(L-R: 1st Vice President Clint Lorimore, Past President Bill Jahn, President Rex Richardson, Executive Officer Kome Ajise)
Paola C —
In May, after our strong advocacy work, SCAG’s Regional Council voted to approve Connect SoCal, and associated Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) Addendum, for the limited purpose of federal air quality conformity and delay further submittal of the plan by 120 days in order to facilitate further review in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
TIME IS UP!
GOOD NEWS! We are pleased to report that after many months of intense analysis and communications, the business coalition working with SCAG leadership on the problematic 2020 Sustainable Communities Strategy – called “Connect SoCal” – have reached an exceptionally good result for our members and the region as a whole.
BizFed SUPPORTS this agreement and strongly urges the passage of Connect SoCal plan on Sept 3rd.
We would like to give a special thank you to SCAG President Rex Richardson & Executive Officer Kome Ajise along with BizFed members Jennifer Hernandez with Holland & Knight, Lucy Dunn with the Orange County Business Council, Rich Lambros with the Southern California Leadership Council, Jeff Montejano with the Building Industry Association of Southern California, Greg McWilliams with FivePoint, and Paul Granillo with the Inland Empire Economic Partnership for doing the heavy lifting to get it across the finish line.
WHAT’S HAPPENING ON SEPTEMBER 3RD
At the next Regional Council meeting on Sept. 3, staff will bring Connect SoCal and PEIR Addendum before the governing board again for final adoption and approval to transmit the plan to state agencies.
The plan has already been approved by the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration and fully achieves state greenhouse gas reduction benchmarks. After closely reviewing and responding to input and feedback, SCAG staff has made the appropriate technical refinements but has not recommended any policy or investment changes. The plan includes strategies that help us to address our current challenges and move the region forward, including, but not limited to:
- Improvements to transportation safety
- Support for the goods movement system
- Promotion of conservation of natural and agricultural resources
- Integration of recent and emerging technologies
Click here for county-specific benefits of the plan.
WHY WE ENGAGED TO FIND A SOLUTION
- Regional Housing Production Planning Harm- Connect SoCal omitted about 800,000 units of housing the region is required to produce as part of the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) process. This meant that cities updating their Housing Elements to approve more housing would be exceeding the Connect SoCal “Traffic Analysis Zone”(TAZ) population/housing/employment projections for 2045, which would have triggered the need for a finding that this growth is inconsistent with the region’s greenhouse gas reduction plan, which would have required more Housing Elements to need full EIRs and thereby be delayed, as well as more GHG mitigation which would have increased housing production costs.
- Housing Project Harm- Connect SoCal’s TAZ maps massively rejected “local input” and conflicted with local General Plans, meaning that housing that is fully compliant with General Plans and could qualify for streamlined CEQA approvals and no excess GHG mitigation would instead be inconsistent with the region’s GHG reduction plan and need to do more CEQA (aka EIRs) and more GHG mitigation.
Solution – SCAG’s top staff and its officers made the following provisions regarding TAZ maps:
- Consistent with past practice, TAZ map growth projections can and are used to confirm existing entitled projects.
- TAZ maps cannot be used as the “development pattern” for distributing future RHNA growth.
- TAZ map exceedances cannot be used as a basis for finding that a plan or project is inconsistent with Connect SoCal, or be used to assess impacts under CEQA, or be used to deny access to state funding requiring consistency with the SCS.
SCAG is not responsible for enforcing these TAZ map restrictions on local government so it is important that these explicit statements in Connect SoCal and its adopting Resolution can be used to defeat claims by housing opponents that projects built based on General Plans and other local input are inconsistent with the SCS based on the highly restrictive and problematic TAZ maps. The remainder of Connect SoCal is full of aspirational goals/policies, and prioritization of transit-neighborhood development, which has its own challenges – but these can be addressed far more easily than the hard-number growth projections at the TAZ map level which the final resolution neutralizes.
In your corner,
Tracy Hernandez, BizFed Founding CEO