Harris & Associates worked on a General Plan Update for the City of El Centro, which included updates to the Land Use Element and Mobility Element and preparation of a new Environmental Justice Element, in compliance with the requirements of Senate Bill (SB) 1000. The elements were designed to improve sustainability, promote public health, anticipate future advancements in transportation technology, and be internally consistent with the remainder of the General Plan.
Harris prepared the Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR), which identified potential impacts on a program-level rather than a specific project-level that would result from project implementation. The PEIR also identified a range of potential impacts resulting from future development allowed under the project, as well as mitigation measures that future development may implement to reduce identified potentially significant effects. In additon, the PEIR analyzed a reasonable range of alternative land use plans in comparison with the proposed project.
The PEIR required seamless coordination between the proposed land use and mobility plans to include the environmental analysis in the PEIR. Harris successfully teamed with CityPlace Planning, who led the Land Use Element updates, land use plan, and Environmental Justice Element creation for the City. Harris also teamed with Chen Ryan, who developed the mobiliy plans. The team communicated often, which is essential while providing different project components.
Land Use Plan Update
Updates were based on the City’s existing Vision 2050, policy direction from City staff and decision makers, and input from the Community Advisory Committee and the public. The update designated the proposed general distribution and extent of land uses in the City, focusing on preserving established land uses and accommodating future growth and physical development of the community. An overarching objective of the Land Use Element Update was to promote infill development and encourage efficient development patterns to spur economic revitalization.
Mobility Element Update
The City’s transition from low-density to higher-density land use patterns under the Land Use Element Update required equally supportive mobility infrastructure, public improvements, and policies focused on better serving pedestrians, bicyclists, and public-transportation users in addition to motorists. Specific objectives of the Mobility Element Update included adopting Complete Streets policies that are accessible to all ages, supporting a safe pedestrian and bicycle transportation network, promoting a public transportation network that allows convenient access to major destinations, offering appropriate vehicle circulation, and providing a safe and efficient mobility system.
New Environmental Justice Element
The purpose of preparing an Environmental Justice Element is to develop objectives and policies to minimize pollution and its effects on all communities and to ensure residents have the opportunity to provide input in decisions that affect their quality of life. The Environmental Justice Element provided guidance for the City to implement equitable solutions that improve the quality of life and increase access to opportunities for disadvantaged communities, such as expanding efforts to involve residents in public decision-making processes, increasing collaboration with associated public agencies and organizations, promoting food security and healthy eating, increasing opportunities for physical activity, addressing housing affordability and homelessness, and incorporating plans for new public facilities in strategic locations.
The centerpiece of the General Plan Land Use Element Update consisted of five Opportunity Areas (OAs) where the City wanted or anticipated land use change or growth to occur during the planning period. A key element of each OA is the correlation of land use and site design with proposed improvements to the mobility infrastructure, including providing right-sizing existing roadways, adding new roadways, improving sidewalks, adding multi-use trails and bicycle facilities, and facilitating transit.
Beyond the Blueprints
The project was funded through a California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Sustainable Communities Grant. The purpose of the Caltrans Sustainable Communities Grant is to encourage local and regional planning that furthers state goals, including but not limited to, the goals and best practices cited in the Regional Transportation Plan Guidelines adopted by the California Transportation Commission. To work within the confines of the grant budget and streamline the CEQA process, Harris tiered from adopted documents and prepared an initial study to scope out environmental topics and prepare a focused PEIR.