June 15, 2015 Housing Action Coalition

Transportation Sustainability Program: New Housing Will Keep SF Moving

With San Francisco’s rising population and a drastic need for more funding to keep SFMTA moving people around town efficiently, City agencies are crafting a major new transit program. The Transportation Sustainability Program (TSP) mandates that new housing developments pay a Transportation Sustainability Fee (TSF) starting this Fall. The TSP will help the City close its identified $3 billion dollar transportation funding gap to make sure new residents, employees and visitors will be able to get around more easily without a car.

For the first time, new housing developments will be required to pay a $7.74 per sq. ft fee (non-residential projects will continue to pay $18.04 and PDRs $7.61 per sq. ft.) to help SFMTA to buy more MUNI buses and trains, pay for capital improvements for speed and capacity for the transportation system, and provide funds for pedestrian & bike focused Vision Zero projects. The new TSF will replace the current Transportation Infrastructure Development Fees (TIDF) that office developments currently pay.

Three components of the Transportation Sustainability Program:

Invest: The Transportation Sustainability Fee will guarantee that new development pays for transportation improvements by funding for critical projects and enhancing MUNI’s capacity. TSF will apply to new housing developments of 20+ homes. There will be exemptions for nonprofits that build affordable and middle-income housing. The TSF will also replace the existing transit fees within area plans. Buying down the fee by offering TSP-related benefits is no longer part of the model that was discussed back in 2012-13 when the TSP was originally proposed.

Align: The TSP improves our environmental review process by linking it with California’s greenhouse gas goals. This should streamline our frustrating, slow and costly CEQA process by shifting its objective from the auto-centric level of service (LOS) criteria to the more sensible Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). State legislation, SB743, passed in 2014 changed how transportation impacts at intersections are measured. Projects that caused delays to auto users were deemed to have a significant level of service (LOS) impact that made urban infill projects more difficult to approve. Switching to vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is a big improvement which recognizes that San Francisco County, because of its density, walkability and transportation options, has much lower VMT than other Bay Area counties. As long as a specific project does NOT cause exceedance of SF’s average VMT, it does not cause a significant impact. City planners claim that switching CEQA criteria from LOS to VMT should provide more certainty in the environmental review process for new developments and estimate a 30% project timeline reduction. While City and State laws are rewritten to comply with SB743, LOS analyses will eventually be phased out. However, developers working on entitlements during this interim phase will still have to do both the LOS and VMT simultaneously.

Shift:  The city is developing a new online tool that provides a standardized menu of options for implementing transportation demand management (TDM) programs in new developments. This tool will allow developers to adjust their transportation program accordingly before submitting plans for entitlement approvals. Options in the online planning tool will include everything from shuttles to reduced car parking to bike-share stations in new developments.

The city presented this to the SFHAC members just last week. One of the changes the SFHAC would like to see is earmarking a portion of the TSF generated to be used directly for transportation improvements in the neighborhoods they are located. Leave a comment to share your views on the TSP.

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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