ALIGN: CEQA Reform

On March 3, 2016, the San Francisco Planning Commission adopted a resolution to move forward with state-proposed guidelines that modernize the way City officials measure the transportation impacts of new development. This will remove automobile delay as a significant impact on the environment and replace it with a vehicle miles traveled threshold for all CEQA environmental determinations, including active projects, going forward.
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Since the 1950’s, analysis of transportation impacts was often determined solely by something called Level of Service (LOS). Developed largely for analyzing traffic capacity on highways as opposed to environmental effects, LOS is an outdated and flawed approach that was expensive to calculate, did little to benefit the environment, and promoted urban sprawl rather than smart infill growth.

California and the City of San Francisco set out to establish a modernized environmental planning process that takes a more universal approach to how we calculate the effects of transportation. This will ensure that when we assess the impacts of projects, we are better equipped to recognize the effects they have on the transportation system and associated outcomes, such as whether a project encourages more people to travel long distances in a car, or if it provides safe and effective alternatives to driving.

On March 3, 2016, the San Francisco Planning Commission adopted a resolution to replace LOS with a vehicle miles traveled threshold for all CEQA environmental determinations. The resolution allows San Francisco to immediately implement changes to how it analyzes environmental impacts of development and transportation projects rather than wait for state adoption. 

Background

On Sept. 27, 2013, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 743. SB 743 directed the California Office of Planning and Research (OPR), the state’s long-range planning and research agency, to prepare revisions to the CEQA Guidelines to establish criteria for determining the significance of transportation impacts that “promote the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the development of multimodal transportation networks, and a diversity of land uses.”

OPR began to engage the public in developing its recommended changes to the CEQA Guidelines as soon as Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 743 into law. Their first preliminary discussion draft of changes to the CEQA Guidelines was released in August 2014 for public review. A Revised Proposal on Updates to the CEQA Guidelines on Evaluating Transportation Impacts in CEQA was released in January 2016. It was the product of many months of thorough engagement with the public, public agencies, environmental organizations, development advocates, industry experts and many other stakeholders after the original proposal was released.

In March 2016, San Francisco became the first county to adopt the proposed SB 743 guidelines rather than wait for state adoption. 

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