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What's the CEQA Kerfuffle All About?

Los Angeles Other

You've probably heard of proposed changes to CEQA—the law requiring public disclosure of environmental impacts of your project. The changes are supposed to encourage development in multimodal transit corridors. Will they?

Armbruster Goldsmith & Delvac partner David Goldberg tells us the governor's proposed guidelines would replace level of service (LOS)—a letter grade based on performance of major intersections (F if you have to sit through several traffic signal cycles)—with an approach based on the number of vehicle miles people drive getting to and from a project. David says LOS penalizes projects in dense, urban areas with their more congested intersections.

We snapped a one-way backup on Newport Road in Menifee. One problem, David notes, is having no uniform metric for measuring the vehicle miles traveled from different types of projects, which means uncertainty for developers. He also says that projects subject to CEQA still would have to comply in most cases with local jurisdictions' congestion management plans, which use LOS—so the draft guidelines create an additional, overlapping requirement. Also, LOS is still used for other things, such as analyzing air-quality impacts and to exact mitigation for transportation infrastructure improvements.

David expects this uncertainty will affect mixed-use projects and also regional draws, such as shopping centers. The new guidelines would apply first to projects in transit-oriented areas; after 2016, they'll apply throughout the state. According to David, the public review period for the proposed change goes through Oct. 10, and the Planning & Research office could make additional changes, so stay tuned. Recently, he and his family escaped LA traffic during an eco-tourism vacation to Costa Rica. (While ziplining through the forest, there weren't many cars to be seen but some of of those Capuchin monkeys have a bit of a lead paw.)