SB 375 CEQA Streamlining

Introduction   |   Three Categories for CEQA Streamlining   |   Download Consistency Worksheet   |   Download Sample SCEA

 

Introduction

CEQA Streamlining for Land Use Projects Consistent with the SCS

SB 375 provides several CEQA reform provisions. These include streamlined review and analysis of residential or mixed-use projects consistent with the SCS; modified review and analysis, through an expedited Sustainable Communities Environmental Assessment (SCEA), for Transit Priority Projects (TPPs) that are consistent with the SCS; and a complete CEQA exemption for TPPs that are consistent with the SCS and meet a specific list of other requirements. In each of these cases, this MTP/SCS EIR will serve as a first-tier environmental document under CEQA. The CEQA reform provisions are described as follows:

Streamlined Review for Residential or Mixed-Use Projects Consistent with the SCS

Under the provisions of SB 375, an environmental impact report prepared for a residential or mixed-use residential project that is consistent with the general land use designation, density, building intensity, and applicable policies specified for the project area in either an SCS or APS for which the California Air Resources Board has accepted an MPO’s determination that the SCS or APS would, if implemented, achieve its greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, “is not required” to discuss growth inducing impacts, or any project specific or cumulative impacts from cars and light-duty truck trips on global warming, or on the regional transportation network (Pub. Res. Code, § 21159.28, subd. (a); Gov. Code, § 65080, subd. (b)(2)(I).). In addition, an EIR prepared for a residential or mixed-use project that qualifies for the streamlining provisions is not required to reference, describe, or discuss a reduced residential density alternative to address the effects of car and light-duty truck trips generated by the project as part of its alternatives analysis (Pub. Res. Code, § 21159.28, subd. (b).). Table 2.16 lists the qualifications for Residential or Mixed-Use Residential projects and the corresponding CEQA streamlining benefits.

Streamlined Review for Transit Priority Projects Consistent with the SCS

A Transit Priority Project (TPP) is a new type of project created by SB 375. Public Resources Code section 21155 sets forth the requirements for a project to qualify as a TPP. As with Residential or Mixed-Use Residential Projects, a TPP must be consistent with the general use designations, density, building intensity, and applicable policies specified for the project area in either a SCS or APS for which CARB has accepted an MPO’s determination that the SCS or APS would, if implemented, achieve the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets (Pub. Res.

Code, § 21155, subd. (a).). In addition, a TPP must meet the following requirements: (1) the project must contain at least 50 percent residential use based on total building square footage; (2) the project must have a minimum net density of 20 dwelling units per acre; and (3) the project must be located within one-half mile of a major transit stop or high quality transit corridor included in the regional transportation plan (Pub. Res. Code, § 21155, subd. (b).).

Once an agency has determined that a project is a TPP, the project may be reviewed through a Sustainable Communities Environmental Assessment (SCEA). (Pub. Res. Code, § 21155.2, subd. (b).) The standard of review for the SCEA is the “substantial evidence” standard, which is deferential to the agency. Thus, once an SCEA is deemed appropriate, the burden of proof for a legal challenge to the agency’s analysis is presumed to be adequate and the burden of proof is on a petitioner/plaintiff to demonstrate otherwise.

If a TPP must be reviewed by an EIR, the TPP EIR is not required to discuss growth-inducing impacts, any project specific or cumulative impacts from cars and light-duty truck trips on global climate change, or on the regional transportation network. In addition, the EIR is not required to reference, describe, or discuss a reduced residential density alternative to address the effects of car and light-duty truck trips generated by the project as part of its alternatives analysis. The table below lists the qualifications for TPPs and the corresponding CEQA streamlining benefits.

A TPP that meets additional requirements may qualify as a sustainable communities project, a category of project that is eligible for CEQA exemption. These additional requirements, as well as the requirements for residential and mixed-use residential and TPP projects, are listed in the table below.

 

Three Categories of SB 375 CEQA Benefits

Project Designation Qualifications Streamlining Benefits
Mixed-Use Residential Project
  • At least 75% of total building square footage for residential use
  • Consistent with the use designation, density, building intensity, and applicable policies for the project area of an SCS or APS accepted by CARB OR
  • A Transit Priority Project as defined below
  • Environmental documents are not required to reference, describe or discuss: 1) growth inducing impacts, 2) impacts from car and light‐duty truck trips on global warming or regional transportation network, 3) reduced density alternative to project.
Transit Priority Project
  • At least 50% of total building square footage for residential use OR
  • If 26‐50% of total building square footage is nonresidential, a minimum FAR of 0.75
  • Minimum net density of 20 du/acre
  • Within 0.5 miles of major transit stop or high‐quality transit corridor included in the regional transportation plan (No parcel more than 25% further, and less than 10% of units or no more than 100 units further than 0.5 miles)
  • Consistent with the use designation, density, building intensity, and applicable policies of an SCS or APS
Benefits described above PLUS:

  • Option to review under a “Sustainable Communities Environmental Assessment”
  • An Initial Study is prepared identifying significant or potentially significant impacts.
  • Where the lead agency determines that cumulative impacts have been addressed and mitigated in SCS/APS, they will not be “considerable.”
  • Off‐site alternatives do not need to be addressed.
  • Deferential review standard – the burden of proof for legal challenge is on the petitioner/plaintiff.
Sustainable Communities Project
  • Everything for Transit Priority Project PLUS:
  • Served by existing utilities
  • Does not contain wetlands or riparian areas
  • Does not have significant value as a wildlife habitat and does not harm any protected species
  • Not on the Cortese List
  • Not on developed open space
  • No impacts to historic resources
  • No risks from hazardous substances
  • No wildfire, seismic, flood, public health risk
  • 15% more energy‐efficient than CA requirements and 25% more water‐efficient than average for community
  • No more than 8 acres
  • No more than 200 units
  • No building greater than 75,000 square feet
  • No net loss of affordable housing
  • Compatible with surrounding industrial uses
  • Within ½‐mile of rail/ferry or ¼‐mile of high‐quality bus line
  • Meets minimum affordable housing requirements as prescribed in SB 375 OR in‐lieu fee paid OR 5 acres of open space per 1,000 residents provided
Exempt from CEQA

Determination of MTP/SCS Consistency Worksheet

The lead agency has responsibility to make the final determination on these matters and to determine the applicable and appropriate CEQA streamlining, if any. Lead agencies are welcome to contact SACOG for assistance in completing this worksheet. For assistance, contact Kacey Lizon at klizon@sacog.org or 916-340-6265.
Download Determination of MTP/SCS Consistency Worksheet

Sustainable Communities Environmental Assessment (SCEA)

PURPOSE: SACOG developed this sample Sustainable Communities Environmental Assessment (SCEA) to help local governments and project proponents utilize the CEQA streamlining benefits of SB 375 to develop Transit Priority Projects consistent with the MTP/SCS. This sample SCEA was developed with funding in part from the HUD Sustainable Communities Grant Program and the California Strategic Growth Council Grant Program. This sample SCEA tiers off of the Environmental Impact Report for the MTP/SCS for 2035 (SCH # 2011012081) certified April 19, 2012. This sample was based on analysis of an actual project that is not yet approved. As such, certain portions of the document have been redacted. This document may be modified over time.

Download Sample SCEA Version (July 19 2013)

DISCLAIMER: This sample SCEA is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or as policy of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments. The sample is designed to illustrate the potential format and content of a SCEA. If you want advice on a particular project or guidance as to the application and interpretation of any of the laws or regulations relating to the California Environmental Quality Act and/or Senate Bill 375, you should consult an attorney. The Sacramento Area Council of Governments makes no warranties as to the suitability of this sample SCEA for any particular purpose.