CSAC Bulletin Article

Housing update 8/8/2014

OPR Recommends Vehicle Miles Travelled as Replacement Metric for Level of Service for CEQA Analysis

On August 6, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) issued a preliminary discussion draft of updates to the CEQA Guidelines to implement SB 743 (Steinberg, 2013), which required OPR to develop an alternative metric to Level of Service (LOS) for analyzing the transportation impacts of projects under CEQA. LOS, which is essentially a measure of automobile delay, has been criticized as being incompatible with state goals to promote compact and infill development and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

As currently drafted, the updates to the CEQA Guidelines would instead state that vehicle miles travelled (VMT) is generally the most appropriate tool to analyze transportation impacts. The guidelines recognize that while VMT is typically the most appropriate measure for land use projects, the broad applicability of CEQA requires the discretion for lead agencies to include other measures in their analyses. While it is not a mandatory, OPR has also recommended that agencies use average regional VMT as a threshold for determining whether a specific project has a significant transportation impact under CEQA.

In discussions with OPR prior to the release of the draft guidelines, CSAC requested a phased-in approach to any replacement for LOS. OPR included such an approach in the draft guidelines, which will go into effect for areas within one-half mile of major transit stops and high quality transit corridors immediately upon adoption, although not retroactively for projects already underway. The guidelines will not apply statewide until January 1, 2016, while agencies can elect to adopt VMT analysis earlier.

Finally, the ability of local jurisdictions to continue to require transportation improvements based on LOS analysis as a condition of approval for development has been a major point of discussion. The update to the Guidelines only applies to the use of LOS under CEQA and does not infringe on local government’s ability to require needed transportation improvements based on their own local policies.

CSAC encourages counties to review the discussion draft, which is available online. As always, we are interested in your feedback and encourage you to submit comments to CSAC, as well as directly to OPR. Comments are due by October 10.


SB 1183 (DeSaulnier) – Support
As amended on May 27, 2014

SB 1183, by Senator Mark DeSaulnier, would allow until 2025 a city, county, or regional parks district to propose to the voters the imposition of a surcharge of up to five dollars on each vehicle registration to fund the construction or maintenance of paved or natural surface bikeways or trails, as well as bicycle parking infrastructure. The bill would provide a new tool to fund off-road bike paths, which currently lack a stable funding source. The author took CSAC’s recommended amendments, which allow agencies to use funding raised by a voter-approved surcharge for a broader array of bicycle infrastructure.

CSAC supports this bill as it provides a potential funding source for several types of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure that are vital to creating a complete multi-modal network, but which occasionally have proven difficult to fund and maintain under existing revenue sources.

SB 1183 is on suspense in the Assembly Appropriations Committee and will be heard on August 14.

Public Works Administration

AB 2471 (Frazier) – Oppose
As amended August 4, 2014

AB 2471, by Assembly Member Jim Frazier, would have imposed arbitrary and burdensome timelines on the negotiation of a change order for a public works project. CSAC opposed this bill because it would expose counties to liability and prejudgment interest if its timeframe for negotiating a change order and making payments due pursuant the bill’s provisions are not met. The author was unable to resolve conflicts between the intent of the bill and concerns raised by CSAC and others. Accordingly, the bill will not move in 2014. CSAC is committed to working with the author on future legislation to provide for the prompt payment of undisputed portions of a project instead of constraining the change order process.

Land Use

AB 52 (Gatto) – Oppose 
As amended on July 2, 2014

AB 52, by Assembly Member Mike Gatto, would provide for a significant expansion of CEQA by, among other things, including potential substantial adverse impacts to tribal cultural resources as a significant effect necessitating full environmental review. Counties appreciate and understand the desire of Native American tribes to be consulted on projects that could impact culturally-significant lands and resources. Indeed, in some cases, counties have instituted processes that extend beyond what is required by law to consult with tribes on proposed projects. Unfortunately, CSAC feels strongly that the legitimate need for consultation between county and tribal governments on a project-by-project basis belongs in the Government Code, where it could expand upon existing General Plan consultation requirements, rather than within the CEQA process. CSAC’s survey of our members last fall indicated that counties have generally considered consultation with tribes for the purposes of General Plan updates and amendments under the SB 18 process to have been successful.

While recent amendments that attempt to make the bill more workable represent an improvement, CSAC remains opposed. We continue to encourage the author to build off of the SB 18 consultation process by including project-level consultations, upon requests from tribes, rather than expanding CEQA.

AB 52 was referred to the Senate Appropriations suspense file and will be heard on August 14.


AB 1537 (Levine) – Support
As amended on April 21, 2014

AB 1537, by Assembly Member Marc Levine, would create a pilot project allowing Marin County and certain cities within the County, to move to a suburban default density to demonstrate that they have zoned an adequate amount of land to accommodate their respective shares of lower-income housing under the Regional Housing Needs Allocation Process. The pilot would last through 2023 require the jurisdictions to report to the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Legislature regarding the development of affordable housing under the suburban default density.

The Senate Appropriations hearing for AB 1537 was delayed until August 11.

AB 1690 (Gordon) – Support 
As amended on June 30, 2014

AB 1690, by Assembly Member Rich Gordon, would allow local governments that are subject to a rezoning program under housing element law to accommodate their very low- and low-income housing needs on sites designated for mixed uses if those sites allow 100% residential use; and requires that residential use occupy 50% of the total floor area of a mixed-use project. CSAC supports the bill because it provides counties the opportunity to use the rezoning program process to complement other smart growth policies.

AB 1690 is on the Senate Floor.

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