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.
- As a lead agency the District analyzes and prepares environmental documents on its own discretionary activities, such as air quality plans and rule development activities. The District may also act as a CEQA lead agency for APCD permits if the impacts of the permit action were not addressed in a land-use or other agency permit.
- As a responsible agency under CEQA the District reviews environmental documents prepared by other lead agencies or jurisdictions to reduce or avoid impacts to air quality and to ensure that the lead agency’s environmental document is adequate to fulfill the CEQA requirements for APCD permits. The District’s permit jurisdiction area encompasses the following: unincorporated areas of Santa Barbara County; the cities of Santa Maria, Guadalupe, Lompoc, Buellton, Solvang, Goleta, Santa Barbara, and Carpinteria; and, offshore of Santa Barbara County.
- As a concerned agency the APCD reviews development projects, within the county and offshore of Santa Barbara County, that may have air quality impacts and provides guidance to mitigate adverse impacts.
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 were revised in November 2000 and most recently in April 2015. Click here to view the APCD Environmental Review Guidelines.
On April 30, 2015, the District Board adopted updates these guidelines to include guidance for evaluating the significance of the impacts from greenhouse gas emissions from new or modified stationary sources. For more information on this process see Greenhouse Gases and CEQA.
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 April 2015, can be downloaded here: Scope and Content of Air Quality Sections in Environmental Documents (a PDF file). (Note: Staff is working on revising this document to include the recently adopted GHG threshold for stationary sources and guidance for the utilization of this threshold.)
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 at County Environmental Review.
To request a print copy of either of these documents, contact CEQA@sbcapcd.org.
This is an evolving policy area, especially in light of the passage of the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB-32). As the California Air Resources Board and other state agencies and offices develop policies and regulations to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the interface between the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and these other programs may change. Following is a list of activities and resources related to this topic:
The District has updated the APCD Environmental Review Guidelines to include a greenhouse gas thresholds of significance for new or modified stationary sources, for more information see our webpage Greenhouse Gases and CEQA.
The District has prepared a white paper, Greenhouse Gas Mitigation and CEQA (2015), that offers ideas and guidance on how to mitigate impacts of greenhouse gases under CEQA.
The California Office of Planning & Research (OPR) developed amendments to the CEQA Guidelines, which were adopted by the California Natural Resources Agency on December 30, 2009 and became effective March 18, 2010. These amendments establish a framework for addressing global climate change impacts in the CEQA process, and include revisions to the Environmental Checklist Form (Appendix G) as well as to the Energy Conservation appendix (Appendix F). A new section (§15064.4) has been added that provides an approach to assessing impacts from GHGs. For additional information on these amendments, visit the Resources Agency’s website on CEQA Guidelines.
The California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (CAPCOA) released a resource guide, CEQA and Climate Change, in January 2008 to addressing GHG emissions from projects subject to the California Environmental Quality Act. This resource guide was prepared to support local governments as they develop their programs and policies around climate change issues. It is not a guidance document, and is not intended to dictate or direct how any agency chooses to address GHG emissions. Rather, it is intended to provide a common platform of information about key elements of CEQA as they pertain to GHG, including an analysis of different approaches to setting significance thresholds. The resource guide also contains an organized review of available tools and models for evaluating GHG emissions, and an overview of strategies for mitigating potentially significant GHG emissions from projects.
- 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.
- California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (CAPCOA) report, Quantifying Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Measures, is 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 2015, the EPA released a document that both shows the importance of reducing children’s exposure to traffic-related air pollution and what schools and parents can do to reduce children’s exposure. For more information see Best Practices for Reducing Near-Road Air Pollution at Schools.
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.
- See answers to Frequently Asked Questions about land use.
- For more information on CEQA, go to the California Environmental Resources Evaluation System (CERES) CEQA home page or CEQA Frequently Asked Questions.
- For more information on the GHG threshold adoption process, see our webpage on Greenhouse Gases and CEQA.
- For more information on the California Emission Estimator Model (CalEEMod), see www.caleemod.com or Frequently Asked Questions.
- See information on Building Stronger Communities.
For more information on the APCD’s Land Use and Environmental Review program, contact CEQA@sbcapcd.org.