no new net peak hour trips.” This cap has appeal in “built-out” office parks (most of the 200 large office U.S. parks with 20,000+ jobs are built out).
C) In advance of the transportation improvements being implemented, the city agrees to the following. For each verifiable car that is removed from the office park, the city grants 350 square feet of new development rights (often for multi-family residential) within the office park to TIC. The rights are transferable and can be sold to landowners within the office park. The rights allow for new in-fill development on any parcel within the office park, provided the landowner is willing. Two city planning documents enable this scheme: A) A Specific Plan envisions the transportation improvements and new development. B) A “development agreement” contractually commits a city to granting new rights in exchange for car reduction.
D) TIC creates the transit/TDM system. Cars disappear. TIC obtains new development rights. TIC sells new development rights, paying for the up-front cost to implement the transportation improvements. Because of the new development, the office park fills back up to the capped level of 17,000 cars.
Development Agreements allow very open-ended bargaining (see the chapter on Development Agreement's in William Fulton's Guide to California Planning). There is no precedent for granting new, transferable development rights for a plan area to a third party (non-landowner). These new rights are somewhat similar to Transferable Development Rights (TDRs), that are used to preserve open space and agricultural lands by moving development to more appropriate parcels. Hence, CRIB would represent a novel application of TDR-like rights, but the courts do give wide latitude to well written Development Agreements (DA). These new development right do seem well within the bounds of what would be permissible.
Frequently Asked Questions (thanks to folks including Adam Millard-Ball, Nelson Nygaard Associates)
1. There are legal problems with trip reduction schemes applied to existing developments. There are specific prohibitions on trip reduction ordinances in the California legal code.
A: TDM trip reduction cannot generally be “grandfathered” on to existing development. TDM is normally applied to new development that intensifies development and produces new traffic that must be mitigated. However, for CRIB, the Development Agreement will be voluntarily entered into, so will not represent grandfathering of TDM. In California, the 1995 Senate Bill SB 475 limited TDMs for purposes of improving Air Quality. Our CRIB scheme will be brought about via a voluntarily-entered Development Agreement, rather than by imposition of TDMs. This is a voluntary scheme, rather than a regulatory scheme. In addition, since SB 475 passed, cities have regularly imposed TDMs for traffic mitigation and growth management (but not for air quality). With the 2006 passage of Assembly Bill AB32 for climate protection, there may be interest in modifying SB 475 to allow imposition of TDMs for climate protection.
2. Why is a Development Agreement used?
A: Development Agreement is necessary to to "lock" in a city to providing new development rights for car reduction. Otherwise, a new city council could be voted in, and could overturn this policy. Real-estate developers require certainty before they will act.
3. Are you suggesting that it will be easy to bring about a Development Agreement for every US office park with 20,000 workers, and for smaller areas of office parking?
A: No, it won't be easy. For an office park with 100 landowners, the process will require the formation of a working group comprised of landowners, long term lease holders, tenants, and city staff. The working group should explore the concept and wrestle with details. We expect that national coordination of local policy development will arise, and there are a number of organizations that have a natural fit for this role.
We do not expect that 100% of landowners will sign each Development Agreement. Rather, it may be reasonable to win over 80% of landowners in the first year, and then bring on more signatories over time as the CRIB scheme spreads and succeeds.
A public process is required for a Development Agreement, so residents will need to be educated and will need to have their concerns addressed. A good portion of residents are enthusiastic about capping car counts and capping traffic.
And, Development Agreements cost money for expert legal advice and for the time of city staff. There are some grant programs that may help fund pioneering CRIB development.
4. Many City Councils and Planning Commissions have anti-infill tendencies
A: We've taken an empathetic approach to Planning Commissions and City Councils, anticipating their objections and having a good solution to those objections. The proposal does comprehend that you have to count cars and prove that car counts decrease. We're attempting to bring some more rigor / rationality to the city planning process. With the passage of AB32 for climate protection, we do have a sea-change in policy formulation that we can exploit to bring about innovative local policies that were impossible in the past. Cities are competing with each other to be the most green. That helps this effort.
5. Many office parks have grants for new development rights that have yet to be exercised. Employment ebbs and flows with the economy. Employers come and go, with different numbers of employees per 1,000 square feet. How do you accommodate complexities like these.
A: You count "cars per 100 employees" (you have to also take an employment census when you count cars), then you extrapolate to full employment. You end up rewarding changes in cars per 100 employees. But, this is a really complicated detail that should be avoided in this type of document, but must be handled in the Development Agreement. The main point is that there is a commonsense approach to specifying these details. No scheme will be perfect, but there's a way to arrive at a reasonable, rational, fair scheme.