New Neighborhood Voice

November 2, 2003

Santa Clara County Historical Preservation Ordinance
More Information on CEQA

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Received from Dana Peak on 10/31/03:

I thought you might find it helpful to have a little more information with regard to CEQA. CEQA is the principal statute mandating environmental assessment of projects in California. 

The purpose of CEQA is to evaluate whether a proposed project may have an adverse effect on the environment and, if so, if that effect can be reduced or eliminated by pursuing an alternative course of action or through mitigation. CEQA is part of the Public Resources Code (PRC), Sections 21000 et seq.

 The CEQA Guidelines are the regulations that govern the implementation of CEQA. The CEQA Guidelines are codified in the California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 14, Chapter 3, Sections 15000 et seq. and are binding on state and local public agencies.

The basic goal of CEQA is to develop and maintain a high-quality environment now and in the future, while the specific goals of CEQA are for California's public agencies to:

  1. Identify the significant environmental effects of their actions; and, either

  2. Avoid those significant environmental effects, where feasible; or

  3. Mitigate those significant environmental effects, where feasible.

CEQA applies to "projects" proposed to be undertaken or requiring approval by state and local public agencies. "Projects" are activities which have the potential to have a physical impact on the environment and may include the enactment of zoning ordinances, the issuance of conditional use permits and variances and the approval of tentative subdivision maps.

Where a project requires approvals from more than one public agency, CEQA requires ones of these public agencies to serve as the "lead agency." A "lead agency" must complete the environmental review process required by CEQA. The most basic steps of the environmental review process are:

  1. Determine if the activity is a "project" subject to CEQA;

  2. Determine if the "project" is exempt from CEQA;

  3. Perform an Initial Study to identify the environmental impacts of the project and determine whether the identified impacts are "significant". Based on its findings of "significance", the lead agency prepares one of the following environmental review documents:

Negative Declaration if it finds no "significant" impacts;

Mitigated Negative Declaration if it finds "significant" impacts but revises the project to avoid or mitigate those significant impacts;

Environmental Impact Report (EIR) if it finds "significant" impacts.

The purpose of an EIR is to provide State and local agencies and the general public with detailed information on the potentially significant environmental effects that a proposed project is likely to have, to list ways that the significant environmental effects may be minimized and to indicate alternatives to the project.

Here is the link to the State Historic Preservation Office's outline on CEQA and its requirements: 

Dana A. Peak
Historical Heritage Coordinator
Santa Clara County Planning Office
70 West Hedding Street
East Wing - 7th floor
San Jose, CA 95110
Voice: (408) 299-5798
Fax: (408) 288-9198

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Copyrightę 2003 by Judy Thompson.  All rights reserved.