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.
The Two Hundred