Office of Planning and Research Issues Draft Update to State CEQA Guidelines for Analyzing Traffic Impacts

Deadline for Comments is 5 p.m. on October 10

As mandated by 2013’s Senate Bill 743, the Office of Planning and Research has released its draft update to the State CEQA Guidelines, available here. SB 743 requires OPR to update the Guidelines to set forth alternative methods of measuring transportation impacts under CEQA. These methods are to replace the frequently relied upon Level of Service method, which assesses traffic impacts by measuring automobile delay.

The draft update proposes adding a new section 15064.3 to the Guidelines and amending Guidelines Appendix F (Energy Impacts) to describe possible mitigation measures and alternatives to mitigate traffic impacts. The update also amends the threshold questions related to transportation contained in Guidelines Appendix G section XVI to conform to the proposed new section 15064.3.

Specifically, the update states that a project’s effect on automobile delay, or LOS, does not constitute a significant environmental impact for traffic purposes. Instead, it provides that the Vehicle Miles Traveled method (i.e. assessing the amount and distance of automobile travel associated with a project) is “generally” the “best” measurement of whether a traffic impact is significant. The proposed amendments to the Guidelines do not, however, address whether LOS may be an appropriate metric for determining impacts to other environmental resources.

Where a significant traffic impact is identified using the VMT method, updated Appendix F contains a list of potential mitigation measures and project alternatives to reduce the impact’s significance. The mitigation measures include increasing access to transit and improving transit services, and the alternatives include locating projects near transit and increasing the mix of uses in a project.

If adopted, the update would apply immediately to projects within “transit priority areas,” which are areas within one-half mile of an existing or planned major transit stop. Outside of those areas, a lead agency may elect to be immediately governed by the provisions of the update. However, after January 1, 2016, the update would apply statewide.

Should your agency wish to submit input to OPR on the proposed updates, including the use of the VMT method or the proposed mitigation measures, comments must be submitted by 5p.m. on October 10. Comments may be submitted either electronically to, or by mail or hand delivery to:

Christopher Calfee, Senior Counsel
Governor’s Office of Planning and Research
1400 Tenth Street
Sacramento, California 95814

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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