City Council Regular


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  Item # 9.       
Meeting Date: 10/26/2020  
FROM: Alicia Velasco

Approve a Task Order for Environmental Review of the Housing Element Update
1.  Approve a task order for an Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration (IS/MND) for the Housing Element update to LSA for $59,900 and authorize a $5,990 contingency; and

2. Appropriate $82,390 in the General Fund for the estimated costs of the environmental review, Traffic Engineer review, and public noticing for the Housing Element update.
The City's Housing Element is one of seven mandatory elements of the City’s General Plan, and unlike the other mandatory general plan elements, an update is required every eight years. The City's current Housing Element was adopted on October 14, 2013 and covers the October 15, 2013 through October 15, 2021 planning period. The upcoming sixth cycle Housing Element will cover the 2021 through 2029 planning period. On October 12, the City Council approved a contract with Veronica Tam and Associates (VTA) to prepare the City’s updated Housing Element.

The contract with VTA does not include the required environmental review of the Housing Element update. LSA, one of the City’s on-call planning firms, is recommended to conduct the environmental study and reports. There are two environmental review options: 1) an Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration (IS/MND), or 2) a Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR). An IS/MND is recommended as the appropriate CEQA review of the updated Housing Element. LSA has provided a detailed scope, including costs and timeframes, for both options which is attached to this report.

The IS/MND will focus on the Housing Element as a City-policy document as there are no projects proposed at this time. All future housing applications would need to go through the CEQA process to determine whether the proposal is categorically exempt, requires an IS/MND, or an EIR. This option tasks the developer with the responsibility to facilitate and pay for the CEQA process. It also allows a detailed case-by-case review of each future project and its environmental impacts and maintains the City Council's regulatory authority (as limited by State law) over housing projects that are consistent with the Housing Element. The IS/MND requires seven months to complete and costs about $60,000.

A PEIR will analyze the City’s RHNA and the sites identified in the Housing Element, minimizing (but not eliminating) the need for environmental review of future housing projects that are consistent with the Housing Element. Future housing projects would be analyzed against the PEIR, and based upon that review, the appropriate environmental review process, ranging from a categorical exemption to an addendum to the PEIR, determined. If the City Council completes a PEIR, future housing projects will be subjected to a less expensive and more streamlined development review with the City Council retaining the ability to require project specific environmental review. The PIER requires nine months to complete, which puts the City at risk of not having an adopted Housing Element by the October 15, 2021 deadline (potentially subjecting the City to a four-year Housing Element cycle) and costs slightly more than $250,000.

The IS/MND option is recommended because:
1. It fulfills the City’s CEQA review obligation for the Housing Element
2. Meets the State deadline for updating the Housing Element avoiding costly penalties and the loss of City Council regulatory authority
3. Is significantly less expensive than a PIER
4. Is consistent with CEQA review of prior Housing Element updates

In addition to the cost of preparing the IS/MND, the project includes traffic engineering and public engagement costs. The City contracts with Linscott, Law & Greenspan (LLG) to provide traffic engineering and LLG estimates it will cost $7,500 to review the IS/MND, its technical studies, and to respond to comments. Community engagement costs are estimated at $9,000. These costs are the same for the IS/MND or the PEIR.
The FY 2020-21 budget does not include an appropriation for the Housing Element update environmental review and traffic engineering and public engagement costs. However, sufficient amounts are available in the unassigned fund balance of the General Fund for the $82,390 costs.
None required.
APPROVED BY: Peter Grant, City Manager
LSA Task Order


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