Air Resources Board Approves Land Use Planning Handbook
EL MONTE– The California Air Resources Board (ARB) at its public meeting Thursday night unanimously approved the "Air Quality and Land Use Handbook: A Community Health Perspective."
"Our primary goal in developing this guidance document is to provide information that will better protect public health by helping to keep Californians out of harm's way with respect to air pollution from nearby emission sources," said ARB Acting Chair, Barbara Riordan. "Our intent is to highlight potential health impacts associated with living, playing and going to school near high air pollution sources so land use decision makers can consider these issues throughout the land use planning process."
The Handbook, which is advisory and not regulatory, was developed over the past two years through an extensive working partnership with community and environmental groups, business organizations, local air districts and other state and local agencies involved in the land use planning process. That two year effort included numerous workshops and working meetings to gain the information needed from community leaders and others with expertise in business, community planning and public health.
Recent studies, including some co-sponsored by the ARB, have demonstrated a link between exposure to poor air quality and respiratory illnesses, both cancer and non-cancer related. Living or going to school in areas where residential districts have encroached on industrial zones or where industry has been built too close to residences may increase health risks. The ARB handbook recommends that planning agencies strongly consider proximity to these sources when finding new locations for "sensitive" land uses such as homes, medical facilities, daycare centers, schools and playgrounds.
Air pollution sources of concern include freeways, rail yards, ports, refineries, distribution centers, chrome plating facilities, dry cleaners and large gasoline service stations.
Key recommendations in the Handbook include taking steps to avoid siting new, sensitive land uses:
- Within 500 feet of a freeway, urban roads with 100,000 vehicles / day or rural roads with 50,000 vehicles / day
- Within 1,000 feet of a major service and maintenance rail yard
- Immediately downwind of ports (in the most heavily impacted zones) and petroleum refineries
- Within 300 feet of any dry cleaning operation (for operations with two or more machines, provide 500 feet)
- Within 300 feet of a large gas station (defined as a facility with a throughput of 3.6 million gallons per year or greater).
These guidelines are based primarily on data showing that the amount of exposure to these air pollution sources can be reduced as much as 80 percent with the recommended separations.
The Handbook also offers methods to help integrate local air quality concerns into land use planning processes and lists specific tools developed by ARB that can assess cumulative air pollution emissions and risk on a neighborhood scale. They include:
- Regional risk maps that show trends in potential cancer risk from toxic air pollution in Southern and Central California between 1990 and 2010.
- The Community Health Air Pollution Information System (CHAPIS), a user-friendly, Internet-Based system for displaying information on emissions from sources of air pollution in an easy-to-use mapping format, office buildings, etc. The Hot Spots Analysis and Reporting Program (HARP), a software database package that evaluates emissions from one or more facilities to determine overall health risks to surrounding communities, and
- The Urban Emissions Model (URBEMIS), a computer program that can be used to estimate emissions associated with land development projects in California such as residential neighborhoods.
Other sections of the Handbook address specific "community-focused" issues such as mixing incompatible land uses (e.g., building a school or hospital near an industrial center or a heavily-traveled roadway), and the cumulative impacts of air pollution from multiple sources. Also included is a detailed list of questions for decision makers to consider when reviewing new land use projects, as well as the relevant portions of the handbook that address those questions. More information