Public Agency Determines if the Project May Have a Significant Effect

HOW DOES THE AGENCY DECIDE WHETHER A PROJECT MAY HAVE A SIGNIFICANT EFFECT?

A lead agency must consider direct physical changes which may be caused by and are immediately related to the project and indirect physical changes which are reasonably foreseeable consequences ofthe project. The determination of whether these physical changes may have a significant effect on the environment calls for the careful judgement, based on scientific and factual data and supported by substantial evidence.

WHAT TOOLS ARE AVAILABLE TO THE LEAD AGENCY IN MAKING THIS DETERMINATION?

1. The Environmental Checklist found in Appendix G is a useful tool in conducting the initial study to determine whether there may be significant effects caused by the project. For more on conducting an initial study, see Lead Agency Prepares an Initial Study

2. Existing regulatory standards are an important indication of the level at which a project's impacts are significant. See e.g. Guidelines §15064(h).

3. Certain conditions mandate a finding of significance. They are listed in Guidelines §15065.

4. General guidance to assist lead agencies in making this critical determination is found in Guidelines §15064.

5. Thresholds of significance adopted by lead agencies are the best guide for making this determination. See Guidelines §15064.7.

BASED ON THE ABOVE DETERMINATION, ONE OF THREE DOCUMENTS MUST BE PREPARED.

1. Negative Declaration (ND)

A Negative Declaration (ND) is a written statement briefly describing the reasons why a proposed project will not have a significant environmental impact and that the project will not require the preparation of an EIR. (Public Resources Code § 21064)

2. Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND)

A Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) is a Negative Declaration prepared for a project when the initial study has identified potentially significant effects on the environment but the effects now pose no significant effect on the environment because the project was revised. The revisions to the project plans must mitigate the harmful effects to the environment and there must be no substantial evidence supporting that the revised project will have a negative effect on the environment. (Public Resources Code § 21064.5)

3. Environmental Impact Report (EIR)

An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is an informational document which provides public agencies and the general public with detailed information about the effect that a proposed project is likely to have on the environment. The EIR also lists the ways in which these environmental effects might be minimized and whether there are any alternatives to such a project. (Public Resources Code § 21061, 14 California Code of Regulations § 15121)

See also Deciding Whether to Prepare an EIR or a Negative Declaration

STATUTORY REFERENCES

Determining Environmental Impact | Public Resources Code § 21080.1
Determing Impact/Based on Substantival Evidence | Public Resources Code §21080
Environmental Impact Report Defined | Public Resources Code § 21061
Negative Declaration Defined | Public Resources Code § 21064
Mitigated Negative Declaration Defined | Public Resources Code § 21064.5.
GUIDELINE REFERENCES
Decision to Prepare a Negative or Mitigated Negative Declaration | 14 California Code of Regulations §15070
Initial Study | 14 California Code of Regulations § 15102
Determining Significance | 14 California Code of Regulations §15060(c)
When Initial Study is Not Required | 14 California Code of Regulations §15060(c)
Purposes of Initial Study | 14 California Code of Regulations §15063
Determining Significance | 14 California Code of Regulations §15064
Thresholds of Significance | 14 California Code of Regulations §15064.7
Mandatory Findings of Significance | 14 California Code of Regulations §15065
Definition of Initial Study | 14 California Code of Regulations §15365
Environmental Checklist Form | Appendix G
Environmental Information Form | Appendix H

SELECTED CASE LAW

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
County of Inyo v. Yorty(1973) 32 Cal. App. 3d 795
No Oil, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles(1974) 13 Cal. 3d 68
People ex rel. Department of Public Works v. Bosio(1975) 47 Cal. App. 3d 495
People v. County of Kern(1974) 39 Cal. App. 3d 830
Friends of Mammoth v. Board of Supervisors(1972) 8 Cal. 3d 247
Laurel Heights Improvement Association v. Regents of the University of California(1988) 47 Cal. 3d 376
Bowman v. Petaluma(1986) 185 Cal. App. 3d 1065

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