Land Use and CEQA Environmental Review
Land use is the general name for how a community uses its land: what is built, and where. Land use decisions are generally made by the city for incorporated areas and by the county in unincorporated areas. City and county land use agencies have long-term land use plans and permit processes in place to guide the building decisions made by the land use agency staff, Planning Commissions, City Councils, or Board of Supervisors. Sometimes, other agencies such as the Coastal Commission, State Lands Commission, or federal land agencies also have a say in land use decisions.
Land use decisions affect air quality. Air pollution may result from a specific project, such as the construction of a new business that will emit air pollution, or may be related to the growth and transportation patterns of many new projects over a long period of time. More cars on the road lead to more air pollution. Because cars and trucks represent a large portion of the smog-forming pollution in our county, the impacts of land use decisions are important.
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is the state law that requires state and local agencies to identify and reduce, if feasible, the significant, negative environmental impacts of land use decisions. There are several different types of documents that may be prepared under CEQA. These include Notices of Exemption, Initial Studies, Negative Declarations/Mitigated Negative Declarations, and Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs). For more information on CEQA, see the California Environmental Resources Evaluation System (CERES) CEQA home page or CEQA frequently asked questions.
The District assumes the following roles in the implementation of CEQA.
On October 19, 1995 the District Board adopted Environmental Review Guidelines pursuant to CEQA. These guidelines include definitions of common terms, procedures for environmental review, adopted thresholds of significance, time limits, fees, forms and District-approved exemptions to CEQA review. The guidelines also address procedures for federal projects subject to the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), and were revised in November, 2000. Click here to view the APCD Environmental Review Guidelines.
District staff is in the process of developing a proposal to adopt greenhouse gas thresholds of significance for stationary source projects. For more information regarding this process, see the "CEQA and Climate Change" discussion below. We anticipate revising and updating the Environmental Review Guidelines as part of this process.
This informational document contains criteria for evaluating the significance of adverse air quality impacts from land use projects, and discusses the new California Emission Estimator Model (CalEEMod). For more information about CalEEMod, see www.caleemod.com). Mitigation measures including energy conservation measures and Innovative Building Review Committee (IBRC) review are also discussed.
This APCD document, updated December 2011, can be downloaded here: Scope and Content of Air Quality Sections in Environmental Documents (a PDF file).
Note: Air Quality Significance Thresholds used by the County of Santa Barbara for projects where the County is a lead agency under CEQA can be found here.
To request a print copy of either of these documents, contact CEQA@sbcapcd.org.
The California Attorney General's Office has compiled a comprehensive list of mitigation measures that can be applied to land use development projects, entitled "Addressing Climate Change at the Project Level." View this document here.
California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (CAPCOA) report "Quantifying Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Measures" now available at www.capcoa.org/.
In 2005, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) developed an Air Quality and Land Use Handbook that was intended to serve as a general reference guide for evaluating and reducing air pollution impacts associated with new land use development projects. As documented in the handbook and in subsequent health studies, living in proximity to freeways and high traffic roadways leads to adverse health effects beyond those associated with regional air pollution. CARB's handbook provides recommendations for appropriate distances between sources of air pollution and sensitive land uses, such as residences. Since the publication of the CARB handbook, additional studies have been conducted that further support the recommendations. A summary of the CARB recommendation as it relates to public heatlh and high traffic roadways in Santa Barbara County can be found here.
In 2012, CARB staff prepared a document entitled "Status of Research on Potential Mitigation Concepts to Reduce Exposure to Nearby Traffic Pollution". It provides information on scientific research that has been conducted on various building-related and site mitigation concepts suggested as potentially effective approaches for reducing traffic-related pollution exposure to those living near high traffic roadways. This paper is not intended as guidance for any specific project and does not provide a methodology for determining appropriate mitigation measures for purposes of compliance with CEQA, however it does provide useful information that could be considered when evaluating potential mitigation approaches, find it here.
In order to provide consistency to lead agencies, project proponents, and the general public throughout the state, the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (CAPCOA) prepared a guidance document, entitled "Health Risk Assessments for Proposed Land Use Projects," to assist lead Agencies in complying with the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when projects may involve exposure to toxic air contaminants. This document, which can be accessed from the CAPCOA website, focuses on the acute, chronic, and cancer impacts of sources that may undergo CEQA review. It also outlines the recommended procedures to identify when a project should undergo further risk evaluation, how to conduct the health risk assessment (HRA), how to engage the public, what to do with the results from the HRA, and what mitigation measures may be appropriate for various land use projects. With respect to health risks associated with locating sensitive land uses in proximity to freeways and other high traffic roadways, HRA modeling may not thoroughly characterize all the health risk associated with nearby exposure to traffic-generated pollutants. Therefore, Santa Barbara County APCD does not recommend using HRA modeling as a tool for assessing health risk impacts for these types of projects.
For more information on the APCDs Land Use and Environmental Review program, contact CEQA@sbcapcd.org.
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