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Planning Division - California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

The Planning Division has published the latest CEQA documents under consideration in Siskiyou County in their Resource Center with CEQA being the leading text string in the description.

The California Environmental Quality Act requires local and state governments to consider the potential environmental effects of a project before making a decision on it. CEQA's purpose is to disclose the potential impacts of a project, suggest methods to minimize those impacts, and discuss project alternatives so that decision-makers will have full information upon which to base their decision. A project, as defined by CEQA, is any action that has the potential for a direct or indirect impact on the environment. A project can be any of the following: 1) an activity of a public agency, 2) an activity of someone who receives assistance, such as grants or loans, from a public agency, 3) an activity that involves receiving a lease, permit, or other permission for use that is issued by a public agency.

The agency with the principal responsibility for issuing permits to a project, or for carrying out the project, is called the lead agency. As such, this agency is responsible for determining whether or not a project will significantly impact the environment and, when necessary, for analyzing the project's possible environmental impacts (or contracting for this work to be done under its direction). The planning department is usually the lead agency in local planning matters.

Analyzing a project's potential environmental impacts is a multi-step process. Many minor projects, such as single-family homes, remodeling, and accessory structures are exempt from the CEQA requirements. Exempt projects require no environmental review.

When a project is not exempt, and therefore, subject to review, the lead agency prepares an initial study to assess the potential adverse environmental impacts. If the project will not cause any significant impacts on the environment or if it has been redesigned to eliminate any significant impacts, a negative declaration is written. If significant environmental impacts are identified, then an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) must be written before the project can be considered by decision makers. Upon approval of a project for which a negative declaration is adopted or an EIR certified, the city or county must also adopt a monitoring program to ensure that the mitigation measures will be completed as required.

Both negative declarations and EIRs are objective, informational documents. They neither approve nor deny a project. Environmental analysis must be done as early as possible in the process of considering a project and must address the entire project. The CEQA Guidelines describes the different types of EIRs that may be prepared.

CEQA - Substantial Evidence & Significant Impact

The decision to prepare a Negative Declaration or an Environmental Impact Report is one of the most critical aspects of the environmental review process under CEQA. An EIR is required when it can be fairly argued that there is substantial evidence in the record that a project may have a significant effect on the environment. Otherwise, a Negative Declaration may be prepared.

Accordingly, in determining whether a negative declaration or EIR is to be prepared, an important test must be made as to whether or not there is substantial evidence that there may be a significant impact.

It is important to note that the existence of public controversy over the environmental effects of a project will not require preparation of an EIR if there is no substantial evidence before the agency that the project may have a significant effect on the environment.  In addition, evidence of economic and social impacts that do not contribute to or are not caused by physical changes in the environment is not substantial evidence that the project may have a significant effect on the environment.

This discussion is intended to be a general information tool on two important tests to determine whether a project can be processed under a Negative Declaration or whether an EIR is required.

Should you have any questions about a project’s environmental review, you are urged to contact the Planning Department so that any issues can be identified and addressed at the earliest possible time in the review process.

 

CEQA - What is Substantial Evidence?

Substantial Evidence Is:

  • Facts
  • Reasonable assumptions-predicated on facts
  • Expert opinion supported by facts

Substantial Evidence Is Not:

  • Argument
  • Speculation
  • Unsubstantiated opinion or narrative
  • Clearly inaccurrate or erroneous information

- CEQA Guidelines Section 15384

CEQA - What is a Significant Impact?

The determination of whether a project may have a significant effect on the environment is a critical step in the CEQA process. This determination should be based on information in the record and on scientific and factual data. The CEQA Guidelines Section 15382, sets forth the following definition for significant effect:

“Significant effect on the environment” means a substantial, or potentially substantial, adverse change in any of the physical conditions within the area affected by the project, including land, air, water, minerals, flora, fauna, ambient noise, and objects of historic or aesthetic significance."

The Guidelines also indicate that an ironclad definition of significant effect is not possible because the significance of an activity may vary with the setting.

However, according to CEQA Statutes Section 21083, (Significance Guidelines) and CEQA Guidelines Section 15065 (Mandatory Findings of Significance), if any of the following impacts would result from a proposed project, the project is considered to have a significant effect on the environment:

  • The project has the potential to substantially degrade the quality of the environment, substantially reduce the habitat of fish or wildlife population, cause a fish or wildlife species to drop below self-sustaining levels, threaten to eliminate a plant or animal community, significantly reduce the number or restrict the range of an endangered, rare, or threatened species, or eliminate important examples of the major periods of California history or prehistory.
  • The project has the potential to achieve short-term environmental goals to the disadvantage of long-term environmental goals.
  • The project has possible environmental effects which are individually limited but cumulatively considerable. “Cumulatively considerable” means that the incremental effects of an individual project are considerable when viewed in connection with the effects of past projects, the effects of other current projects and the effects of reasonably foreseeable probable future projects (as defined in Guidelines Section 15130).
  • The environmental effects of a project will cause substantial adverse effects on human beings, either directly or indirectly.

Planning Resource Center

Resource Title Downloadable File Type
General Plan Scott Valley Area Plan Excessive Slope Map Download File General Plan
General Plan Scott Valley Area Plan Flood Plain Map Download File General Plan
General Plan Scott Valley Area Plan Government Owned Land Map Download File General Plan
General Plan Scott Valley Area Plan Landslide Map Download File General Plan
General Plan Scott Valley Area Plan Prime Agriculture Map Download File General Plan
General Plan Seismic Safety & Safety Element Download File General Plan
PLN-Urgency Ordinance No. 17-11 Established a Moritorium on Commercial Cannabis Activities Download File Ordinance

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