Streamlining the Development Process in a Post-LOS Los Angeles

Local governments across the United States have for decades relied on the autocentric level of service (LOS) metric to analyze and impose exactions for the transportation impacts of land use developments. In California, LOS has dominated transportation impact analysis under the state’s project-level environmental review law. In that role, LOS has exacerbated the state’s notoriously tortuous development approval processes, particularly in urban areas. But LOS is on its way out. The state recently replaced LOS with vehicle miles traveled (VMT) as the primary measure—and basis for mitigation—of transportation impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act. Local governments must make the switch by July 1, 2020. We use a historical counterfactual approach to assess how replacing LOS with VMT could have affected the approval process for 153 land development projects over 16 years in the city of Los Angeles. We find that most projects could have benefited from at least some environmental review streamlining under the VMT-based framework recommended by the state, including more than 75% of residential-containing projects.


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