Reasons for Exemption
The proposed project qualifies for exemption from CEQA under two exemption categories: State CEQA Guidelines Section 15268 for ministerial projects, and State CEQA Guidelines Section 15332 for In-Fill Development Projects.
The issuance of a demolition permit for the vacant pizza restaurant on the site is a ministerial action and thus exempt under State CEQA Guidelines Section 15268.
The proposed public safety facility qualifies for exemption under State CEQA Guidelines Section 15332, In-Fill Development Projects, since it meets the following conditions in Section 15332 (a) through (e).
(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 project site is proximate to the Fresno City College campus, which is designated for Public Facilities/College use in the City of Fresno General Plan and zoned Public and Institutional by the City's development code. Establishment of the public safety facility at this location is important in facilitating service to the District and its flagship campus, Fresno City College. The project site itself is designated for Neighborhood Mixed Use in the general plan and development code. The development code indicates that public safety facilities are allowed in the neighborhood mixed use district with a conditional use permit.
(b) The proposed development occurs within city limits on a project site of no more than five acres substantially surrounded by urban uses.
The project site is within the City of Fresno and comprises 0.5 acres. The project site is located on a six-lane arterial street (N. Blackstone Avenue) and is completely surrounded by urban uses: a gas station to the north, urban residences to the west, and fast food restaurants to the south and east.
(c) The project site has no value as habitat for endangered, rare or threatened species.
The project site is located on a six-lane arterial street (N. Blackstone Avenue) and is completely surrounded by urban uses: a gas station to the north, urban residences to the west, and fast food restaurants to the south and east. The area has been developed with urban uses for over 100 years. Therefore, the site would not be of any value as habitat for endangered, rare or threatened species.
(d) Approval of the project would not result in any significant effects relating to traffic, noise, air quality, or water quality.
Traffic: The CEQA Guidelines provide that Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) is the most appropriate measure of transportation impacts. The City of Fresno's CEQA Guidelines for Vehicle Miles Traveled Thresholds (adopted June 25, 2020) provides screening criteria to determine whether projects may be presumed to produce a less than significant VMT impact. The VMT guidelines indicate that the development of institutional/government and public service uses that support community health, safety and welfare may be screened from subsequent CEQA VMT analysis. These facilities (e.g., police stations, fire stations, community centers, refuse stations) are already part of the community and, as a public service, the VMT is accounted for in the existing regional average. The VMT guidelines also screen uses that are located in a High Quality Transit Area. The project site is within a High Quality Transit Area since it is located on Route 1/Q (Bus Rapid Transit), which runs along Blackstone Avenue.
Noise: As with all building projects, there will be some construction noise, but the project site is adjacent to noise sensitive land use (residential) only on its west side and there is an existing concrete block wall between the site and the residential property. Building activity will be temporary and will only occur within the hours allowed by the City's noise regulations (between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00
p.m. on any day except Sunday). Based on the above, construction noise from the site is would not be considered significant.
With regard to operational noise, the project will operate in a substantially similar manner to an office building. It is noted that the project site only has interface with noise sensitive uses (residential) on its west side and there is an existing concrete block wall on the western property line. Operational noise from the project would not be significant.
Air Quality: The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (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 threshold for government offices indicates that up to 40,000 square feet of office space, generating less than 1,000 average daily trips, would not exceed applicable thresholds of significance for criteria pollutants. The proposed project includes 11,500 square feet of floor area and based on the ITE trip generation manual would generate 260 average daily trips. Therefore, the project would not exceed applicable thresholds of significance for criteria pollutants. GHG emissions are not considered substantial due to the small number of vehicular trips, location within a High Quality Transit Area, compliance with Air District rules and regulations, and Title 24/CALGreen requirements in the construction of the project.
Water Quality: The property drains into an existing Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District (FMFCD) storm drain pipeline. Runoff from the site would not be significantly different from the existing commercial land use. FMFCD's storm drainage system is in conformance with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System requirements. Water quality impacts, therefore, would be less than significant.
Based on the above, significant effects related to traffic, noise, air quality, and water quality are not anticipated.
(e) The site can be adequately served by all required utilities and public services.
Since the project site is an existing commercial site within a developed urban area, all utilities and public services are available and already in place.
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.