Reasons for Exemption
15332. IN-FILL DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS. Class 32 consists of projects characterized as in-fill development meeting the conditions described in this section.
(a) The project is consistent with the applicable general plan designation and all applicable general plan policies as well as with applicable zoning designation and regulations.
The Merced College campus is designated “School” in the Merced General Plan Land Use Map and zoned “R-1-6” (Low Density Residential). Colleges and trade schools are permitted in the R-1-6 zone with a conditional use permit. Continued use as an educational facility is consistent with all applicable general plan policies and longstanding zoning practice for public education facilities.
(b) The proposed development occurs within city limits on a project site of no more than five acres substantially surrounded by urban uses.
The Merced College campus is within the city limits of Merced. The addition of the project would involve construction on less than five acres of the existing campus. The project site is located within the existing campus and is surrounded by other campus uses. The campus is adjacent to urban residential development to the north, west, and south, with nearby medical, commercial, and residential development to the east.
(c) The project site has no value as habitat for endangered, rare or threatened species.
The project is within the existing Merced College campus, which has existed at this location for 58years. The campus consists of buildings, sidewalks, parking lots, turfed and landscaped areas, and campus agricultural land, and is substantially surrounded by urban development. Therefore, the site would not provide appreciable habitat for endangered, rare or threatened species.
(d) Approval of the project would not result in any significant effects relating to air quality, water quality, traffic, and noise.
The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control (Air District) has established thresholds of significance for criteria pollutant emissions, which are based on the Air District's New Source Review (NSR) for stationary sources. Using the project type, size, and the number of vehicle trips, the Air District has pre-quantified emissions and determined values below which it is reasonable to conclude that a project would not exceed applicable thresholds of significance for criteria pollutants (Small Project Analysis Level [SPAL], November 2020). The project, at 14,880 square feet, would be substantially under the 74,400 square feet identified for two-year college educational uses (Table 5) and would also generate less than 1,000 average daily trips. Therefore, the project would not exceed applicable thresholds of significance for criteria pollutants. GHG emissions will be reduced and not considered substantial by complying with the regulations of the Air District and inclusion of energy efficient design features as described in the EDA Environmental Narrative, Section A, 2, Proposed Project and Construction.
The CEQA Guidelines provide that Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) is the most appropriate measure of transportation impacts. The Merced County Association of Governments (MCAG) VMT Thresholds and Implementation Guidelines (September 2022) provides screening criteria to determine whether projects may be presumed to produce a less than significant VMT impact. The MCAG guidelines indicate that a project consistent with the General Plan may be successfully screened if it would generate fewer than 1,000 average daily trips. This project is consistent with the City of Merced General Plan and is expected to have substantially less than 1,000 trips per day due to the limited size of the facility and because many of the students that would use the innovation center would already be enrolled at Merced College. Delivery trucks would operate once or twice a month. On-campus parking capacity would not be exceeded as new parking spaces are included in the project and other nearby parking would be available.
The Merced College campus drains into the City’s storm drainage system and will be subject to National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System requirements. Water quality impacts, therefore, would be less than significant.
As with all building projects, there will be some construction noise, but the project site is not near any residential uses and the college would manage the construction of the project to have a minimal impact on existing college classroom operations.
Therefore, significant effects related to air quality, water quality, traffic, and noise, are not anticipated.
(e) The site can be adequately served by all required utilities and public services.
Since the project is within the existing Merced College campus, all utilities and public services are available and already in place. According to District staff, the new building can be adequately served with all required utilities and services.
The project does not meet any of the exemption exceptions specified in Section 15300.2 in that there is no appreciable cumulative impact associated with the project; the project would not have a significant effect on the environment due to unusual circumstances; the project will not result in damage to scenic resources within a state scenic highway; the project is not located on a hazardous waste site; and the project will not cause a substantial adverse change in the significance of a historical resource.