SF Planning Commission Moves Forward with Transportation Demand Management Program

On August 4, the San Francisco Planning Commission took two actions to move forward the establishment of a citywide Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Program designed to shift San Franciscans out of cars and onto sidewalks, bicycles and public transit. The Planning Commission recommended that the Board of Supervisors approve an ordinance creating the citywide TDM Program, and simultaneously adopted TDM Program Standards to take effect if the Board of Supervisors approves the TDM Program ordinance.

The next step is a likely October hearing before the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use and Transportation Committee—the ordinance was introduced at the Board’s September 6 meeting. This is the final component of the Planning Department’s three-part Transportation Sustainability Program. Last fall, the City approved new transportation fees (the “Invest” component). Earlier this spring, the Planning Commission changed the way transportation impacts are measured under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), using Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) instead of automobile delays at intersections, or Level of Service (the “Align” component).

Although some TDM requirements are scattered across the City’s Planning Code for certain districts and project types, TDM requirements for new development are most frequently imposed through the CEQA process as mitigation for traffic impacts, or are included by developers as amenities or to reduce projected vehicle trip counts. The City’s move to Vehicle Miles Traveled as the CEQA standard for transportation impacts means that fewer projects will have significant transportation impacts to mitigate. The TDM Program contains a comprehensive set of requirements, requiring changes to City law by ordinance to require developers to include TDM measures in new projects. It mandates that developers meet certain TDM targets, chosen from a menu of TDM options, which increase as the number of on-site parking spaces increases. Retail and office uses will have more robust TDM requirements than residential uses, because of the larger number of vehicle trips generated by a retail or office parking space.

For example, a 100-unit residential project offering 50 parking spaces would be required to earn 16 TDM “points” by incorporating TDM measures into the project—13 base points for parking spaces 1-20 and 1 point for each additional 10 spaces. To earn these points, the developer could, for example, improve walking conditions on project sidewalks, provide bicycle and car-share parking, sell or lease parking spaces separately from units (“unbundled parking”), and pay for resident transit passes. Within each of these categories, a range of TDM point options can be earned, with more intense efforts earning more points.

New development projects of 10 or more residential units or 10,000 or more commercial square feet will be subject to the TDM Program requirements, as will be most changes of use of 25,000 or more occupied square feet. Projects triggering TDM Program requirements must submit a TDM Plan along with the first development application. Developers and property owners will need to prove compliance with the TDM Plan, by demonstrating TDM measures are in place prior to obtaining a certificate of occupancy, and by participating in ongoing monitoring and compliance after occupancy.

As currently drafted, the law would give the Planning Department and Commission leeway to make future changes to the Program Standards, including the menu of TDM options, required points, and point values assigned to various TDM options. Projects will be required to comply with the Program standards in place at the time of their submission of a TDM Plan, making it critical to stay on top of Program changes and account for TDM measures in early project planning and design.