Lead Agency Prepares an
 Initial Study

Why Does a Lead Agency Prepare an Initial Study?

  • To determine whether the project may have a significant effect on the environment. (i.e. whether an EIR or negative declaration should be prepared.)
  • To identify measures that mitigate project impacts to a less than significant level (mitigated negative declaration)
  • To define the scope of the EIR.
  • To justify lead agency's decision to adopt a negative declaration.
  • To determine whether to rely on a previously prepared EIR.

When Does the Lead Agency Prepare an Initial Study?

  • Within 30 days after accepting application as complete if the lead agency determines that the activity is a "project " and is not exempt.

Must a Lead Agency Prepare an Initial Study?

  • If the need for an EIR is unclear, the lead agency must prepare and intial study.
  • If the lead agency can determine an EIR will be required, an initial study is not required.

What are the Requirements of an Initial Study?

  • Only one initial study is required for each project.
  • Lead agency may use environmental assesment document (NEPA) or similar analysis as initial study for CEQA purposes.
  • Lead agency may use the environmental checklist form found in Appendix I.

Contents of an Initial Study:

  • project description
  • environmental setting
  • potential environmental impacts and brief explanations to support findings
  • mitigation measures for any significant effects
  • consistency with plans and policies
  • names of parties responsible for preparation

Determination of EIR or Negative Declaration | Public Resources Code §21080(c)
Determination of Environmental Impact | Public Resources Code §21080.1
Consultation with Other Agencies | Public Resources Code §21080.3
Initial Study for Later Projects | Public Resources Code §21094


Narrowing Scope | 14 California Code of Regulations §15006(d)
When Initial Study is Not Required | 14 California Code of Regulations §15060(c)
Purposes of Initial Study | 14 California Code of Regulations §15063
TimeLimits | 14 California Code of Regulations §15102
Dismissal of Environmental Effects | 14 Cal ifornia Code of Regulations §15143
Use of Previous EIR | 14 California Code of Regulations §15153
Use with Subsequent EIRs and negative declarations | 14 California Code of Regulations §15168(d)
Definition of Initial Study | 14 California Code of Regulations §15365
Environmental Information Form | Appendix H
Environmental Checklist Form | Appendix I


Silveira v. Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary Dist.(1997) 54 Cal.App.4th 980
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center v. County of Stanislaus (1996) 42 Cal.App.4th 608
Gentry v.City of Murietta (1995) 36 Cal.App.4th 1359
Uhler v. City of Encinitas(1991) 227 Cal.App.3d 795
Sundstrom v. County of Mendocino(1988) 202 Cal.App.3d 296
Citizens Association for Sensible Development v. County of Inyo(1985) 172 Cal.App.3d 151