No DiSC Baseline Features to Reduce Traffic and Related GHG Emissions will Produce even Greater Adverse Environmental Impacts than Those Projected in the EIR
The following email was sent to the Planning Commission this afternoon.
Dear Planning Commissioners:
Firstly, I sincerely apologize for the late hour at which these these comments are delivered to you.
I understand you have received a letter yesterday from Roberta Millstein discussing how the Baseline Features have been throttled back at DiSC 2022 relative to DISC 1.0. However, her communication only discussed the Baseline Features which were originally proposed for DISC 1.0 and then materially weakened or removed entirely in DiSC 2022.
There were a number of other important recommended Baseline Features proposed by various Commissions which never saw the light of day in either DISC 1.0 OR DiSC 2022. This communication focuses only on those unaccepted Baseline Features recommended by the Natural Resources Commission that could have profoundly beneficial impacts in terms of reducing expected traffic problems and reducing GHG emissions otherwise associated the project
According to the EIR, transportation represents 78% of the 55 million lbs of new GHGs projected to be produced by the DiSC project. In fulfilling their project review objectives, among many worthwhile suggestions, the NRC in particular recommended 3 very clearly identified Baseline Features for the project to reduce adverse traffic impacts and associated GHG emissions from the project. All were rejected by the Developer of the project.
We recommend that the approvals for this project not be granted until the Developer has agreed to the NRC-recommended Baseline Features identified below.
List of Important Traffic-Related Recommended Baseline Features Recommended By the Natural Reources Commission but Rejected by the DiSC 2022 Developer:
- No Guaranteed Mechanism to Ensure Residential Units are Occupied by DiSC Employee
Summary of NRC Recommendation and Purpose -Require the MOA to Master Lease 50% of Residential Units to Employees to Ensure that Housing Units will actually be Occupied by Employees to prevent Traffic – This project was originally proposed to the City as a commercial-only project 5 years ago and it was on this basis that the EIR was certified by the City. The Developer subsequently rejected this outcome, however, and withdrew his application. They then came back 2 years later claiming that inclusion of housing was the environmentally-preferred option because it reduced VMTs due to some employees living at the site and thus not having to commute. The threshold at which inclusion of housing was the environmentally-preferred option was based on a minimum 60% occupancy of the units by people employed at the project. The NRC created a legal option which would guarantee at least 50% of the units would be occupied by employees at DiSC thus realizing the traffic and GHG reduction benefits projected in the EIR.
NRC Recommended Baseline Feature - "NRC34 To minimize transportation emissions, the Developer shall strive to maximize the number of Project housing units occupied by individuals working onsite. To this end, the MOA shall require employer master leasing of 50% of all rental housing and ownership of a portion of the single family housing units and require employment by a member of the household during the time of rental application for residency."
Response by Developer and Resultant Environmental Impacts – The Developer has rejected the recommendation in its entirety and instead has proposed language in the Development Agreement that only "encourages" a "relationship between the Developer and the Master Owners Association as follows:
"To further minimize transportation emissions and enhance the active live-work-play environment of the Project, the applicant and the MOA shall ensure an introduction and establishment of a relationship between commercial tenants and the then-active builders of on-site housing and/or leasing companies. Establishing a direct relationship between employers and purveyors of onsite housing will maximize the number of project housing units occupied by individuals working onsite."
Unfortunately, this has absolutely no guarantees that ANY onsite housing will be occupied by employees much less the minimum of 60% occupancy which produced the lowest traffic and related GHG emissions on which the EIRs traffic and GHG emissions are predicated. If the Developer's language is accepted, it is very likely that traffic and GHG emissions produced by the project will actually increase substantially above those already unacceptably high levels projected in the EIR.
2) Require Paid Commercial Parking
Summary of NRC Recommendation and Purpose - Require all parking at the project be paid. Paid parking has a demonstrable and proven beneficial impact on reducing vehicular use in large public and private facilities. Almost every parking slot on UCD and in downtown Sacramento requires either a permit or a time-based fee. The NRC proposes that all commercial and residential parking be paid at the project.
NRC Recommended Baseline Feature - "NRC36R Parking costs shall be unbundled from the cost of other goods and services. A separate fee shall be charged for all parking spaces (commercial and residential)."
Response by Developer and Resultant Environmental Impacts – "Parking associated with multifamily housing shall be unbundled to incentivize a car fee lifestyle. Commercial parking will not be paid parking until the market can bear it." Although the Developer has agreed to residential paid parking (but only in the Development Agreement and not in the mandatory, unchangeable Baseline Features), less than 20% of 2,500+ parking spaces proposed for the project are designated for paid residential parking thus the beneficial impacts of paid commercial parking on reducing traffic and associated GHG emissions will not be realized.
3) Require Mandatory Reductions in Traffic Before Proceeding with Additional Phases of the Project
Summary of NRC Recommendation and Purpose – Require mandatory reductions in traffic before allowing each new phase of the project to proceed. The Developer has proposed only that they will develop a Transportation Demand Management plan in the future but it requires absolutely no objective mandatory levels of traffic reduction. The NRC's recommendation requires that only modest levels of traffic reduction be required in each phase of the project before construction of the next phase can commense construction.
NRC Recommended Baseline Feature - "NRC36E An additional goal of the TDM program shall be mitigation of daily traffic congestion generated by the project by reducing daily SOV trips by at least 33% compared to the business-as-usual (unmitigated) scenario predictions in the SEIR scaled to the revised project size and scope. This reduction requirement is to be applied incrementally at each phase of the Project. If, following 50% buildout of the project square footage, daily SOV trips are not 33% lower than the business-as-usual (unmitigated) projections in the SEIR, then subsequent construction shall not be permitted."
Response by Developer and Resultant Environmental Impacts – This was rejected as "infeasible" by the Developer with no economic or other justification provided. As a result, there will not be beneficial reductions in traffic as a result of installing paid parking for employees in the commercial buildings at the project. They continue to only offer a future ambiguous Traffic Demand Management plan that has no mandatory requirements for traffic reduction or commitment of funds for implementation by the Developer.