PLANNING SERVICESEnvironmental Review
The California Environmental Quality Act (referred to as “CEQA” and found in Section 21000 et. seq. of the Public Resource Code of the State of California “PRC”) together with the State CEQA Guidelines promulgated by the California Office of Planning and Research are intended to enhance the long-term protection of the environment and to encourage public participation in the process. They present objectives, criteria, and procedures for the evaluation of projects and the preparation of Categorical Exemptions, Negative Declarations and Environmental Impact Reports.
State law requires that an environmental assessment be undertaken for projects that have the potential to have an impact on the environment. All development projects have such potential impacts, and so all projects must be assessed under CEQA. Most land use policies may affect the environment and are also subject to review under CEQA. There are three levels of CEQA review:
Many types of smaller development projects or projects that can be seen with certainty to have no significant detrimental impact on the environment are generally exempt from CEQA. For example, an addition to a single family home or the construction of a new home are generally exempt from CEQA review. While many smaller projects are exempt, it should be recognized that certain circumstances may trigger a higher level of CEQA review.
When staff concludes that a project is not exempt and has the potential to have some impacts on the environment, staff will conduct an “Initial Study”. Upon completion of the Initial Study, staff can come to one of two conclusions:
- Negative Declaration. Under the specific circumstances of the particular case, there are no potentially significant impacts; or any identified potentially significant impacts can be mitigated to a less-than-significant level through the adoption of mitigation measures. Under these circumstances, the project is eligible for a “Negative Declaration” (also referred to as a Neg Dec). If there are no significant impacts, then no mitigation measures will be adopted. Should impacts be identified, then mitigation measures shall be adopted as part of the project.
- Environmental Impact Report. If the Initial Study identifies one or more significant impacts on the environment, and those impacts cannot be mitigated to a less than significant level, then an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) shall be prepared. An EIR will consider potential impacts and mitigations, and also alternatives to the project that would not cause those significant impacts or would have lesser impacts than the proposed project.
Once the appropriate environmental determination and the Negative Declaration or EIR is prepared, the City will proceed to act on the development project.