What were the projected traffic levels for the originally approved Five Lagunas Project? What is the difference between retail development and apartment development with respect to traffic?

The standard approach to evaluating traffic impacts is based on a concept known as “Level of Service” or “LOS.”  This metric evaluates congestion on streets and intersections based on the capacity of a street to carry traffic.  LOS is also a standard contained in the City’s General Plan.  The City’s LOS standards are described based on a lettering system - LOS A through LOS F, with LOS A being the best.  At LOS A drivers enjoy free flowing traffic conditions with individual drivers virtually unaffected by other vehicles on the street.  LOS D is the heaviest congestion level allowed by the General Plan.  At LOS D, high-density traffic flow restricts speed and the ability to maneuver although traffic flows remain constant.  There is an exception to the General Plan standard for one City intersection located at El Toro Road and Avenida de la Carlota which is part of a county-wide traffic plan known as a Congestion Management Plan (CMP).  CMP intersections may maintain a LOS E.  It should be noted that Orange County refers to its CMP as the “Master Plan of Arterial Highways.”

The State also requires cities to consider “vehicle miles traveled” or “VMT.”  This is related to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and is a component of State policies that require cities to address climate change when considering new development.  The State’s environmental goal is to reduce VMT thereby reducing vehicle-related air emissions that contribute to climate change.  Using public transit and carpooling reduce VMT and could also reduce traffic congestion.

For the approved 2016 Five Lagunas Project, a full traffic study was conducted which analyzed 61 intersections in and around the city for traffic impacts.  When compared against traffic from mall operations, the Five Lagunas project was expected to result in an increase of only 6,434 additional vehicle trips per day.  The increase was offset by the demolition of commercial building areas like Sears and the south half of the mall which housed retail uses.  The addition of 988 multi-family units did not create significant traffic impacts since one (1) multi-family unit only generates about six (6) vehicle trips per day versus shopping centers, which generate about 43 vehicle trips per 1,000 square feet.  The demolition of 1,000 square feet of retail could be replaced by seven (7) multi-family units and not result in a net increase in traffic.  Traffic from the original operation of the mall was estimated at nearly 25,000 trips per day, even though actual traffic was lower.  Based on the 2016 PM Peak Hour traffic counts, traffic levels were half of what would be expected for a retail center the size of the former mall.  Documented peak hour traffic levels reflected daily traffic of about 13,000 vehicles per day when the mall was still open.

Expected traffic from various land uses is based on surveys from the Institute of Traffic Engineers (ITE) which is a nationally recognized data source for traffic information (see FAQ 3).  The traffic study for Five Lagunas determined that the project complied with the City’s General Plan traffic standards with some modifications to planned on-site traffic improvements.  VMT was not studied in 2016 since there was no requirement to do so at the time.  A new traffic study will be prepared for MGP’s new proposed project.


Linscott, Law & Greenspan Traffic Impact Analysis for the Addendum to the City of Laguna Hills General Plan Program Environmental Impact Report for the Five Lagunas Project, Table 7, November 13, 2015.

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1. Explain the current zoning, conditional use permits, and land use for the 68-acre property [Village at Laguna Hills] and adjacent developments. What can/can’t the City Council control?
2. What is the status of the plan MGP showed the community at their April 2019 Community Forum? How does it compare to the approved 2016 plan?
3. How much housing does the City’s Zoning Code allow on the property?
4. Does the City consider traffic in evaluating development proposals in the UVSP?
5. In 2016, the City approved over 926,000 sq. feet of retail and office building area and 988 dwelling units. If MGP is an established developer, why has Five Lagunas taken so long to get started?
6. What does the City Council see as a viable solution for the development of the site? When considering a new development, does and can the City Council factor in the greater good of the community?
7. How do the new and future proposed/approved Oakbrook apartments factor into any decision making?
8. What are current vacancy rates for existing apartment complexes?
9. Why doesn’t the City insist MGP provide more retail space and less office and housing space?
10. What creates the most value for the city and community: High-density multifamily housing, retail, or commercial office?
11. What kind of retail space can residents expect to see since the outlook for traditional storefronts is so negative?
12. How much revenue has the City lost from the mall closing?
13. How has the City responded to this loss of revenue?
14. How will property taxes benefit the city and how much will the city actually receive?
15. How does more development on the site, especially more residential development, impact community infrastructure such as police services, fire and paramedic services, traffic, water, schools, etc.?
16. What were the projected traffic levels for the originally approved Five Lagunas Project? What is the difference between retail development and apartment development with respect to traffic?
17. How will high-density apartments/multifamily housing benefit residents? Did the 09 General Plan call for 200 apartments w/ options to add more in future phases? Are the approved 988 units mandated
18. What if residents do not want to see more housing developed beyond the 988 units approved in 2016 in a future project?
19. Why doesn’t the City simply ignore State housing element law?
20. What is the City’s obligation to help address the Statewide/federal affordable housing shortage, including low-income and homeless shelters?
21. What exactly is the Housing Crisis Act (SB 330) and how does it impact the new project submitted by MGP?
22. What are the key steps involved in the entitlement process?
23. How long will it take for the project to reach the public hearing?