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Transportation

In 2013, Senate Bill (SB) 743 was signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown with a goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which promotes urban infill projects supporting diverse land uses and multimodal transportation networks. One significant outcome resulting from this statute is the removal of automobile delay and congestion, commonly known as level of service (LOS), as a basis for determining significant transportation impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) selected Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) as the principal measure to replace LOS for determining significant transportation impacts under CEQA. VMT is a measure of total vehicular travel that accounts for the number of vehicle trips and the length of those trips. It should be noted that SB 743 does not restrict Santa Cruz County from using LOS for other planning purposes outside the scope of CEQA.

View the VMT Guidelines for more information and detail.

PROCESS FOR ANALYZING A PROJECT’S TRANSPORTATION IMPACTS

SCREENING CRITERIA

If a project is within an area where average vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is below or at the County’s threshold, your project can be presumed to be less than significant for the purposes of transportation impacts under CEQA as related to VMT. (Note that the Appendix G checklist for CEQA includes other transportation related questions and impacts.) The maps below show areas in green that meet the County’s threshold. Areas in yellow are close to, but do not quite meet the threshold. If your project falls within a yellow area, and cannot be screened out using other criteria, transportation demand management mitigation measures will likely mitigate the project to less than significant. Contact the County Planning Department for more information about how you can mitigate your project if it falls within a yellow area. If your project falls within a red area you can look at other possible screening criteria as described in the guidelines, such as the small project criteria. However, you should contact the County Planning Department to determine whether your project can be screened out or mitigated in some other manner.

SCREENING MAPS

RESIDENTIAL

The following map may be used for residential land use projects. All other land use projects continue reading below.

OFFICE AND SERVICE

The following map may be used for land use projects that are within these sectors: transportation and warehousing, information services, finance and insurance, real estate and leasing, professional and technical services, management, arts, entertainments and recreation, accommodation and food service or other similar services.

For projects that are related to agriculture, industrial, retail, education, health care, social assistance and public administration, please see the guidelines for other screening criteria and contact County planning department staff. The following map does not apply to projects in those land use categories.

OTHER SCREENING CRITERIA

Screening Criteria OPR Guidance
SMALL PROJECTS1 Expected to cause a less-than-significant impact:
  • Project trip generation is less than 110 net new trips per day.
CEQA transportation analysis required if:
PROJECTS NEAR HIGH QUALITY TRANSIT2 Expected to cause a less-than-significant impact:
  • Project is located within a ½ mile of an existing major transit stop as defined in California Public Resources Code § 21064.3: two or more bus lines which maintain a service interval frequency of 15 minutes or less during both the morning and afternoon peak commute periods.
  • Currently there are no existing major transit stops in the unincorporated County.
CEQA transportation analysis required if:
  • Project has a Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of less than 0.75.
  • Project includes more parking for use by residents, customers, or employees of the project than required by Santa Cruz County Code.
  • Project is inconsistent with the Sustainable Communities Strategy as determined by Santa Cruz County.
  • Replaces affordable residential units with a smaller number of moderate- or high-income residential units.
LOCAL-SERVING RETAIL3 Expected to cause a less-than-significant impact:
  • No single store on-site exceeds 50,000 square feet.
  • Project is local-serving as determined by Santa Cruz County.
CEQA transportation analysis required if:
  • If the nature of the service is regionally focused as determined by Santa Cruz County.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING4 Expected to cause a less-than-significant impact:
  • The project provides a high percentage of affordable housing as determined by Santa Cruz County (contact County Planning Department for more information).
CEQA transportation analysis required if:
  • The percentage of affordable housing is determined by Santa Cruz County to not be high.
LOCAL ESSENTIAL SERVICE5 Screening allowed if the project is a:
  • Day care center;
  • Public K-12 school;
  • Police or fire facility;
  • Local serving medical/dental office building; or
  • Government office (in-person services such as post office, library, and utilities).
CEQA transportation analysis required if:
  • The nature of the service is regionally focused as determined by Santa Cruz County.
MAP-BASED SCREENING6 Expected to cause a less-than-significant impact:
  • Area of development is under threshold as shown on screening map as allowed by Santa Cruz County. See above.
CEQA transportation analysis required if:
  • The project will result in significant population or employment growth that substantially changes regional travel patterns as determined by Santa Cruz County.
REDEVELOPMENT PROJECTS7 Expected to cause a less-than-significant impact:
  • Project replaces an existing VMT-generating land use and does not result in a net overall increase in VMT.
CEQA transportation analysis required if:
  • Project replaces an existing VMT-generating land use and results in a net overall increase in VMT.

TABLE NOTES:

  1. 2018 OPR Guidance, page 12.
  2. 2018 OPR Guidance, page 13.
  3. 2018 OPR Guidance, page 16.
  4. 2018 OPR Guidance, page 14. As described, “Evidence supports a presumption of less than significant impact for a 100 percent affordable residential development (or the residential component of a mixed-use development) in infill locations. Lead agencies may develop their own presumption of less than significant impact for residential projects (or residential portions of mixed-use projects) containing a particular amount of affordable housing, based on local circumstances and evidence.”
  5. Based on assumption that, like local-serving retail, the addition of necessary local in-person services will reduce VMT given that trips to these locations will be made irrespective of distance given their non-discretionary nature.
  6. 2018 OPR Guidance, page 12.
  7. 2018 OPR Guidance, page 18.