With a name like the “California Infill Builders Federation,” you’d think this organization would be pro-infill. But not so much with the group’s signature legislative effort this year. As Streetsblog LA covers, CIBF is pushing AB 779 to roll back or delay changes from the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) — changes that serve only to benefit infill projects:
The new guidelines are being formulated as required by S.B. 743, which calls for OPR to come up with a new way to measure the impact of traffic from development projects. Until recently, traffic impact was measured by Level of Service, or LOS, which only evaluates projects on how they affect the flow of traffic. OPR has said it is considering replacing LOS with Vehicle Miles Traveled, or VMT, which would give a measure of how much travel a project produces, rather than focusing on whether it slows down nearby traffic.
The bill’s sponsors say that developers still have to do LOS analyses outside of CEQA because of local requirements, and that having to do a VMT analysis as well would be too much work.
This is nonsense. VMT is an off-the-shelf metric suitable to all kinds of land uses, and is used by local governments all the time. But more importantly, the proposed guidelines essentially exempt almost all infill projects from any transportation analysis at all under CEQA. And when one is required (which will only be for sprawl projects and rarely for infill), the guidelines provide local governments with significant discretion on a VMT analysis.
Furthermore, a local traffic study doesn’t carry the same litigation risks that the traffic study in CEQA carries. And this state transition to VMT will only make it easier for local governments to follow suit and kill LOS once and for all.
So why is CIBF opposing? As Streetsblog reports:
But it turns out the executive committee of the Infill Builders Federation is not what it seems. Most of its members are developers who work on very large projects not usually thought of as “infill.” Like the Warriors Arena in San Francisco. And business parks. And regional malls. All big, lousy sprawl projects pretty much guaranteed to create more traffic and more greenhouse gases.
AB 779 is a sad, disingenuous effort that should be called out for what it is: bad policy based on false premises.