Land conservation committee delivers 400-page set of rules to Keizer for climate reduction, equity

Oregon’s Land Conservation Development Commission (LCDC) recently completed a rule-making plan for the Salem-Keizer metro area designed to meet the state’s climate pollution reduction and land ownership equity goals. Two members of the commission presented their plan to the city’s Planning Commission during an Aug. 10 meeting at City Hall.

The rule-making includes hundreds of changes to policies and procedures, from not requiring developers to add parking to their construction plans, to requiring vehicles to run cleaner, to trimming the city trees at specific angles in order to help reduce pollution.

The state’s goals for the program, versions of which have already begun implementation in both Eugene-Springfield and the Portland metro areas, include a 30% reduction in climate pollution by 2050 and a measurable improvement in community equity. Salem-Keizer is one of eight metro areas with plans tailored specifically for their communities.

Oregon is “pretty far off-track” in meeting Oregon’s climate pollution reduction goals, according to Evan Manvel, a climate mitigation planner at LCDC. In his presentation to the Planning Commission, he said the legislature set some goals the state simply isn’t meeting, prompting the need for the 40-person rule-making board he represented.

“What we’ve seen is more extreme weather events happening more frequently. Oregonians are losing their homes, losing their lives, losing their businesses,” he said. “That’s going to increase over time unless we course-correct.”

Manvel said the primary driver for climate pollution is transportation – about 38% of the pollution in Oregon is generated from vehicles – so the main focus of the rule-making was going to be lowering emissions for light vehicles, lowering the number of vehicles on the road, and building up an electric-vehicle support system throughout the state.

“The second big thread in the rule-making was equity,” said Manvel. “Land use and transportation have been used over the years for a lot of good things, but they’ve also been used as a tool of the privileged, and it harmed certain populations.”

Manvel said the practice known as “redlining,” which was replaced with “exclusionary zoning,” has concentrated wealth in the state and helped certain populations at the expense of others.

“The end result is that white families have 10 times the wealth as the average black family, and property ownership is the primary method of transferring wealth from generation to generation,” he said, adding that even though exclusionary zoning was outlawed many years ago, that intergenerational wealth stayed concentrated.

The rule-making surrounding equity is focused primarily on land use and zoning and transportation policies, taking both the pollution and equity goals into account when planning a new development or a new transit bus route.

Next steps for implementing the rules include studies of green spaces in Keizer, parking reform, and electric vehicle charging conduits, which will begin next year. Then over the next four years, the LCDC is requiring scenario planning and performance measures.

The sheer number of rules being put forward by LCDC raised some eyebrows at City Hall, however.

“There is a lot of concern around the city and state that there are so many rules, that much of what has been accomplished could be undone,” said Mayor Cathy Clark at the Aug. 15 City Council meeting, when the subject came up. “This conversation will continue.”

Clark expressed some frustration over the level of specificity in some of the rules, such as trimming trees at specific angles. She said a number of cities in Oregon were working to put a stay on the implementation of the 400-page LCDC rule-making plan. Clark also said she wasn’t happy about the fact that the LCDC was completed by executive order instead of through legislation.

“Keizer has already done fantastic work in this regard, to create community spaces that are climate friendly and equitable, under our definition.” she said. “We want to do more, without being told at what angle we need to trim trees.”