Senate Bill (SB) 743
In 2013, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill (“SB”) 743 (Steinberg), which creates a process to change the way that transportation impacts are analyzed under California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”). Specifically, SB 743 changed the way that transportation impacts are analyzed under CEQA. Automobile delay metrics (i.e. level of service or “LOS”) will no longer be considered a significant impact under CEQA and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (“OPR”) recommends that jurisdictions instead use the Vehicle Miles Traveled (“VMT”) metric. OPR released a “Technical Advisory” containing methodologies and thresholds for VMT, but the Technical Advisory is not regulatory, only advisory.
OPR will allow jurisdictions to retain their congestion-based standards (i.e. LOS) in general plans and for project planning purposes. Developers may therefore be required to perform two different traffic analyses. Staff will consider updated or new General Plan policies to accommodate congestion-based standards. However, staff is uncertain about the possible ramifications of requiring two sets of transportation impact analyses.
County General Plan Update
Currently, the County is undergoing a comprehensive update to the General Plan. The Growth Management Element and Transportation and Circulation Element both contain policies related to transportation evaluation, such as CEQA impact significance criteria. SB 743 implementation will include updates to these policies.
Placeworks (consultant hired to prepare County Comprehensive General Plan Update) with their sub-consultant Fehr & Peers (transportation planning and engineering firm) will be assisting County staff in implementing SB 743 parallel with the General Plan Update. Specifically, the consultant and County staff will be conducting the following tasks:
- Developing VMT metrics for measuring the effects of land use and transportation projects in the County;
- Developing screening criteria to determine which projects will require quantitative VMT analysis and which projects can be presumed not to cause a VMT impact (i.e. exempt from CEQA VMT analysis);
- Determining which methods should be used to calculate and forecast VMT;
- Developing CEQA significance thresholds; and,
- Developing CEQA mitigation measures.