3/5/19 – Transportation Commission Meeting Highlights

Present were:
Rose Casey (temporarily Khan)
Steve Greenberg (Shea)
Christine Knowland (Kuo)
Ken Montgomery (Fox)
Carrie O’Malley (Wagner)

Everything you would want to know about traffic studies

Staff report presented by Sun-Sun Murillo: There are different types of traffic studies depending on the nature of development project described in the development application. The different types are:

  • Access study;
  • Transportation design study;
  • Remediation studies to address circulation problems; and
  • Comprehensive extended area cumulative study which may result in a finding that circulation remediation is required.

Most traffic studies are prepared by professional traffic consultants and are reviewed by staff, but staff can also perform traffic studies.  Traffic studies assess traffic circulation of existing year or current condition, short term 5-year period and long-range/build-out condition.  Traffic studies are presented to the Transportation Commission, Planning Commission and to City Council.

Important Note: Later in the meeting on a different agenda item, staff was asked whether traffic studies assess parking accessibility.  Staff said that traffic studies do not assess parking accessibility or parking needs. There are no staff reports that address parking issues. Montgomery stated that traffic studies Level of Service (LOS) analysis process will be dropped, and the studies will evaluate circulation by number of miles traveled.  Staff stated that Irvine’s Traffic Analysis Method (ITAM) will be changed.

Approval of Environmental Report Document for University Drive Widening from Ridgeline to the 405 Freeway

Staff report by Melissa Dugan: The project involves widening University Drive to go from 2 to 3 continuous lanes between the 405 and Ridgeline, and therefore, the 3rd lane that merges into the 2nd lane, which causes traffic problems, will be eliminated. Construction process should be completed in 2021.  Montgomery asked if the Class 1 and 2 bike lanes will remain.  Staff said that the bike and pedestrian path, and the street bike lanes will remain.  Montgomery stated that the street bike lane is dangerous at the 405 on ramp at University.  Montgomery suggested special pavement markings or a yield sign. Montgomery stated that there is heavy traffic on that section of University Drive, and he asked what arrangements are being made to detour traffic during construction.  Staff reported that no arrangements have yet been made, but staff will present the Traffic Commission with detour/traffic management options before construction begins. O’Malley brought up the subject of funding for the project.  According to staff, the funding comes from funds that developers pay into. The report was approved 5-0.

Traffic Study for Heritage Fields proposed 1056 market rate units in Great Park area 51 in exchange for retroactive additive designation of 1056 affordable housing units that have already received density bonus approval

This is a precedent setting request as this would be the first time retroactive additive designation has been requested and the first time that a project has received both density bonus and additive designation. This application, if approved, would give Heritage Fields 1056 market rate units in exchange for increasing the term of affordability for the 1065 previously approved affordable units from 35 to 55 years to in perpetuity. 

Traffic study report was presented by Karen Urman: The traffic study found that the project would have no impact on current, future or long-range traffic circulation in the area. The traffic evaluation is consistent with the City’s adopted performance criteria, thresholds of significance and General Plan. 

Public Comment: Commenter said that many public venues have been proposed, and many are in the development process, but no traffic circulation plans have been approved.  The traffic studies cannot possibly be based on future circulation.  Commenter also said traffic congestion is expected by the Transportation Commission as they have been discussing Irvine circulation only public transportations service for the Great Park, new iShuttle Routes in the area have been established, and the commission is in discussion about shared vehicles in the Great Park all to address traffic congestion in the area. Commenter reported that Density Bonus and Additive units do not count toward the 9500-unit density cap, and thus 2463 residential units has been approved for area 51. Commenter also warned that once the precedence of approving density bonus and additive designation for the same units and for approving retroactive additive designation has been established, it will be difficult to refuse other such applications in the future. Public Comment by

Patrick Strader/Five Point/representing Heritage Fields: Mr. Strader accused previous commenter of giving incorrect statistics and information.  He reported that the project would be giving Irvine 1,065 affordable and very low affordable units which the city really needs.  (Note: the affordable units were previously approved.  This project would give Area 51 an additional 1,056 Market Rate Units). Once again, this project would result in increasing period of affordability from 35 to 55 years to in perpetuity.) 

Public Comment: Commenter stated that the project is not a project for affordable units but for 1056 market rate units.  Commenter said that before approving the project the community needs an opportunity to provide input.

Public Comment: Commenter complained about problems with assessing parking needs. Note:  Staff reported that traffic studies do not assess or address parking needs.

O’Malley stated that the issue before the commission is to address whether the traffic study was consistent with the city’s performance criteria and the city’s General Plan.  She emphasized that this agenda item does not address approval of the project as that is the purview of the Planning Commission. Mr. Linsenmayer, Director of Transportation stated that when the details of the development project are presented, traffic studies relating to the project details will come back to the Transportation Commission. Greenberg said that he agrees with the Public Comments and is against the project. He said that he does not like double dipping. Mr. Linsenmayer stated that the agenda item is a traffic report issue, not a planning issue. Montgomery said that the traffic study is consistent with the city’s performance threshold and the General Plan. Montgomery asked Patrick Strader whether affordable units are mixed in with market rate.  Strader stated that some are and some are not as some are stand-alone operated by non-profits who provide services. Casey asked that if traffic remediation is necessary as the result of the project, can the City Council change performance criteria for the traffic study and can staff do an evaluation of the city’s performance criteria? Staff to look into this.

Knowland asked why no Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was presented. Staff said that an EIR was done, but it will be given to the Planning Commission as EIRs are not in the purview of the Transportation. Montgomery remarked that parking is a good issue for traffic studies.  Staff reported that traffic studies do not evaluate parking availability.

Traffic Study approved 5-0.