Preparing an EIR consistent with SB 330: CityWalk Master Plan

Preparing an EIR consistent with SB 330: CityWalk Master Plan image
  • Share:

FirstCarbon Solutions (FCS) anticipates what jurisdictions need to know to navigate the changes and requirements to development impact fee programs when preparing an EIR.  

The Housing Crisis Act of 2019 impacted the requirements for preparing an EIR. FCS has navigated these changes firsthand through several projects, including the CityWalk Master Plan in San Ramon, CA.  

What is an EIR?  

An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is an informational document used by a lead agency when considering approval of a project. The purpose of an EIR is to provide public agencies and members of the public with detailed information regarding the environmental effects associated with implementing a project. An EIR analyzes the environmental consequences of a project, identifies ways to reduce or avoid a project’s potential environmental effects, and identifies alternatives to the project that can avoid or reduce impacts. Pursuant to California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), state and local government agencies must consider the environmental consequences of projects over which they have discretionary authority. EIRs evaluate the potential for a project to result in direct and indirect adverse impacts on the existing physical environment across a broad range of environmental topics, with consideration of both short-term and long-term impacts. Some environmental topics include rare or endangered plants and animals, wetlands, cultural and tribal cultural resources, noise, air quality, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, aesthetics, utilities, and public services such as police and fire protection. Learn more about how an EIR is prepared here. 

The Housing Crisis Act of 2019 (SB 330) 

Senate Bill (SB) 330 was signed by CA Governor Newsom in October 2019 to streamline the approval process and expedite housing production; the Bill sunsets July 1, 2025. SB 330 addresses California’s statewide housing shortage by limiting a jurisdiction’s ability to change standards, requirements, or fees after a housing project has a completed application.  

The Bill limits cities’ and counties’ ability to regulate residential and mixed-use housing developments, including limiting project evaluation to objective design standards. SB 330 modifies the Permit Streamlining Act requirements for projects subject to the Bill; among other things, it prohibits a jurisdiction from conducting more than five public hearings, including continuances once the application is “deemed complete.”  

SB 330 prevents jurisdictions from changing development fees, policies, standards, and zoning ordinances after they receive a development application that is “deemed complete.” Development fees can only increase by an automatic escalation and only if the resolution or ordinance establishing the fees calls for such. 

For an application to be “deemed complete,” it must meet all requirements specified in the agency’s checklist at the time of the submission and is considered complete regardless of recognition or approval by the governing body. Applicants must pay all required processing fees and provide specific information regarding: 

  • Site characteristics 
  • Project plans 
  • Specific environmental concerns 
  • Facts related to any potential density bonus 
  • Specified coastal zone-specific concerns 
  • The number of units to be demolished 
  • Location of recorded public easements 

A housing project that changes the number of residential units or square footage by 20% or more would no longer be “deemed complete” until the developer resubmits the required information. The housing project must commence construction within 2 ½ years of approval to be eligible for these protections. 

Preparing an EIR consistent with SB 330 in practice 

FCS prepared an EIR and a fiscal impact analysis, and provided planning services for the CityWalk Master Plan in San Ramon, CA. The 134.98-acre planning area is located in the Bishop Ranch Business Park and encompasses the Bishop Ranch 1A, Bishop Ranch 3A, and Bishop Ranch 2600 complexes. The 2007 City Center Subsequent EIR encompassed the Bishop Ranch 1A and Bishop Ranch 3A sites. The applicant (Sunset Development) proposed a Master Plan to guide the mixed-use development of residential and commercial uses within the planning area, including up to 4,500 dwelling units, a 169-key hotel, 170,000 square feet of retail/office uses, several new parking structures, and approximately 40.7 acres of publicly accessible, privately owned and maintained parks, open space, and other public facilities. The hotel and retail/office uses previously evaluated in the 2007 City Center Subsequent EIR were carried forward into the Master Plan, while the residential uses help meet a substantial portion of the 5,111 units allocated to San Ramon by the State’s Regional Housing Need 2023-2031 cycle. 

The CityWalk Master Plan Final EIR was certified by the Planning Commission on August 4, 2020. On August 14, 2020, an appeal was filed based on concerns about CEQA compliance, public participation, COVID-19 considerations, traffic, affordable housing, future drought, schools, and other quality of life issues. On September 8, 2020, City Council denied the appeal, upheld the Planning Commission’s decision, and recertified the Final EIR.  

In order to prepare the CityWalk Master Plan EIR and provide planning services consistent with the new SB 330, FCS was responsive to the City’s requests and maintained constant and clear communication with the city from project initiation through recertification of the Final EIR, helping them navigate the new guidance from start to finish. 

FirstCarbon Solutions [FCS], an ADEC Innovation, comprises over 100 individuals offering due diligence, technical analysis, planning, environmental compliance, permitting, and mitigation/monitoring services for public and private projects. FCS has more than 30 years of experience navigating the complexities of CEQA and securing project approvals. Our technical and legal teams are ready to provide assistance and guidance in moving your project forward. Contact us for a free consultation to learn more about how we can help with your specific project requirements.

About the author

Lisa Davison

Lisa Davison thumbnail

Lisa has more than 14 years of experience in the preparation of environmental documents that meet CEQA and NEPA regulations for a variety of projects, including mixed-use development, residential projects, assisted living/memory care facilities, gas stations, hillside development, industrial/commercial projects, urban infill development, annexation projects, and water and wastewater infrastructure projects.

How we can help

In an ever-changing regulatory and sustainability environment, FCS understands the challenges you face. Our highly qualified environmental specialists, energy management consultants, and technical experts deliver integrated, industry-specific solutions that move your project forward—so that you can focus on what matters.