New “Legacy Business” Legislation; and Proposed Changes to CEQA Transportation Analysis

​Legacy Businesses

Supervisors Campos and Farrell introduced legislation last week designed to provide for the recognition, study, and promotion of longstanding, community-serving businesses, so-called “Legacy Businesses.”  

The proposal is an ordinance that would direct the City’s Small Business Commission to establish and maintain a registry of Legacy Businesses in San Francisco.  A Legacy Business is a business that meets four criteria:

  • It is a bar, restaurant, retail store, arts space, performance venue, or a business primarily engaged in Production, Distribution, and Repair activities;
  • It has operated in San Francisco for 30 or more years, with no break in San Francisco operations exceeding two years.  The business may have operated in more than one location or jurisdiction, but must have been established and currently be based in San Francisco;

  • It has contributed to the neighborhood’s history and/or the identity of a particular neighborhood or community; and

  • It is committed to maintaining the physical features or traditions that define the business, including craft, culinary or art forms.

Among other promotional and support measures, the proposal would establish a rebate program for Legacy Businesses that purchase the real property at which they operate their businesses.  The program also would provide rebates to landlords that purchase real property at which Legacy Businesses operate their businesses and extend the term of the Legacy Businesses’ leases by at least an additional ten years.  The amount of the rebate would be equal to the transfer tax paid on the purchase of the property (or portion of the property) at which the Legacy Businesses operate.

Surprisingly, the total combined rebates paid to all qualified Legacy Businesses and landlords in any one year would be capped at $400,000.  One wonders how much of an impact this proposal can have on Legacy Businesses with this significant limitation in place.

Changes to CEQA Transportation Analysis

Many California jurisdictions, including San Francisco, use “level of service” standards in their CEQA analysis to measure potential transportation impacts of development projects and long range plans.  Commonly known as LOS, level of service measures vehicle delay at intersections and on roadways.

The use of LOS analysis has been criticized for discouraging infill development and construction of infrastructure for transit, cycling, and walking.  Urban infill projects, for example, often rate poorly in traffic studies because they increase population and potential traffic in a given area.  However, evidence shows that the residents and consumers who live, work, and shop in these areas are less likely to rely on cars for their transportation needs.  In addition, LOS analysis focuses on a social impact (driver delay), not on environmental impacts.

Roadway widening is the typical mitigation for projects that lower LOS.  However, wider roads can result in adverse environmental, public health, and fiscal impacts.  Wider roads are more expensive to maintain and enable driving at faster speeds, which leads to more pollution, noise, and higher risks to bicyclists and pedestrians.  And widening roads is not at all possible in dense jurisdictions such as San Francisco, meaning that transportation impacts cannot be mitigated.

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (“OPR”) recently proposed amendments to the CEQA Guidelines to provide an alternative to LOS for evaluating transportation impacts.  The new analysis focuses on vehicle miles traveled, or “VMT”.  Particularly within areas served by transit, the new analytic criteria must promote the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the development of multimodal transportation networks, and a diversity of land uses.  Measurements of transportation impacts may include vehicle miles traveled, vehicle miles traveled per capita, automobile trip generation rates, or automobile trips generated.

Once the CEQA Guidelines are amended to include those alternative criteria, vehicle delay will no longer be considered a significant impact under CEQA.  Transportation impacts related to air quality, noise and safety must still be analyzed under CEQA where appropriate.

The public comment period for the proposed new Guidelines ends on November 21, 2014.  We will continue to monitor their development and report to readers.

The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient. Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein.  Reuben, Junius & Rose LLP is a full service real estate law firm.  We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law.  We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.