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CEQA Overview

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Overview of the California Environmental Quality Act: statute adoption, legal basis, implementation, technical considerations and methodologies, impact assessment, mitigation and litigation.

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CEQA Overview

  1. 1. CP110: Introduction to City Planning Environmental Impact Assessment UC Berkeley April 4, 2011
  2. 2. Today’s Lecture -Understand the basics of CEQA -Understand the role of a Lead Agency -Q&A
  3. 3. About the Planning Department
  4. 4. MISSION STATEMENT “The San Francisco Planning Department promotes the orderly, harmonious use of land and improved quality of life for our diverse community and future generations.”
  5. 5. Role of the Department in San Francisco The Department:  Works with elected officials, community organizations, and other stakeholders and policymakers to prioritize policy goals for San Francisco  Provides the policy structure and framework for land use issues  Develops and supports social policy through land use and related mechanisms  Reviews development for conformity to the Planning Code  Acts as Lead Agency for CEQA, ensuring that environmental impacts reviewed and disclosed
  6. 6. Planning Department Organizational Structure Planning Commission Planning Director Administration Major Environmental Analysis Neighborhood Planning Operations Zoning Administrator Citywide Planning
  7. 7. Citywide Planning  Long Range Planning  Provides policy development and implementation tools through • Professional expertise • Coordination with community, policymakers
  8. 8. Neighborhood Planning  Current Planning  Implements land use policy through review of development permits
  9. 9. Major Environmental Analysis (MEA)  Identifies potential for adverse impacts of proposed projects and policies  Mitigates effects through implementation of Mitigation Measures, or through the development of project alternatives that reduce, avoid or eliminate significant project impacts  Disseminates information to the public and decision-makers
  10. 10. Context
  11. 11. Enacted in 1970 in response to growing awareness of environmental impacts must be carefully considered in order to avoid unanticipated environmental problems resulting from development or planning efforts
  12. 12. McAteer-Petris Act (est. BCDC) in 1965 National Environmental Policy Act 1969 California Environmental Quality Act 1970 California Coastal Commission 1972 Clean Water Act 1972
  13. 13. Legislative Intent
  14. 14. Promote public participation Disclose potential adverse physical impacts on the environment Prevent environmental damage Reduce environmental effects through mitigation and project alternatives
  15. 15. Establishes state Office of Planning and Research (OPR) Issues mandatory CEQA Guidelines Acts as a Clearinghouse, distributes CEQA documents to Trustee and Responsible Agencies for review and comment
  16. 16. Applies to “projects” that require discretionary approval (versus ministerial approval) Initially applied only to public projects, later broadened through Frie nd s o f Mam m o th v. Mo no Co unty
  17. 17. Project: any activity which may cause either a direct physical change in the environment, or a reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change in the environment Projects could include legislation
  18. 18. Environment: the physical conditions which exist within the area which will be affected by a proposed project, including land, air, water, minerals, flora, fauna, noise, and objects of historic and aesthetic significance Socio-economic effects (e.g., cost of housing, gentrification, etc.) are outside the scope of CEQA
  19. 19. A “lead agency” is the public agency which has the principal responsibility for carrying out or approving a project which may have a significant effect on the environment Responsible and/or trustee agencies could also be involved in the CEQA process
  20. 20. Practical Application
  21. 21. Objective, quantitative and qualitative analysis of Environmental Factors Aesthetics, Ag/Forestry Resources, Air Quality, Biological Resources, Cultural Resources, Geology and Soils, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Hazards/Hazardous Materials, Hydrology, Land Use, Mineral Resources, Noise, Population and Housing, Public Services, Recreation, Transportation, Utilities, Mandatory Findings of Significance
  22. 22. Significance Criteria -would the project: “disrupt or divide the neighborhood?” (Land Use); “substantially degrade the existing visual character or obstruct a scenic vista?” (Aesthetics) “result in material damage to an historic resource? (Cultural Resources)
  23. 23. Thresholds of Significance -qualitative and/or quantitative for direct and cumulative impacts -relates to the change (delta) in baseline conditions to future conditions with project; outcome is what is significant (or not) -lead agency may adopt local standards
  24. 24. Process
  25. 25. Exemptions -Categorical Exemptions -Statutory Exemptions -Community Plan Exemptions
  26. 26. Initial Studies Review of all environmental factors; scoping document Lead agency analyzes potential for environmental effects Makes findings for each environmental factor: “less than significant; “less than significant with mitigation” or “potentially significant”
  27. 27. Negative Declarations written statement briefly describing the reasons that a proposed project will not have a significant effect on the environment and does not require preparation of an environmental impact report. attached to Initial Study circulated for public review for 20-30 days and adopted administratively
  28. 28. Environmental Impact Reports Required when projects have the potential to significantly impact the environment May be “focused”, “project”, “program” Initial Studies used to focus analysis and review Draft EIRs circulated for public review and comment for 45 days
  29. 29. Environmental Impact Reports comments responded to in writing; Lead Agency prepares “Comments & Responses document” Draft EIR + Comments & Responses = Final EIR government board or body certifies the FEIR as “adequate, accurate, objective and complete.” environmental findings
  30. 30. Environmental Impact Reports CEQA requires lead agency identify MITIGATION MEASURES for significant impacts courts have held EIRs must discuss feasibility of mitigation and that mitigation have a nexus to the effect they relate to EIRS must include range of ALTERNATIVES that reduce, avoid or eliminate significant impacts
  31. 31. Environmental Impact Reports alternatives must include a “NO PROJECT” alternative to describe what could happen if project is not implemented other alternatives could include a “reduced intensity alternative” (e.g., generates less traffic); “preservation alternative” (e.g., adaptive reuse of historic building); “off site alternative” (e.g., avoids any peculiar condition at subject property)
  32. 32. Environmental Impact Reports CEQA permits a Lead Agency to approve projects despite SIGNIFICANT UNAVOIDABLE IMPACTS agency must prepare a STATEMENT OF OVERRIDING CONSIDERATIONS detailing social, legal, technical, economic benefits of a project that outweigh its environmental impacts
  33. 33. Appeals exemptions, Neg Decs and EIRs may be appealed statute requires final appeal adjudicated by ELECTED BODY (e.g., in SF Board of Supervisors) exemptions/Neg Decs: FAIR ARGUMENT STANDARD EIRs: SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE STANDARD
  34. 34. Appeals if Exemption or Neg Dec appealed and decision-makers find potential for impact, additional analysis required, possibly in EIR (fair argument) EIRs could be appealed on the grounds that there is substantial evidence of potential impact, could require additional analysis and recirculation appellants must exhaust administrative remedies, before litigating in court
  35. 35. Project Approval Commission, Board or other decision-making body cannot consider project approval (e.g., Conditional Use permit, General Plan Amendment, Variance, Master Plan, etc) until environmental review is completed and all administrative appeal remedies are exhausted. Litigation could put injunction against project until courts make final determination on CEQA
  36. 36. thank you

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