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We would like to thank you for your leadership and prompt and decisive action to protect our state and the county of Los Angeles from the COVID-19 pandemic. We applaud you for taking this threat seriously, and taking the necessary actions to prevent its rapid spread thereby reducing the impacts on our healthcare system, economy, and housing that are sure to come. It is in this spirit that we bring to your attention a regulation that we believe will dramatically impact the ability for many Californians, including millennials and communities of color in particular, to purchase a home – Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), and respectfully request the extension of the implementation date to July 1st, 2021. 

We have filed a lawsuit against the California Air Resources Board (CARB) because we find many aspects of their scoping plan, including the VMT fee, to be discriminatory against California’s most vulnerable populations. The first lawsuit we filed in April 2018  was due to their efforts to make it easier to block new housing and because of their aims to increase California housing prices. CARB’s anti-housing legislation would have a disproportionate impact on communities of color, as their proposed CEQA scoping plan would add $40,000 or more to the cost of each new house and make commutes longer for people of color who commute to housing that they can afford. CEQA is supposed to protect the environment but these longer commutes will actually increase air pollution by forcing longer commutes. 

We later filed a Civil Rights lawsuit on December 18, 2019 as regulations to implement CEQA are unlawful and unconstitutional; they exacerbate the housing crisis and the poverty and homelessness crisis. Vehicle use is a fundamental civil right and a basic necessity for these Americans who need to commute and it is unconstitutional to take that right away from them without any substantial evidence that these measures will limit greenhouse gases. The Two Hundred filed this lawsuit to advocate for the rights of American citizens to housing and mobility and to call out the unconstitutional restrictions being implemented by CEQA. 

In the middle of an economic and public health crisis, the government should not be imposing new laws that will increase the cost of housing and potentially endanger public health. Forcing residents and their families into expensive high-rise housing and onto crowded buses and trains is bad public policy and needs to be reconsidered. By ignoring the critical role that social distancing has played in slowing the spread of the Coronavirus, Vehicle Miles Traveled does not protect our aging population from future virus pandemics.

The VMT fee has been delayed in many Southern California counties with the exception of LA county and the city of Los Angeles. Given the racial injustice protests, it is particularly disturbing to us that LA county and the city of Los Angeles will not get on board with the delay of the implementation of the VMT fee. 

The ideological approach of VMT is to get people to abandon their individual vehicles and utilize multimodal transit opportunities such as walking, biking, and using public transit. The regulation views road congestion as a good thing, since it slows down traffic and incentivizes individuals to use alternative forms of transit. Improvements like road widening is considered a negative impact on greenhouse gas reductions because it increases commuter speeds which the regulation assumes will encourage people to drive longer distances. The new regulation advocates that California go on a “road diet” and calls into question whether the voters understood this when they approved an increase in the gas tax. Additionally, many residents of Los Angeles do not have adequate access to public transportation from their homes to their jobs. Until the transportation system is improved, it is very unfair to punish those who are already forced to live far from their work to pay extra in the fight against climate change. 

We hope you will support a resolution encouraging a one-year delay so that the numerous problems associated with Vehicle Miles Traveled can be adequately addressed.

These are difficult times for all of us. We appreciate your hard work and your continued efforts to strengthen our economy and protect public health.

Sincerely, 

John Gamboa

Vice Chair

The Two Hundred

Jim Jakobs  

June 17, 2020

The Kern County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a resolution asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to delay implementation of a controversial state environmental law. The counties of Fresno, Kings, Tulare, and Merced have also called for a delay.

Related Story: Powerhouse SoCal Agency Urges Newsom: Delay VMT Law

Starting July 1st, housing construction projects will no longer be assessed a fee by how much traffic congestion they are expected to generate.

Instead, a Vehicle Miles Traveled, or VMT, calculation will be 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 a fee is calculated for the development.

The goal, according to the law’s supporters, is promote the expansion of mass transit and other shared transportation services, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Some cities — Pasadena, San Luis Obispo, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Oakland, for example — already are using VMT.

But the newly created fee is expected to add significantly to the cost of building new housing in many areas of California.

Related Story: VMT Law Could ‘Thwart’ Efforts to Finish Highway 99 Widening

Housing Affordability Concern

The California Building Industry Association estimates that 10,000 Californians are priced out of a home for each $1,000 added to the overall cost of a project.

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.

Kern County supervisors, in their resolution, state, “Considering the State of California is in the midst of a housing affordability crisis and is in desperate need of more affordable housing options, making new housing significantly more expensive by imposing VMT reduction requirements on new projects will only serve to exacerbate the state’s housing affordability crisis.

Read the full resolution and original story on GV Wire here.

City of Fresno Discusses VMT Thursday

The Fresno City Council is scheduled to hold a hearing Thursday, June 25th to consider adopting vehicle miles traveled thresholds for local projects. The law requires local jurisdictions in California to adopt the thresholds by July 1st.

Thursday’s discussion begins at 10:10 a.m. Thursday morning, according to the council’s meeting agenda.

While the most vulnerable marginalized communities are suffering disproportionately from the Covid-19 pandemic, social change activists, The Two Hundred, are intensifying their efforts to mitigate the state’s growing racial wealth gap through homeownership. Jennifer Hernandez, the lead attorney for The Two Hundred and a partner at Holland & Knight LLP, has filed for a temporary injunction against the Governor Gavin Newsom administration, in the Superior Court of the State of California in and for the County of San Bernardino (Case No.: CIV-DS-1938432) to halt the prohibitive Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) regulation. VMT regulation, created before the pandemic, and slated to pass on July 1, 2020, continues to bolster the discriminatory California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a law that has been dangerously used as a tool to deny people of color access to homes in their communities. Led by cofounder, Robert J. Apodaca, The Two Hundred, is a statewide organization of community leaders, opinion makers and minority advocates, dedicated to securing homeownership for communities of color.

VMT regulation proposes to increase the cost of new housing by $40,000 to over $400,000 per home, based on making the act of driving any vehicle a negative “impact” to the environment, while incorporating estimated added mileage cost into the overall housing pricing structure.  This new fee is intended to force Californians to live in small urban apartment complexes, and ride public transit, to reduce “greenhouse gas emissions” that cause global climate change.  In essence, the farther a family has to move to afford housing, the higher their new “vehicle miles travelled” (VMT) fee will be.

“California produces less than one percent of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions, yet environmental advocates would lead us to believe that making homes even more expensive is going to make a dent in climate change,” cites The Two Hundred cofounder, Robert J. Apodaca. “In addition, California’s climate regulators are providing financial incentives used mostly by wealthy coastal residents, like solar rooftops and electric cars, paid for by charging the rest of the state among the highest gasoline and electricity prices in the country.  The ongoing practice of redlining in real estate is alive and well, and it just has a new face. Under the pretense of ‘saving the environment’, regulators are putting home ownership further out of reach of Californians, particularly Californians of color!”

Attorney Jennifer Hernandez is extremely concerned about the harm that VMT regulation will bring to communities of color. She notes, “With VMT regulation, California’s most notoriously abused environmental law, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), converts what is already a racially-discriminatory anti-housing law into an even more potent weapon to deprive minority families of homes they can afford.  California’s most vulnerable communities are being hit hard, first the pandemic and now by nationwide civil unrest. How will we ever recover economically if laws and legislation do not favor immediate needs?  It is a travesty of justice!”

This preliminary injunction comes on the heels of The Two Hundred working to defeat another bill, the SB 950. Authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, the SB  950 seeks to strengthen the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and will inhibit access to affordable homeownership in California. The Two Hundred is seeking to delay VMT regulation, as recommended by Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, for two years so that the disastrous effects of the COVID-19 and the impending recession have subsided enough to safely pursue a sensible path forward that benefits citizens, businesses and workers.  Their effort was first initiated in December 2019 with the filing of a groundbreaking civil rights lawsuit against the California Air Resources Board.  Senator Anna Caballero was also recently joined by a cadre of legislators who support The Two Hundred’s effort and sent an urgent letter of VMT delay request to Governor Gavin Newsom.

As the cofounder of The Two Hundred, Robert J. Apodaca has a lengthy professional and civic career that spans the private and non-profit sectors. He has served low-income communities in housing, education, employment training, community philanthropy and public policy for five decades. He is the founder of ZeZen Advisors, which offers business development services in the real estate development and architectural sectors. He also founded ZeZen Alliance, a firm specializing in public and government affairs. He currently serves on the Jobs and Housing Coalition Board of Directors, The Greenlining Institute Board of Directors, California Community Builders Board of Directors and the Casita Coalition, where is he co-founder and treasurer.

With “shelter in place” and “social distancing” critical pillars of California’s efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, affordable housing has become a forefront concern now more than ever.  The Two Hundred remains firmly committed to campaigning on behalf of communities of color for the American Dream of homeownership made accessible for all.

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