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SB 743, a significant piece of legislation in California, has been a hot topic of discussion among urban planners, environmentalists, and developers since its inception. This bill, signed into law in 2013, fundamentally changes how transportation impacts are assessed under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). This blog will delve into the key provisions of SB 743, exploring its implications for urban development and environmental sustainability.

Understanding SB 743

SB 743 was introduced to address the environmental and planning challenges associated with the state’s rapid growth and urbanization. Traditionally, transportation impacts under CEQA were measured by Level of Service (LOS), which focuses on traffic flow and vehicle delay. However, SB 743 shifts this focus to Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), emphasizing the environmental impacts of car travel rather than just traffic congestion.

Key Provisions of SB 743

1. Shift from LOS to VMT

The most notable provision of SB 743 is the transition from Level of Service (LOS) to Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) as the primary metric for assessing transportation impacts. This shift aims to promote sustainable transportation practices, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and encourage developments that are more conducive to walking, cycling, and public transit use.


2. Streamlining CEQA for Transit-Oriented Developments

SB 743 facilitates the development of projects near transit stations by streamlining the CEQA review process. Projects within a half-mile of major transit stops or high-quality transit corridors are given certain exemptions and considerations, making it easier to approve and implement such developments.


3. Exemptions for Certain Projects

The bill provides exemptions for specific types of projects from VMT analysis. These include affordable housing developments, local-serving retail projects, and projects in low-VMT areas. These exemptions aim to encourage developments that offer community benefits and align with sustainable planning principles.


4. Emphasis on Environmental Sustainability

By focusing on VMT, SB 743 emphasizes the environmental impacts of transportation, encouraging developments that reduce overall vehicle travel and promote alternative modes of transport. This aligns with California’s broader environmental goals, including reducing air pollution and combating climate change.


5. Implementation and Compliance

The California Office of Planning and Research (OPR) has developed guidelines and technical advisories to assist local jurisdictions and developers in implementing SB 743. These resources provide clarity on VMT assessment methods, mitigation measures, and compliance strategies, ensuring a smooth transition from LOS to VMT.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About SB 743

Q: What is the main goal of SB 743?

A: The primary goal of SB 743 is to shift the focus of transportation impact assessments from traffic congestion (LOS) to environmental impacts (VMT), promoting sustainable transportation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Q: How does SB 743 benefit urban development?

A: SB 743 encourages transit-oriented developments, reduces reliance on car travel, supports high-density mixed-use projects, and streamlines the approval process for projects near transit stops.

Q: What types of projects are exempt from VMT analysis under SB 743?

A: Exemptions are provided for affordable housing developments, local-serving retail projects, and projects in low-VMT areas.

Q: How does SB 743 align with California’s environmental goals?

A: By focusing on VMT, SB 743 promotes reduced vehicle travel, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and sustainable urban development, aligning with California’s broader environmental and climate goals.

Q: What resources are available for implementing SB 743?

A: The California Office of Planning and Research (OPR) provides guidelines, technical advisories, and other resources to assist local jurisdictions and developers in implementing SB 743.

Q: How does SB 743 impact traffic congestion?

A: While SB 743 shifts the focus from traffic congestion to environmental impacts, it indirectly addresses congestion by promoting alternative transportation modes and reducing car travel.

Q: What is Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)?

A: VMT measures the total miles traveled by vehicles within a specific area and time frame, reflecting the environmental impact of car travel.

Q: How does SB 743 promote sustainable transportation?

A: By prioritizing VMT over LOS, SB 743 encourages developments that are accessible by public transit, walking, and cycling, reducing the need for car travel.

Q: Can SB 743 help reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

A: Yes, by promoting developments that reduce vehicle travel and encourage alternative transportation modes, SB 743 helps lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Q: Why was the shift from LOS to VMT necessary?

A: The shift was necessary to address the environmental impacts of transportation, promote sustainable development, and align with California’s climate goals.

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