Projects that meet specific requirements must comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA – pronounced SEE-QWA). CEQA requires that decision makers consider the environmental impacts of a project before the project is constructed. These impacts include, but are not limited to: traffic, geology, hazardous materials, aesthetics, water, air quality and more. CEQA also allows for the public to provide substantive comments during the environmental review process.
What is a Project?
According to the California Natural Resources Agency website, “A project is an activity undertaken by a public agency or a private activity which must receive some discretionary approval (meaning that the agency has the authority to deny the requested permit or approval) from a government agency which may cause either a direct physical change in the environment or a reasonably foreseeable indirect change in the environment.”
Who is the Lead Agency?
The Lead Agency is tasked with making the decision on the project. For the Sierra Gateway Apartments project, the Lead Agency is the City of Rocklin because the project lies within the city limits.
What types of Environmental Review exist?
The environmental review process can take several forms:
Once the review process is selected, the Lead Agency determines the length of time the public will have to review the document and provide substantive comments.
If an EIR is released, then what?
Once the Draft EIR is released for each project, the public, Rocklin decision makers and agencies (e.g. Sierra College, City of Roseville, Placer County Water Agency, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Gas and Electric, etc.) will have a set time frame (usually 30-60 days) to provide substantive comments on the document.
How are the comments responded to?
Once the comments are received, the City must provide a response to comments in the form of a Final EIR. Every comment received will be included in the Final EIR. Everyone will again have a chance to comment on the Final EIR before the document is certified and the project is approved or denied.
Once the Final EIR is complete, who decides the project’s fate?
Typically the Planning Commission, possibly the Recreation Commission, have an opportunity to provide input during the City’s review process. Normally, the Planning Commission makes a recommendation to approve/deny the project and it then goes before the City Council. There should be a public hearing in each instance.
What is the recourse if the City approves the project?
If the project is approved, the public and/or organizations will typically have 30 days to file a lawsuit. That said, entities wishing to file a suit must have participated in the process in order to have legal standing. Additionally, everything of concern must be raised during the comment periods and public hearings otherwise the concern will not be “available” for inclusion in the lawsuit.