Home costs are rising across the United States, reflecting a shortage of housing in places where people want to live and businesses want to operate. This is particularly evident in California and the Bay Area specifically, where homes prices and apartment rental rates are among the highest in the nation.
The Terraces of Lafayette (Terraces), an infill development project consisting of a 315-unit apartment in a small suburban city approximately 20 miles east of San Francisco, will help the region meet its obligations for housing in general, and will maintain 63 of the units (20 percent) within affordability ranges established by the state.
What we do
FirstCarbon Solutions (FCS) provides a variety of environmental compliance and consulting services, California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance, plus natural resources management, cultural resources management, noise management, air quality and greenhouse gas management, and entitlements and permitting, visual analysis, and sustainability services. We ensure that our documents, products, and services are environmentally sound and legally defensible.
Through this environmental review, FCS aids in the decision-making process by evaluating and disclosing the environmental impacts of a project.
FCS assists lead agencies in identifying and analyzing the potential environmental impacts of a project under CEQA. This analysis ensures that reasonably foreseeable environmental impacts associated with a potential project are researched, addressed, and presented to lead agencies, developers, and the public. We also identify potential mitigation to reduce or avoid potential adverse impacts. Through this environmental review, FCS aids in the decision-making process by evaluating and disclosing the environmental impacts of a project.
Our work on the Terraces of Lafayette Project
FCS used a streamlined approach to efficiently evaluate the Terraces project. By relying on a prior Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which evaluated a 315-unit project, FCS was able to compare the potential effects of the revised 315-unit project with what was evaluated previously. The prior EIR identified several significant and unavoidable impacts including air quality, biological resources, land use/planning, and transportation and traffic. FCS analyzed the current project to determine whether it would result in any new impacts or more severe impacts than were previously disclosed. The resulting document is called a CEQA Addendum.
Following the completion of the prior EIR, voters initiated a referendum, placing an alternate project on the ballot which consisted of 44 single family homes. This iteration of the project did not receive voter approval and was eventually rescinded. The applicant resumed processing of the original 315-unit application.
After a thorough review of the project and prior EIR, FCS recommended the preparation of an addendum to document compliance with the prior environmental analysis contained in the 2013 EIR. Public Resources Code Section 21166 allows for the use of an addendum to a prior EIR where only minor changes or additions are necessary and there is no significant change to the analysis. FCS focused the 2018 Addendum on the environmental impacts of the 2018 Project refinements to determine if impacts would be less or similar to those found in the 2013 FEIR. FCS completed our work on the 2018 Addendum in December 2018. The 2018 Addendum determined that the Project would not introduce any new significant environmental effects or substantially increase the severity of previously identified effects.
Project approval and the Housing Accountability Act
After more than nine years of resident concerns and revisions by the developer, the Project was approved by the City Council with a 4-1 vote on August 25, 2020, during a meeting that lasted nearly nine hours. The City took into consideration the Housing Accountability Act (HAA), which prioritizes affordable housing projects due to the California housing crisis. While City Council members questioned staff and team members about traffic and emergency evacuation concerns resulting from the project, which set aside 20 percent of its 315 apartments for affordable housing, it was ultimately approved.
By navigating difficult issues and remaining unbiased and objective, we further the visions and goals of lead agencies and developers while ensuring environmental protections are in place.
It is no secret that we have a significant housing crisis across the United States. As an environmental consulting firm, FCS has completed environmental documents for many housing projects, and we have the privilege of evaluating potential ways to streamline projects and guide lead agencies in reducing environmental impacts. Our 35+ years of experience allows us to leverage our expertise in utilizing the streamlining provisions of CEQA to maximize the usefulness of EIRs, and ultimately save time and money while providing a complete and accurate environmental assessment.
FCS acts as a neutral party and presents the facts. By navigating difficult issues and remaining unbiased and objective, we further the visions and goals of lead agencies and developers while ensuring environmental protections are in place.
This article was a collaborative effort and written with help from our dedicated and knowledgeable FCS team.
Brittany Hagen is an Environmental Services Analyst with extensive experience in CEQA and NEPA. She has substantive knowledge in the environmental scoping process and in preparation of environmental review documents, including initial studies that comply with CEQA and NEPA requirements. In addition, Ms. Hagen is knowledgeable with the use of software such as, ArcMap, ESRI Story Map Application, ArcGIS Online, and GeoPlanner. Ms. Hagen also has working proficiency in Spanish, Swedish, German, French, and American Sign Language.
Liza Baskir served as the Project Manager for the 2018 Addendum. She has more than 7 years of professional experience and more than 4 years of experience in managing the preparation of CEQA and NEPA documents, including EIRs, IS/MNDs, Addenda, Environmental Assessments, and Categorical Exemptions and Categorical Exclusions. She has expertise in aesthetics, land use and planning and land use compatibility, transportation and circulation, utilities and services systems, alternatives analysis, evaluating large public infrastructure projects, and public outreach. Ms. Baskir has been with FCS for over four years.
FirstCarbon Solutions (FCS) 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. Contact us for a free consultation to learn more about how we can help with your specific requirements.