October 20, 2014 Housing Action Coalition

The Local Application of State-Level CEQA Changes

As a result of passage of SB 743 in 2013, level of service (LOS) is no longer a CEQA trigger. It is now being replaced by a new metric – Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). What does this mean? Urban infill projects will no longer be analyzed according to their “impacts” on LOS, which is a measure of auto congestion and not useful in already congested areas. Instead, it will be sufficient for them to demonstrate that the project adds less VMT than an average regional project would. With LOS going away, aesthetics and parking have been eliminated as CEQA impacts, which is something to celebrate.
Vehicle miles traveled will be generated using census tract data and other information. The ABAG regional VMT in 2010 is 15.6 mi/day/person which is much greater than the SF VMT 7.7 mi/day/person. Therefore, it would be highly unusual for any infill development project in SF to exceed the Bay Area VMT or have a significant CEQA impact.
The hope is that these new VMT rules will shorten the time and expense of environmental review by approximately 80% (from 9 months to 3-4 months), driving down total development costs. But don’t break out the champagne yet. The city is currently doing a nexus and feasibility study to calculate a Transportation Sustainability Fee (TSF), intended to replace the TIDF for residential developments. Stay tuned.
Other tidbits to know about the change to VMT analyses:
– Aiming for mid-2015 roll out;
– Projects already in the queue will be phased in and taken on a case-by-case basis;
– The City is developing a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) toolkit, creating qualification tools and establishing an implementation strategy.
Thank you Sarah Bernstein Jones, the City’s Environmental Review Officer, for speaking to our Regulatory Committee on this significant reform!
Image credit: SF County Transportation Authority

Housing Action Coalition

The Housing Action Coalition is a member-supported non-profit that advocates for the creation of well designed, well-located housing at all levels of affordability. We believe more housing means more choices and better solutions.

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