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March 5, 2013

CEQA Streamlining for Urban Infill – OPR’s New CEQA Guidelines Take Effect

CEQA Streamlining for Urban Infill – OPR’s New CEQA Guidelines Take Effect

By Andrea A. Matarazzo

The Governor’s Office of Planning & Research (“OPR”) has finalized its “Infill Streamlining” updates to the CEQA Guidelines, which OPR developed pursuant to SB 226 (Simitian, 2011) and are now in effect. The goal of SB 226 was to reduce duplicative review and add certainty to the development process.  According to OPR, these additions to the CEQA Guidelines in section 15183.3 further the purposes of SB 226 by setting forth a streamlined review process for infill projects.  The update also contains the performance standards that will be used to determine an infill project’s eligibility for that streamlined review:

• Section 15183.3 (Streamlining for Infill Projects)

• Appendix M (Performance Standards)

• Appendix N (Infill Environmental Checklist Form)

OPR has also formulated a flow chart designed to illustrate the streamlining virtues of the new approach:

 

http://www.opr.ca.gov/docs/InfillStreamliningFlowchart.pdf

 

This new approach is intended to allow a lead agency to streamline environmental review for individual infill projects by avoiding duplication of analysis prepared during planning-level or “programmatic” review.  Under the new CEQA Guidelines, a project must satisfy the performance standards and specific criteria for that project category set forth in Appendix M.  If the project meets the performance standards and applicable criteria in Appendix M, and also satisfies other specific planning and density criteria, then the lead agency can rely on previous analyses prepared for planning-level decisions, and need only address any project-specific impacts not previously addressed in either an EIR or a Negative Declaration.  If the lead agency determines that there will be no project-specific effects, it is encouraged to file a Notice of Exemption.

The new CEQA Guidelines also allow the lead agency to rely on uniformly applicable development policies to rule out a project-specific effect.  Appendix N contains a sample checklist for determining whether all streamlining criteria are satisfied and the extent to which project impacts were previously addressed at the planning level.

Authored by:

Andrea A. Matarazzo

Andrea’s practice focuses on land use law and related environmental issues in California and the western United States.  She assists developers, business owners, and public agencies in all aspects of project permitting and entitlements, environmental compliance, and litigation, particularly in connection with environmental review under CEQA and NEPA.  Her practice includes planning and zoning law, endangered species regulations, air quality, water supply and water quality mandates, wetlands, and other regulatory requirements.

(916) 496-8500

(916) 737-5838 (Direct)

andrea@pioneerlawgroup.net

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