Governor Brown signed Senate Bill (SB) 743 (Steinberg, 2013), which creates a process to change the way that transportation impacts are analyzed under CEQA. Specifically, SB 743 requires the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) to amend the CEQA Guidelines to provide an alternative to LOS for evaluating transportation impacts. The law requires that those alternative criteria “promote the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the development of multimodal transportation networks, and a diversity of land uses.” (New Public Resources Code Section 21099(b)(1).), and directed OPR to study alternative metrics including but not limited to “vehicle miles traveled, vehicle miles traveled per capita, automobile trip generation rates, or automobile trips generated.” (Ibid.) Once the CEQA Guidelines are amended to include the chosen alternative criteria, auto delay will no longer be considered a significant impact under CEQA. (Id. at subd. (b)(2).) Transportation impacts related to air quality, noise and safety must still be analyzed under CEQA where appropriate. (Id. at subd. (b)(3).) SB 743 also amended congestion management law to allow cities and counties to opt out of LOS standards within certain infill areas. (See Amended Government Code Sections 65088.1 and 65088.4.)
Aside from changes to transportation analysis, SB 743 also included several important changes to CEQA that apply to transit oriented developments, including aesthetics and parking.
Source: The Governor's Office of Planning and Research, Updating the Analysis of Transportation Impacts Under CEQA, State of California (http://opr.ca.gov/ceqa/updates/sb-743/)
On November 27, 2017, OPR announced the availability of the final draft of CEQA updates implementing new transportation analysis procedures pursuant to SB 743. The proposal, which is part of a comprehensive package of proposed updates to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Guidelines, can be found at http://opr.ca.gov/ceqa/updates/guidelines/.
In the proposal, OPR makes the following key recommendations:
- Implementation of the updated guidelines for transportation analysis statewide;
- Use of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per-capita, per-employee and per-service-population for analysis of transportation impacts of land use projects;
- Recommended thresholds of significance, based on citywide and regional averages for VMT;
- Transit, bicycle, and pedestrian transportation projects, as well as roadway projects that are primarily for safety or maintenance/rehabilitation would be streamlined;
- Transportation projects that add vehicle capacity may undergo a VMT analysis or LOS analysis at the discretion of the lead agency.
The final draft updates of the CEQA Guidelines have been submitted to the Natural Resources Agency for rulemaking. This process is expected to take no more than one year, and will include a public review process and comment period. Presently, no concrete details regarding the schedule of the rulemaking process or public comment period have been made available.
If the submittal is approved as written, the new rules will apply to all projects statewide starting January 1, 2020, allowing just over two years for agencies to prepare to update their CEQA procedures. Projects that have already begun environmental review (e.g. NOP or Initial Study released) would continue to use the CEQA Guidelines in effect when the review started.
Following the release of the final draft guidelines, SJCOG brought an information item to the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) on December 7, 2017. As a result of the discussion, SJCOG is forming a SB 743 Technical Working Group to discuss topics including but not limited to: 1) shifting from LOS to VMT in local agency and SJCOG CEQA analysis; 2) adapting related SJCOG programs such as the RCMP and RTIF, if necessary. The Working Group will report on progress and deliverables to the TAC throughout 2018.
For more information:
Natural Resources Agency CEQA Guidelines Update website: http://resources.ca.gov/ceqa/
Caltrans SB 743 Implementation Page: www.dot.ca.gov/hq/tpp/sb743.html
SB 743 Bill Text: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140SB743