California Development: Proposed Amendments to CEQA Guidelines Significantly Change Transportation Analyses

Developers of infill projects could face additional uncertainty and legal vulnerability under new requirements to analyze impacts on transportation.

On August 6, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) released a preliminary discussion draft of proposed amendments to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Guidelines. The proposed updates are intended to address changes made to CEQA by Senate Bill (SB) 743. That bill directs OPR to update transportation metrics used to analyze impacts of projects within transit priority areas, and eliminates parking as a significant impact for urban infill projects. The draft amendments are being circulated for public review prior to OPR’s issuance of a Notice of Proposed Action to amend portions of the CEQA Guidelines, which will begin the formal amendment process. Public comment on the preliminary discussion draft will be available through October 10, 2014.

Overview of Proposed Amendments -

The proposed amendments primarily aim to replace vehicular delay, commonly measured by Level of Service (LOS), with vehicle miles traveled (VMT) as the primary metric for analyzing qualifying infill projects’ transportation impacts. VMT measures miles traveled by cars from new project development, rather than measuring traffic congestion or throughput on roadways and intersections. The new amendments would remove vehicular delay as a basis for finding that a qualifying infill project’s impacts on transportation are significant. Appendix F (Energy Conservation) is expanded to provide examples of potential mitigation measures and alternatives to reduce VMTs for projects. Appendix G (the Environmental Checklist Form) is amended to revise the model transportation impact criteria.

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