The Environmental Review process is a legally mandated process that makes sure that public and private development projects do not harm the environment. "Environment" means the conditions in the area that could be changed by the project. This includes land, air water, minerals, plant life, animal life, noise, traffic and objects of historic or aesthetic importance. The purpose of studying these conditions is to come up with measures to minimize any negative effects from the project.
Environmental review is conducted for all projects that are not exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). These projects may be significant in size or impact and include annexations, rezoning, major subdivisions and others.
A project application will be reviewed to find out if it is exempt from, or subject to, the environmental review process.
The State of California (CEQA) exempts several types of projects from the environmental review process. These types of projects almost never have serious environmental effects. A minor addition to an existing building is an example of this exemption.
If a project is subject to Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a case planner will carry out an Initial Study. This study will find out what effects the project may have on the environment. This study also will find out what measures can be taken to reduce negative impacts. After the Initial Study has been completed, it will be determined whether a Negative Declaration or a previously certified Environmental Impact Report (EIR) can be used, or if a new EIR must be prepared. If the project is not exempt from CEQA you will need to pay a fee when you submit your application.
If the Initial Study shows that the project will not cause any significant effects, a Negative Declaration will be prepared. This also will happen if you propose to implement mitigation measures that will reduce these effects to a tolerable level.
The decision-making body (Staff, Planning Commission, Design Review Board or City Council) will either adopt or reject the Negative Declaration. If rejected, more information or a draft EIR may be required.
Environmental Impact Reports
If the Initial Study reveals that the project may have a significant negative effect on the environment, and you have proposed inadequate or no mitigation, an EIR will be ordered by the City. Current state law requires the City to prepare the EIR or to contract directly with a qualified consultant for its preparation. The applicant must agree to participate in the preparation of the EIR.
Once a consultant is selected, the applicant must deposit with the City the entire cost for the preparation of the EIR. The applicant is also required to deposit with the City 15% of the total contract amount to cover administrative costs. Both amounts must be paid before the EIR can be started. A draft EIR is prepared first, followed by the final EIR.
Draft Environmental Impact Report
Once the draft EIR is published, it will be distributed to agencies, organizations with an interest in the project, as well as to the general public. Interested parties will be allowed at least 30 days, but not more than 90 days, to review and comment on the draft EIR.
The decision-making body must decide if the draft EIR and the responses to comments are adequate or inadequate. Inadequate EIRs will be returned to the City for more study and information.
Final Environmental Impact Report
This document contains the draft EIR and responses to all comments on the draft EIR. The final EIR will be made available to those who submitted comments on the draft EIR. Before further consideration of the project, the decision-making body must review the final EIR and verify that it was prepared in compliance with CEQA or determine that the final EIR is inadequate and return it.
If the final EIR is found inadequate, no action may be taken on the project. If the final EIR is certified, your project may then be considered for approval. Compliance with the findings identified in the EIR and Negative Declaration will be made part of the approval of the project. The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing to review and comment on the final EIR. This document will be either rejected or certified by the Planning Commission or the City Council.