University of San Diego

San Diego Journal of Climate & Energy Law

Library of Congress Authority File


California is currently facing two massive problems: climate change and affordable housing. The issues of affordable housing and greenhouse gas emissions intersect in the instance of vehicle miles traveled – the amount of miles driven by Californians in a given amount of time. Local governments have continuously excluded high density housing developments and contributed to rapidly increasing housing costs. As a result, many Californians must travel far distances between work and home. Increased vehicle miles traveled results in increased greenhouse gas emissions. Because local control has contributed to these problems, state regulation of vehicle miles traveled is needed to combat climate change and affordable housing.

This Article analyzes the potential power of the California Air Resources Board (“CARB”) to enact land use regulations that would reduce vehicle miles traveled. California courts have historically held that land use powers are local in nature. This local deference is a hurdle to CARB acting within the land use domain. However, AB 32 and SB 32 may provide CARB with authority to take regulatory action that would preempt local control over land use. Also, SB 375 may provide CARB with authority to institute zoning enforcement actions that would encourage housing development. Finally, the era of local land use power may be coming to an end because of recent statutes that replace various aspects of local control with state control. Such a change should significantly weaken the judicial presumption of localized control. In the new land use regime, CARB should be able to reduce vehicle miles traveled through land use regulations.