The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is multi-purpose law in the State of California that is intended to inform decision makers and the public of the environmental consequences of projects, involve the public in decision-making related to environmental effects, and to prevent needless environmental damage. It is a tool used to evaluate the potential impacts on the environment by the proposed project. CEQA review is required for any project undertaken by a public agency or approved by a public agency through discretionary judgment. The City has several functions. to fulfill in the CEQA process; these include the ability to require modifications to projects for approval, disapprove projects, or approve projects despite their environmental consequences. The City can also charge fees or comment on projects. Depending on the extent of CEQA evaluation required for a project, there are multiple types of CEQA documents, depending on the scale and nature of potential impacts the project may pose.
What are the types of CEQA Documents?
Once the City has determined that a project does not qualify for any CEQA exemptions, it must first conduct an Initial Study to assess and document whether the project will have significant environmental effects. If the project does not have any potentially significant environmental effects, it is not subject to CEQA and the City can file a Negative Declaration asserting this fact, exempting it from completing a more in-depth environmental study. If the project does have significant effects that can be mitigated through changes to the project that the applicant agrees to implement, the City can file a Mitigated Negative Declaration. A Mitigated Negative Declaration also exempts the City from completing a more in-depth environmental study. For those projects that have significant effects that cannot be mitigated, the City must file a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that documents all possible significant effects on the environment. Once an EIR has been prepared, the City must circulate it for public review and comment. All comments must be addressed in the Final EIR. After the EIR process is complete, the City can proceed with consideration of the project. If a project is approved despite significant environmental effects, the City must issue a Statement of Overriding Considerations that explains the City’s justification for approval.
Fish & Game Fee Process
Recently enacted legislation (AM 3158, Chapter 1706, Statues of 1990, effective 1/1/91) requires that the Department of Fish and Game impose and collect filing fees to defray the cost of managing and protecting fish and wildlife trust resources. These fees are collected during the environmental review process and are intended to be paid at the time the lead agency files a “Notice of Determination” (NOD) with the County Clerk. Under this legislation, your project approval “is not operative, vested or final” until the fees are paid. This legislation requires payment of the following Fish & Games fees: $2,036.25 for filing an NOD for a project approved under a Negative Declaration; $2,818.25 for filing an NOD for a project approved following preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). However, the Fish & Game fee may not apply to all projects. During the City’s preparation of the environmental documents for your project, we will determine if the Fish & Game fee must be paid. If so, the Planning Department will inform you of the requirement.