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.
The basic purposes of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) are to:
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.