Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Show your support for pedestrian-friendly changes to CEQA

For decades the California Environmental Quality Act has been making life difficult for pedestrians in the name of enviromental protection.

Hidden deep in the appendices of the CEQA Guidelines is a checklist intended to help jurisdictions decide which transportation impacts from new projects are "significant." The checklist provides a number of questions to consider, nearly all of them focused on vehicle flow, parking, and traffic congestion. Only at the end is there a suggestion that jurisdications should also, maybe, if they have the time and feel like it, consider impacts to "alternative transportation" (no explicit mention of pedestrians to be found).

Not surprisingly, the result has been years of environmental studies that go to great lengths to examine traffic conditions and provide solutions to project-induced congestion problems...while entirely ignoring--or even harming--pedestrians and other transportation modes.

Spurred on by agency staff and advocates in the Bay Area, the California Natural Resources Agency has proposed changes to the CEQA guidelines (available here) that incorporate alternative transportation modes more fully into environmental analysis. The proposed guidelines tone down the emphasis on driving and vehicle-focused performance measures, and instead encourage jursidictions to evaluate impacts to all aspects of the transportation system--including impacts to pedestrian facilites.

While this won't completely eliminate the anti-pedestrian bias in environmental documents (individual jurisdictions still adopt their own specific thresholds of significance, most of which are currently based on level of service for drivers), it is an important first step.

I encourage you to contact tothe California Resources Agency to show your support for these changes. The public comment period ends November 10. Comments should be sent to:

Christopher Calfee, Special Counsel
ATTN: CEQA Guidelines
California Resources Agency
1017 L Street, #2223
Sacramento, CA 95814
Facsimile: (916) 653-8102

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