BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                AB 417
                                                                       

                       SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
                               Senator Jerry Hill, Chair
                               2013-2014 Regular Session
                                            
           BILL NO:    AB 417
           AUTHOR:     Frazier
           AMENDED:    June 13, 2013
           FISCAL:     Yes               HEARING DATE:     June 19, 2013
           URGENCY:    No                CONSULTANT:       Joanne Roy
            
           SUBJECT  :    CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY ACT (CEQA):  BICYCLE  
                          TRANSPORATION PLAN

            SUMMARY  :    
           
            Existing law  :

             1)   Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA):

              a)    Requires lead agencies with the principal responsibility  
                 for carrying out or approving a proposed discretionary  
                 project to prepare a negative declaration, mitigated  
                 declaration, or environmental impact report (EIR) for this  
                 action, unless the project is exempt from CEQA (CEQA  
                 includes various statutory exemptions, as well as  
                 categorical exemptions in the CEQA guidelines).  (Public  
                 Resources Code 21000 et seq.).  If there is substantial  
                 evidence, in light of the whole record before a lead  
                 agency, that a project may have a significant effect on the  
                 environment, the lead agency must prepare a draft EIR.   
                 (CEQA Guidelines 15064(a)(1), (f)(1)).

              b)    Contains exemptions relating to bicycle facilities that  
                 include, for example:

                 i)         Operation, repair, maintenance, or minor  
                      alteration of existing or public structures involving  
                      negligible or no expansion, including existing  
                      highways and streets, sidewalks, gutters, bicycle and  
                      pedestrian trails, and similar facilities (including  
                      road grading for the purpose of public safety).  (CEQA  
                      Guidelines 15301(c)).

                 ii)        Minor public or private alterations to land,  








                                                                AB 417
                                                                 Page 2

                      water, or vegetation, including, but not limited to:   
                      "creation of bicycle lanes on existing rights-of-way."  
                       (CEQA Guidelines 15304(h)).

                 iii)       Restriping of streets or highways to relieve  
                      traffic congestion.  (Public Resources Code (PRC)  
                      21080.19).

                 iv)        Restriping of streets and highways for bicycle  
                      lanes in an urbanized area.  (PRC 21080.20.5).  

                      a)              Prior to determining that this  
                           exemption applies to a project, the lead agency  
                           must do the following: 

                           (1)                  Prepare an assessment of any  
                                traffic and safety impacts of the project  
                                and include measures in the project to  
                                mitigate potential vehicular traffic impacts  
                                and bicycle and pedestrian safety impacts.

                           (2)                  Hold public hearings in  
                                areas affected by the project to hear and  
                                respond to public comment.

              c)    Defines "mitigation" to include:

                 i)         Avoiding the impact altogether by not taking a  
                      certain action or parts of an action.

                 ii)        Minimizing impacts by limiting the degree or  
                      magnitude of the action and its implementation.

                 iii)       Rectifying the impact by repairing,  
                      rehabilitating, or restoring the impacted environment.

                 iv)        Reducing or eliminating the impact over time by  
                      preservation and maintenance operations during the  
                      life of the action.

                 v)         Compensating for the impact by replacing or  
                      providing substitute resources or environments.  (CEQA  
                      Guidelines 15370).









                                                                AB 417
                                                                 Page 3

             2)   Under the California Bicycle Transportation Act,  
                authorizes a city or county to prepare a bicycle  
                transportation plan, which must include certain elements  
                (e.g., proposed land use and settlement patterns, existing  
                proposed bikeways and bicycle facilities, bicycle safety and  
                education facilities, project priorities for implementation,  
                past expenditures and future financial needs).  (Streets and  
                Highways Code 891.2).

            This bill  :  

           1) Exempts from CEQA, a bicycle transportation plan prepared  
              pursuant to Streets and Highways Code 891.2 for an urbanized  
              area for restriping of streets and highways, bicycle parking  
              and storage, signal timing to improve street and highway  
              intersection operations, and related signage for bicycles,  
              pedestrians, and vehicles.

           2) Prior to determining that a project is exempt pursuant to this  
              section, requires the lead agency to do the following:  

              a)    Hold public hearings in affected areas; and, 

              b)    Prepare an assessment of any traffic and safety impacts  
                 of the project and include measures in the bicycle  
                 transportation plan to mitigate potential vehicular, and  
                 bicycle and pedestrian safety impacts.

           3) Requires a local agency, which determines that a project is  
              exempt pursuant to this section and determines to approve the  
              project, to file notice of the determination with the Office  
              of Planning and Research and with the county in which the  
              project is located.

           4) Sunsets the exemption for a bicycle transportation plan on  
              January 1, 2018.

           5) For an exempted project that consists of the restriping of  
              streets and highways for bicycle lanes in an urbanized area  
              pursuant to PRC 21080.20.5, provides that the lead agency is  
              not required to prepare an assessment of any traffic or safety  
              impacts of the project if either of the following conditions  
              are met:









                                                                AB 417
                                                                 Page 4

              a)    Mitigation measures are identified in the CEQA  
                 environmental review document for the bicycle  
                 transportation plan that is certified or approved within  
                 the past five years and those measures are incorporated  
                 into the project; or,

              b)    An assessment was prepared pursuant to #2(b) within the  
                 past five years, mitigation measures are included in the  
                 plan, and those measures are incorporated into the project.




            COMMENTS  :

            1) Purpose of Bill  .  According to the author, "Bicycle  
              transportation plans do not require extensive public  
              investment and improve conditions for bicycling in order to  
              help achieve numerous important environmental, health, safety,  
              and economic goals.  Biking is a proactive way to effectively  
              reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality in  
              California.  To this end, AB 417 supports California's efforts  
              to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions through the  
              implementation of AB 32 and SB 375.  By facilitating the  
              development of safe bike corridors and associated facilities  
              this bill will also help reduce criteria air pollutants  
              throughout the state and promote an environmentally friendly  
              means of transportation."
            
           2) Brief background on CEQA  .  CEQA provides a process for  
              evaluating the environmental effects of a project, and  
              includes statutory exemptions, as well as categorical  
              exemptions in the CEQA guidelines.  If a project is not exempt  
              from CEQA, an initial study is prepared to determine whether a  
              project may have a significant effect on the environment.  If  
              the initial study shows that there would not be a significant  
              effect on the environment, the lead agency must prepare a  
              negative declaration.  If the initial study shows that the  
              project may have a significant effect on the environment, the  
              lead agency must prepare an EIR.

           Generally, an EIR must accurately describe the proposed project,  
              identify and analyze each significant environmental impact  
              expected to result from the proposed project, identify  








                                                                AB 417
                                                                 Page 5

              mitigation measures to reduce those impacts to the extent  
              feasible, and evaluate a range of reasonable alternatives to  
              the proposed project.  Prior to approving any project that has  
              received environmental review, an agency must make certain  
              findings.  If mitigation measures are required or incorporated  
              into a project, the agency must adopt a reporting or  
              monitoring program to ensure compliance with those measures.

           If a mitigation measure would cause one or more significant  
              effects in addition to those that would be caused by the  
              proposed project, the effects of the mitigation measure must  
              be discussed but in less detail than the significant effects  
              of the proposed project.
            
           3) Background on San Francisco bicycle plan litigation  .  The San  
              Francisco Board of Supervisors adopted the 2005 Bicycle Plan  
              on June 7, 2005, and determined that the plan was exempt from  
              CEQA because there was no possibility that it would have  
              significant impacts on the environment.  The San Francisco  
              County Transportation Authority Commission (composed  
              exclusively of members of the board of supervisors) adopted  
              the bicycle plan's "Network Improvement Document," a five-year  
              plan for funding and implementing the Bicycle Plan on June 21,  
              2005.

           Petitioners challenged the adoption of the 2005 Bicycle Plan and  
              Network Improvement Document under CEQA and the Court granted  
              the petitioner's petition finding the Plan and Document should  
              have been reviewed pursuant to CEQA together as one project -  
              and that considered as a whole could have a significant impact  
              on the environment.  The Court issued a Preemptory Writ of  
              Mandate on June 18, 2007, requiring San Francisco to conduct  
              adequate environmental review of the Plan and Document, and  
              enjoined the city from implementing any individual improvement  
              projects until the review was completed.

           San Francisco planning department published a draft EIR on  
              November 26, 2008.  According to the Court, "The bulk of the  
              Draft EIR's analysis concerned impacts on transportation,  
              particularly impacts from the 60 near-term improvements on 63  
              different intersections located throughout San Francisco, as  
              well as impacts on 12 'transit corridors,' 10 transit 'spot  
              studies,' and 13 parking and loading corridors."  The Court  
              also noted that the EIR identified mitigation measures to  








                                                                AB 417
                                                                 Page 6

              minimize or eliminate many of the significant environmental  
              impacts identified in the EIR, including measures such as  
              adding or modifying traffic signals at intersections  
              (lengthening green light time or adding a green arrow),  
              modifying roadway striping (changing shared lanes to exclusive  
              turn lanes, narrowing traffic lanes, or eliminating or  
              restricting on-street parking).

           The Planning Commission certified the EIR on June 25, 2009; the  
              MTA board of directors adopted the 2009 Bicycle Plan and  
              approved the traffic changes necessary to implement 45 of the  
              60 improvements, and made the required CEQA findings.  The  
              petitioners appealed the Planning Commissioner's certification  
              of the EIR to the Board of Supervisors on July 15, 2009; and  
              the Board of Supervisors heard the appeals on August 4, 2009,  
              and denied the appeals.  The city filed a Notice of  
              Determination on August 14, 2009, and filed a return to the  
              Writ of Mandate on September 18, 2009, to which the  
              petitioners objected.  The Court found that the city complied  
              with CEQA and the Court's order to conduct environmental  
              review of the Bicycle Plan, including its policies and goals  
              and individual improvement projects on August 6, 2010.  The  
              main criticism heard about the San Francisco case is that one  
              petitioner had the power to delay something good from  
              happening for several years.   

               However, it should be noted that if San Francisco had simply  
              performed a proper environmental review in the first place,  
              which the Court found that it should have done, there would  
              not have been as long of a delay.  In addition, because of the  
              CEQA review, many improvements were made that would not have  
              been done otherwise.  

              Projects considered environmentally beneficial, such as  
              improving bicycle transportation in urbanized areas, may also  
              have significant impacts on the environment.  To disregard  
              that possibility and fail to at least assess and mitigate  
              those impacts would be harmful to the community in which the  
              project is located as well as counterproductive to the overall  
              goal of improving the environment.  Although this bill  
              provides a CEQA exemption for a bicycle transportation plan,  
              AB 417 ensures that the plan and projects pursuant to the plan  
              are done in a thoughtful and responsible manner with respect  
              to traffic and safety impacts.








                                                                AB 417
                                                                 Page 7

               
           4) Sunset .  This bill provides a sunset date of January 1, 2018  
              for the bicycle transportation plan exemption and requires a  
              local agency to file a notice of determination with OPR so  
              that the exemption can be evaluated and any unanticipated  
              consequences can be considered.

            5) Previous legislation  .  AB 417 is substantially similar to SB  
              1380 (Rubio), 2012, which would have exempted from CEQA  
              bicycle transportation plans developed for urbanized areas.   
              SB 1380 was approved by the Senate Environmental Quality  
              Committee April 30, 2012 (6-0) but died on the Assembly Floor  
              inactive file.

           AB 2245 (Smyth), Chapter 680, Statutes of 2012, exempts from CEQA  
              a project that consists of restriping of streets and highways  
              for bicycle lanes in an urbanized area that is consistent with  
              a city or county bicycle transportation plan.  
           
           SOURCE  :        Author  

           SUPPORT  :       Civil Justice Association of California
           Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
           Orange County Transportation Authority

            OPPOSITION  :    None on file