Legal Resources | | T14 15063
Chapter 3. Guidelines for Implementation of the California Environmental Quality Act Article 5. Preliminary Review of Projects and Conduct of Initial Study Initial Study.
(a) Following preliminary review, the lead agency shall conduct an initial study to determine if the project may have a significant effect on the environment. If the lead agency can determine that an EIR will clearly be required for the project, an initial study is not required but may still be desirable.
(1) All phases of project planning, implementation, and operation must be considered in the initial study of the project.
(2) To meet the requirements of this section, the lead agency may use an environmental assessment or a similar analysis prepared pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act.
(3) An initial study may rely upon expert opinion supported by facts, technical studies or other substantial evidence to document its findings. However, an initial study is neither intended nor required to include the level of detail included in an EIR.
(1) If the agency determines that there is substantial evidence that any aspect of the project, either individually or cumulatively, may cause a significant effect on the environment, regardless of whether the overall effect of the project is adverse or beneficial, the lead agency shall do one of the following:
(A) Prepare an EIR or
(B) Use a previously prepared EIR which the lead agency determines would adequately analyze the project at hand, or
(C) Determine, pursuant to a program EIR, tiering, or another appropriate process, which of a project's effects were adequately examined by an earlier EIR or negative declaration. Another appropriate process may include, for example, a master EIR, a master environmental assessment, approval of housing and neighborhood commercial facilities in urban areas, approval of residential projects pursuant to a specific plan as described in section 15182, approval of residential projects consistent with a community plan, general plan or zoning as described in section 15183, or an environmental document prepared under a State certified regulatory program. The lead agency shall then ascertain which effects, if any, should be analyzed in a later EIR or negative declaration.
(2) The lead agency shall prepare a negative declaration if there is no substantial evidence that the project or any of its aspects may cause a significant effect on the environment.
(c) Purposes. The purposes of an initial study are to:
(1) Provide the lead agency with information to use as the basis for deciding whether to prepare an EIR or negative declaration;
(2) Enable an applicant or lead agency to modify a project, mitigating adverse impacts before an EIR is prepared, thereby enabling the project to qualify for a negative declaration;
(3) Assist the preparation of an EIR, if one is required, by:
(A) Focusing the EIR on the effects determined to be significant,
(B) Identifying the effects determined not to be significant,
(C) Explaining the reasons for determining that potentially significant effects would not be significant, and
(D) Identifying whether a program EIR, tiering, or another appropriate process can be used for analysis of the project's environmental effects.
(4) Facilitate environmental assessment early in the design of a project;
(5) Provide documentation of the factual basis for the finding in a negative declaration that a project will not have a significant effect on the environment;
(6) Eliminate unnecessary EIRs;
(7) Determine whether a previously prepared EIR could be used with the project.
(d) Contents. An initial study shall contain in brief form:
(1) A description of the project including the location of the project;
(2) An identification of the environmental setting;
(3) An identification of environmental effects by use of a checklist, matrix, or other method, provided that entries on a checklist or other form are briefly explained to indicate that there is some evidence to support the entries. The brief explanation may be either through a narrative or a reference to another information source such as an attached map, photographs, or an earlier EIR or negative declaration. A reference to another document should include, where appropriate, a citation to the page or pages where the information is found.
(4) A discussion of ways to mitigate the significant effects identified, if any;
(5) An examination of whether the project would be consistent with existing zoning, plans, and other applicable land use controls;
(6) The name of the person or persons who prepared or participated in the initial study.
(e) Submission of Data. If the project is to be carried out by a private person or private organization, the lead agency may require such person or organization to submit data and information which will enable the lead agency to prepare the initial study. Any person may submit any information in any form to assist a lead agency in preparing an initial study.
(f) Format. Sample forms for an applicant's project description and a review form for use by the lead agency are contained in Appendices G and H. When used together, these forms would meet the requirements for an initial study, provided that the entries on the checklist are briefly explained pursuant to subdivision (d)(3). These forms are only suggested, and public agencies are free to devise their own format for an initial study. A previously prepared EIR may also be used as the initial study for a later project.
(g) Consultation. As soon as a lead agency has determined that an initial study will be required for the project, the lead agency shall consult informally with all responsible agencies and all trustee agencies responsible for resources affected by the project to obtain the recommendations of those agencies as to whether an EIR or a negative declaration should be prepared. During or immediately after preparation of an initial study for a private project, the lead agency may consult with the applicant to determine if the applicant is willing to modify the project to reduce or avoid the significant effects identified in the initial study.
Public Resources Code 21083
Public Resources Code 21080(c)
Public Resources Code 21080.1
Public Resources Code 21080.3
Public Resources Code 21082.1
Public Resources Code 21100
Public Resources Code 21151
Gentry v. City of Murrieta (1995) 36 Cal.App.4th 1359
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center v. County of Stanislaus (1994) 27 Cal.App.4th 713
Leonoff v. Monterey County Board of Supervisors (1990) 222 Cal.App.3d 1337.
(Amended by Register 2005, No. 40.)