What Is the Environmental Review Process?
Environmental review is a key part of the review process for projects requiring discretionary decisions. All discretionary decisions are subject to environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). This process begins when a complete application for a permit or other approval is received by City staff. The environmental review process occurs at the same time and in parallel with all other project review. Projects cannot be scheduled for a decision or public hearing until either the project is determined to be exempt from CEQA or the appropriate environmental document has been distributed for public review and then finalized. City staff's review of the project for conformance with development regulations and policies can often be finished prior to the completion of the environmental document. Public hearings to make decisions on projects are often held 2-3 weeks after the environmental document has been finalized.
What is the Basic Purpose of CEQA?
The basic purposes of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) are to:
- Inform governmental decision-makers and the public about the potential significant environmental effect of proposed activities.
- Identify the ways that environmental damage can be avoided or significantly reduced.
- Prevent significant, avoidable damage to the environment by requiring changes in projects through the use of alternatives or mitigation measures when the governmental agency finds the changes to be feasible.
- Disclose to the public the reasons why a governmental agency approved a project in the manner the agency chose if significant environmental effects are involved.
CEQA establishes a duty for public agencies to avoid or minimize environmental damage where feasible. A public agency should not approve a project as proposed if there are feasible alternatives or mitigation measures available that would substantially lessen any significant effects that the project would have on the environment.