March 14, 2022
Submitted via email
RE: Marina City Council March 15, 2021, Agenda Item 11.b. City Council consider adopting Resolution No. 2022 approving Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)
Dear Mayor Delgado and Members of the Marina City Council,
We appreciate that Marina staff addressed some of the concerns set out in LandWatch’s February 22 email, including the clarification of “small project” and the role of the CAPCOA guidance. Two concerns we raised were not addressed. We suggest the following clarifications:
- Screening Presumption Should Be Rebuttable
We pointed out in our 2/22/22 email that the screening criteria are consistently identified as presumptions. The Implementation Guidelines should explain that meeting the screening criteria only creates a rebuttable presumption that the VMT impact is not significant, because unusual projects meeting screening criteria may still fail to reduce VMT 15%.
However, the Draft Implementation Guidelines still states that no further analysis will be required if the project happens to meet any of the screening criteria:
The purpose of this step is to determine if a presumption of a non-significant transportation impact can be made on the facts of the project. The guidance in this section is primarily intended to avoid unnecessary analysis and findings that would be inconsistent with the intent of SB 743. A detailed CEQA transportation analysis will not be required for land use elements of a project that meet the screening criteria shown in Exhibit 2. Note that as the lead agency, the City will make the ultimate determination as to the whether the presumption of a non-significant transportation impact is appropriate for a given project.
(Draft Implementation Guidelines, p. 4, emphasis added.) This language goes beyond a “presumption” because an applicant can argue that meeting a screening criteria absolutely precludes any further analysis.
We suggest that this language be modified to add the underlined phrase to make it clear that the presumption is rebuttable, as follows:
The purpose of this step is to determine if a presumption of a non-significant transportation impact can be made on the facts of the project. The guidance in this section is primarily intended to avoid unnecessary analysis and findings that would be inconsistent with the intent of SB 743. A detailed CEQA transportation analysis will not be required for land use elements of a project that meet the screening criteria shown in Exhibit 2, unless there is substantial evidence to rebut the presumption of a non-significant transportation impact. Note that as the lead agency, the City will make the ultimate determination as to the whether the presumption of a non-significant transportation impact is appropriate for a given project.
- Map Legends
We pointed out the map legends in Exhibits D1 and D2 are unclear, as follows:
- In Exhibit D1 it is not clear if the term “County Threshold” is supposed to reference the County average or to reference some percentage reduction below that average that represents a threshold of significance, e.g., a 15% reduction from the County average. If the reference is to the County average, the legend should say so. If the reference is to a “threshold” that is less than the County average, the legend should identify the relation of that threshold to the County average, e.g., 15% below. Furthermore, it is unclear why the legends in D1 distinguish the orange areas that are “1% to 15% Above County Threshold” from the red areas that are “15% or More Above County Threshold.” If an area is above the “County Threshold,” whether “Threshold” means “average” or even “15% below average,” it is treated the same regardless whether it is 1% above or 15% above. What matters here is whether an area is below the “Threshold,” which should be identified as 15% below the County Average.
- Exhibit D2 suffers from exactly the same lack of clarity, except that the references are to the “City Threshold.” Does “City Threshold” mean City average or 15% below that average? In addition, it should not matter whether an area is 1% above the “City Threshold” or 15% above it since the relevant question is simply whether the area is 15% below the City average.
No change was made to the map legends in response to these concerns. We still suggest the legends should be corrected if any reliance is to be placed on these maps.
Finally, we have identified one other concern.
- Road Capacity Increases
Screening criterion # 7 for transportation projects presumes no significant impact from the following:
“7. Addition of roadway capacity on local or collector streets, based on the City’s functional classification, provided the project also substantially improves conditions for pedestrians, cyclists, and, if applicable, transit“
Road capacity increases typically induce VMT. Vehicle capacity increases should not be presumed to have no significant impact without actual quantitative analysis of offsetting VMT reduction effect of accompanying improvements made for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit. Furthermore, the phrase “substantially improves” is simply too vague to be used as an objective screening criterion. Note that per-person throughput improvements based on adding bicycle and transit lanes and pedestrian infrastructure is already permitted without analysis through the other screening criteria. But where vehicle capacity is increased, there should be no presumption of non-significance without analysis to support offsetting VMT reductions. We recommend that you eliminate criterion # 7.