Brown extends carpool lane access for green cars

Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday approved a four-year extension of carpool lane access for electric cars and low-emission vehicles.

But he vetoed a bill that would have allowed solo motorists in regular vehicles access to those lanes on two Los Angeles County freeways during non-peak hours.

The governor signed 20 pieces of legislation Saturday, including six bills promoting the use of low- and zero-emission vehicles.


“Today, we reaffirm our commitment in California to an electric vehicle future,” Brown said in a statement.

Under one bill approved by Brown, cars with white stickers from the state -- including electric, hydrogen fuel cell and compressed natural-gas vehicles -- will be able to use carpool lanes until Jan. 1, 2019.

Without Brown’s signature, the access would have expired on Jan. 1, 2015. Former Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills) introduced AB 266.

The governor also signed a companion measure that extends the state’s green sticker program allowing certain low-emission vehicles, including plug-in hybrids, to travel in high-occupancy vehicle lanes until 2019, or until federal authorization expires. Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) wrote SB 286.

Related bills signed by the governor make electric-vehicle charging stations more accessible to all drivers, develop new rules to include charging stations in apartment buildings and non-residential structures and provide $30 million in incentives for hybrid and zero-emission trucks and buses.

But Brown vetoed a bill by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) that would have allowed lone motorists in gas-powered cars to use the carpool lanes on a 13-mile stretch of the 134 Freeway from Studio City to Pasadena during off-peak hours, the rule in much of the state. The bill also would have allowed solo drivers to use a section of the 210 Freeway when it was not rush hour.

Brown suggested traffic in the area justifies the special rules.

“Carpool lanes are especially important in Los Angeles County to reduce pollution and maximize use of freeways,” Brown wrote in his veto message. “We should retain the current 24/7 carpool lane control.”

Gatto said he was disappointed by the veto. He said it is harder to get people who work at odd hours to carpool. “The policy contained in AB 405 works in Northern California, and I don’t see how keeping Southern Californians with atypical commutes in traffic is good for the environment or fair,” Gatto said.

Brown approved AB 8, which provides an extension until 2024 for a $3 increase in vehicle registration fees that was to expire in 2016. Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno) introduced the bill to help pay for clean-energy programs, including the expansion of hydrogen fueling stations in the state.

The governor also signed a package of bills that will expand access to fresh, locally grown food as part of the Farm-to-Fork movement to bring production closer to consumers. One of the bills allows cities and counties to establish urban agriculture incentive zones that provides a lower property tax rate to encourage owners of undeveloped properties to use the land for providing a local food source.

Assemblyman Philip Y. Ting (D-San Francisco) wrote AB 551, noting that some properties in cities go undeveloped for years, contributing to blight.

Another signed bill, by Assemblyman Isadore Hall III (D-Compton), extends the state’s certified farmers’ market program by four years, to Jan. 1, 2018.

“This farm to fork legislation expands access to fresh, local produce and will help make our communities healthier,” Brown said in a statement Saturday.

Other legislation signed by the governor will:

* Clarify the Department of Parks and Recreation’s power to enter agreements with nonprofit organizations that want to operate parks that otherwise would be shuttered because of budget cuts. AB 594 was drafted by the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife.

* Provide $1 million in bond funding for a grant to the city of Port Hueneme to provide emergency measures to prevent severe damage to streets and property located along Hueneme Beach caused by beach erosion and flooding. SB 436 was introduced by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara).

* Require the Department of Public Health to approve water treatment devices whose manufacturers make claims that they improve health. AB 119 is by the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials.