County CEQA Guidelines Update

Background Information:

On May 9, 2018, the Department of Planning and Building sponsored a workshop on the County's local California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) guidelines designed to solicit input for an update to the County CEQA Guidelines.

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) generally requires state and local government agencies to inform decision makers and the public about the potential environmental impacts of proposed projects, and to reduce those environmental impacts to the extent feasible. If a project subject to CEQA will not cause any adverse environmental impacts, a public agency adopts a brief document known as a Negative Declaration. If the project may cause adverse environmental impacts, the public agency must prepare a more detailed study called an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). An EIR contains in-depth studies of potential impacts, measures to reduce or avoid those impacts, and an analysis of alternatives to the project. A key feature of the CEQA process is the opportunity for the public to review and provide input on both Negative Declarations and EIRs.

Public agencies are required to adopt criteria, objectives, and procedures for implementing CEQA. These are in addition to the statewide guidelines. The County CEQA Guidelines (County Guidelines) were adopted on August 15, 1995. The purpose of the County Guidelines are to condense the otherwise voluminous standards and regulations of the State Guidelines into an easy to understand and concise document, and provide definitions, procedures, criteria, and objectives for the implementation of CEQA in the County. The County Guidelines are intended to facilitate County compliance with CEQA and standardize procedures for the evaluation of projects and the preparation of environmental documents when the County of San Luis Obispo is the Lead, Responsible, or Reviewing Agency under CEQA. The County Guidelines incorporate by reference the State Guidelines.

Following Board direction on February 21, 2017, staff conducted a series of public outreach meetings with industry professionals and members of the public representing environmental interest groups. These meetings resulted in a better understanding as to how the County may improve the County Guidelines. Discussion topics included County Guidelines consistency with state guidelines, comparison of the County with other similar jurisdictions, the County's current environmental impact report (EIR) professional practice, establishing local thresholds of significance, and release of the Administrative draft EIR to the applicant and as a public document. This information was presented to the Board on December 5, 2017. The Board directed staff to continue their efforts in public outreach and solicit additional information from interested parties as to how the County Guidelines could be modified and improved.

On May 9, 2018, the Department of Planning and Building sponsored a public workshop on the County's local CEQA guidelines designed to solicit input for an update to the County Guidelines. In attendance were a mix of industry professionals, developers, consultants, representatives from local environmental interest groups, as well as members from the general public. Staff provided a brief presentation on the County Guidelines and state guidelines. Following the presentation staff asked those in attendance to provide comments on the following topics:

  • EIR preparation process
  • Timing and cost of the environmental review process
  • Public involvement in the environmental review process
  • Applicant involvement in the environmental review process
  • Thresholds of Significance
  • Availability of the Administrative Draft EIR

Comments were collected and are available for review.

A revised version of the County CEQA Guidelines was submitted by the CEQA Working Group at the May 9, 2018 workshop. Participants involved in creating the draft include Carol Florence, Victor Montgomery, Dave Watson, Dan Lloyd, Brad Brechwald, Sophie Treder, Tim Walters, T. Keith Gurnee, Todd Smith, and Lenny Grant). The CEQA Working Group Draft Suggested Modifications is available for review.

The input and information received from this workshop will be provided to the Board of Supervisors following an update to the state guidelines.

Project Contacts

For additional information, please contact Robert Fitzroy, Deputy Director, by phone at (805)781-5708 or by email: [email protected] (if e-mailing, please indicate "Inquiry: CEQA Guidelines" in Subject line).  

Next Steps:

Step

Timeline

Status

Receive BOS direction

February 21, 2017

Completed

Conduct outreach

Summer 2017

Completed

Report to BOS

December 2017

Completed

Conduct additional public outreach

May 2018

Completed

Review and tabulate public input 

May 2018

Completed

Follow State updates

Fall to Winter 2018

Ongoing

Report to the BOS with findings and recommendations based on Dec 4th, 2018 BofS Direction

Spring 2019

In Progress; staff report available March 5th or 6th, 2019

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