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SAN FRANCISCO-In June, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District adopted new CEQA air quality guidelines that will substantially influence CEQA reviews of real estate development projects in the San Francisco Bay Area through new significant impact thresholds for greenhouse gas emissions and risks and hazards associated with the siting of residences, schools and medical facilities near emission sources.

The new GHG and local community risks and hazards thresholds complicate CEQA reviews for Bay Area real estate development projects. Although compliance is voluntary in most instances, development project CEQA reviews that do not apply the new thresholds run the risk of facing legal challenges claiming that the Guidelines and the evidence upon which they are based demonstrate a significant impact. On the other hand, projects that do apply the new GHG and risk and hazards thresholds are more likely to require an EIR. The stringency of the new significance thresholds may also make it harder to fully mitigate or justify significant and unavoidable air quality impacts. These issues may resolve once cities and counties address GHG and risks and hazards impacts at a programmatic level, as recommended by the Guidelines. This will take time, however.

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