UC CEQA Handbook: 2.3 - Project Definition/Classification/Initial Study
Section 2.3 in PDF Format
After deciding to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for a proposed project through the Initial Study Process, the campus must determine which type of EIR is appropriate. The following provides an overview of the types of ElRs to be considered (See CEQA Guidelines Article 11).
A Program EIR is prepared on a series of actions that can be characterized as one large project, such as for an LRDP (CEQA Guidelines Section 15168). A Program EIR generally establishes a framework for "tiered" or project-level environmental documents that are prepared in accordance with the overall program. An EIR is required for a Long Range Development Plan per CEQA Statutes Section 21080.09.
The Notice of Preparation (NOP) advises Responsible, Trustee or involved state and federal agencies that the campus plans to prepare an EIR for a project (UC Handbook, Appendix L). An NOP is usually the first public step in the CEQA process and often serves as the announcement of a proposed project. Responsible Agencies include all public agencies that have discretionary approval power over the project. Trustee Agencies are responsible for natural resources affected by the project. The four Trustee agencies are: Department of Fish and Game, State Lands Commission, Department of Parks and Recreation and UC (NRS). The NOP solicits guidance from those agencies on the scope and content of the environmental information that should be included in the EIR. CEQA Guidelines Section 15083.5 requires cities and counties to consult with the public water agency providing water to a proposed project if it exceeds a certain size. Although this requirement does not apply to UC, the campus should consider undertaking a comparable consultation during the LRDP EIR process. A copy of the NOP for an LRDP EIR should be sent to the water agency providing water to the campus to ascertain adequate supplies of water for future campus development.
Prior to completing the Draft EIR, the Lead Agency may also consult directly with any person or organization it believes will be concerned with the environmental effects of the project. This early consultation, or scoping, is described in more detail in UC CEQA Handbook Section 2.3.3.
Steps for Preparing and Distributing the Notice of Preparation (NOP)
Prior to the release of the Draft EIR, a 30-day review period is required to allow Responsible Agencies to respond to the Notice of Preparation (NOP).
During this review period, each Responsible Agency should provide information related to its area of statutory responsibility. Agencies should describe the scope and content of the environmental information they expect to see included in the Draft EIR.
The main purpose of this review period is to obtain agency comments about the scope and content of the Draft EIR analyses. Review at this stage offers an opportunity to make changes in project design to eliminate potential impacts.
According to the CEQA Guidelines, if the Responsible Agency does not respond to the NOP within 30 days of receipt, it can be assumed that the Responsible Agency has no response (CEQA Guidelines Section 15103). In some instances, agency response may be very important in order to prevent problems from occurring at a later date. In those cases, it may be advisable to contact the agency to discuss the project and to ascertain whether written comments will be forthcoming. If an agency representative states that no written response will be forthcoming because the project will have no significant impacts on resources within the jurisdiction of the Responsible Agency, the conclusion should be confirmed in writing (e.g., letter from campus to agency documenting the telephone call).
A scoping session for an EIR is an optional process in which the campus meets with members of the public or agency representatives after an NOP has been sent out in order to discuss environmental issues related to the project and the scope and content of the Draft EIR analyses. Scoping sessions provide the campus with an opportunity to learn about potential concerns and further define the issues, feasible alternatives and potential mitigation measures that may warrant in-depth analysis in the environmental review process. Comments received during public scoping are considered in preparing the Draft EIR analyses.
The campus may consult directly with any person or organization it believes will be concerned about the environmental effects of the project. It is important that the campus understand both the nature of the project and the type and magnitude of potential project impacts, prior to conducting a scoping session or in any manner consulting with other agencies. The CEQA Guidelines encourage scoping to avoid or resolve controversy early in the process.
One method of holding a scoping session is to have presentation boards and people stationed around a room to explain aspects of the project, topics intended to be covered in the EIR, the program for building, intended uses of building, site plan, schematic design, etc. Provide cards for people to make comments. This method provides information about the project, on a one to one basis which is often what most people want at the scoping session, and enables interaction on a less formal basis.
For some projects, early consultation can solve potential problems that might otherwise arise in more serious forms at later stages in the review process. However, the campus should establish clear objectives prior to holding a scoping session. Specific objectives, for example, might influence whether a series of individual meetings or a group session would be most appropriate and useful. Different forms of scoping sessions may be useful for different groups.
The campus prepares an Administrative Draft EIR directly, or with the assistance of consultants, based on issues identified in the Initial Study; responses to the Notice of Preparation (NOP) scoping session(s); discussions with other campus units and departments such as the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, Facilities Maintenance, Transportation and Housing; and other preliminary environmental analysis.
Before beginning work on an Administrative Draft EIR, the campus should consult with the Offices of the President and the General Counsel to discuss the project definition, methodologies to be used for technical analyses, the range of alternatives that should be evaluated, and any important issues that have been identified to date. Early discussion and review of preliminary draft outlines and sections is especially important for projects that may be controversial.
It is possible to begin the Administrative Draft EIR before the end of the NOP review period, but issues raised by the comments may necessitate some changes in approach or scope. After identifying key environmental issues, the campus should consider whether there is a need to bring in outside legal counsel to assist with the project and discuss this option with the Office of General Counsel. It should also continue to meet with any internal campus committees or working groups that have been established to assist with environmental review of campus projects.
Steps for Preparing an Administrative Draft EIR
Refer to Section 3.3 of this Handbook for a detailed model approach for preparing each section of the EIR.
Figure 5 shows the Administrative Review process for an EIR. Consultation with the Offices of the President and the General Counsel is intended to be an ongoing process. Generally, even the most preliminary outlines and drafts of major EIRs should be forwarded for review. In addition, many campuses have established internal campus committees that review planning and environmental documents.
Relevant administrative staff at the campuses and in the Offices of the President and General Counsel should review appropriate sections of EIRs based on their areas of expertise (e.g., housing, parking and utilities, etc.) for all major projects. The project schedule should allow adequate time for internal review.
The Administrative Draft EIR should not be released to the public or to other agencies. Internal planning and review committees and faculty must treat the Administrative Draft EIR as a confidential document; the Administrative Draft EIR is not part of the Administrative Record for the project.
Steps for Conducting Administrative Review
Distribute the Administrative Draft EIR to relevant campus staff, campus planning review committees, and to the Offices of the President and the General Counsel.
In preparing the Draft EIR, the campus should review and incorporate comments made on the Administrative Draft EIR and resolve issues that have arisen during internal review of the document. Before distributing a draft prepared by a consultant, the campus should review it and make appropriate revisions. The Draft EIR sent out for public review must reflect the independent judgment of the University of California that it presents an adequate and objective analysis of project impacts and alternatives (CEQA Guidelines Section 15084). If substantial disagreement exists about issues in the EIR, all internal parties should be brought together, including campus planning staff, consultants, and representatives from the Offices of the President and General Counsel, to discuss and reach agreement on those issues.
As planners or analysts identify impacts for each issue area and mitigation measures to reduce those impacts to less-than-significant levels, they should conceptualize mitigation measures and keep informal notes on how they would be monitored.
The Notice of Completion (NOC) alerts the Office of Planning and Research (OPR), Responsible and Trustee Agencies and the public that the Draft EIR is complete and available for review and establishes the start date of the public review period.
Steps for Preparing and Distributing the Notice of Completion
Prepare an NOC that includes the following requirements set forth in CEQA Guidelines Section 15085(b) and 15087, and UC CEQA Handbook, Appendix M.
Distribution of the NOC to public agencies:
Send one (1) copy of the NOC and Environmental Document Transmittal Form and fifteen (15) copies of the Draft EIR to the State Clearinghouse at OPR. These fifteen copies will be distributed to relevant state agencies for review. Specify that one copy should be sent to the Department of Fish and Game if relevant (CEQA Guidelines Section 15086(6)) and,Distribution of the NOC and Draft EIR to the public:
At the same time the NOC is filed, provide public notice of the availability of a Draft EIR. (Copies of the NOC may be used for this purpose). Notice shall be provided to all organizations and individuals who previously requested such notice. Notice shall also be given, as shown in Figure 6, by at least one of the following procedures: (CEQA Guidelines Section 15087).To make copies of EIRs available to the public, Lead Agencies should furnish copies of Draft EIRs to public library systems serving the area involved. Copies should also be available in offices of the Lead Agency.
If the project may emit hazardous materials and is within 1/4th mile of a school, the lead agency must consult with the school district having jurisdiction over the school affected by the project. The school district must be given written notification of the project no less than 30 days prior to the proposed approval of the EIR or Neg. Dec. (CEQA Statutes Section 21151 and CEQA Guidelines Section 15186).
The 45-day State and public review period provides agencies and the public with the opportunity to review and comment on the Draft EIR. The review period, as shown in Figure 7, starts when the campus files the Notice of Completion (NOC) with the Office of Planning and Research (OPR). The CEQA Guidelines require a minimum review period of 45 days and suggest a maximum period of 90 days for State Agency projects.
A review period as short as 30 days may be requested by the campus due to unusual circumstances (CEQA Guidelines Section 15105 and Guidelines Appendix K). Given the typical magnitude of campus projects requiring an EIR and level of public interest, a short review period is seldom recommended. An example of an unusual circumstance where shorter review may be appropriate is the recirculation of an EIR. This is discussed in UC CEQA Handbook Section 2.3.10.
The protocol for providing public notice of availability of a Draft EIR and its public review period is detailed in Section 2.3.8 of this Handbook, and in CEQA Guidelines Section 15087.
When scheduling the public review period, be cognizant of the academic calendar. Review periods during finals, the summer or over holiday periods may be criticized if faculty, students, or the public do not feel they have had an adequate opportunity to comment.
The campus should use its discretion in determining how many copies of the document to produce, with consideration given to local need. Local circumstances should similarly dictate the appropriate distribution but, at a minimum, copies should be provided to the Offices of the President and General Counsel, the City, the County and to University and public libraries. Copies of the Draft EIR should be available for review on the date the public review period begins. It is a good practice to make public review copies widely available in campus and community libraries. Campuses may charge a fee to cover the cost of EIRs requested by individual members of the public.
Campuses are advised to provide information to groups and individuals describing the CEQA review process and the process for getting comments on public record. Comments may be received orally at the public hearing or in written form. (See UC CEQA Handbook Section 2.3.10.)
It is critical that those representing the campus in an official capacity exercise care in discussing the contents of documents subject to CEQA and avoid “off the record” comments.
While the CEQA Guidelines include an optional public hearing process (CEQA Guidelines Section 15202), the Amended University Procedures for Implementation of the California Environmental Quality Act requires a mandatory public hearing during the public review period for the Draft EIR.
“The University shall conduct a public hearing on all projects for which an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) will be prepared. The hearing will be conducted following the publication of the Draft EIR; the purpose of the hearing will be to provide the public with an opportunity to comment upon and present evidence relating to the proposed project and the Draft EIR.” (See UC CEQA Handbook, Appendix A.)
Comments submitted orally or in writing at the public hearing become part of the administrative record for a project and are responded to in writing in the response to comments document (Final EIR).
The purpose and format of the hearing should be carefully explained so the public understands that the hearing serves as a forum for recording public comments and receiving testimony on the project and Draft EIR, and not as a forum in which the University of California answers questions or engages in a dialogue with the public. All comments made at the time of the hearing should be recorded. It is helpful to have a court reporter perform this function. A written transcript made by the court reporter of all comments and written responses to these comments is provided in the text of the Final EIR.
Steps for Conducting the Mandatory Public Hearing
Publicize the location of the public hearing in community and student newspapers.
Recirculation of an EIR Prior to Certification
If, subsequent to public review and interagency consultation but prior to final certification, the campus changes the project in a manner that may result in new or increased levels of environmental impacts, or if “significant new information” is added to the Draft EIR in response to comments, the campus may be required to recirculate a revised Draft EIR for additional comments.
The standards for determining when recirculation is required (CEQA Statutes Section 21092.1 and CEQA Guidelines Section 15088.5 are based upon the Laurel Heights Improvement Assn. v. Regents (1993) 6 Cal 4th 1112 case known as “Laurel Heights II”.
CEQA Guidelines Section 15088.5 requires that a lead agency recirculate an EIR when significant new information is added to the EIR after public notice for public review of the Draft EIR, but prior to certification. “Information” can include changes in the project or environmental setting as well as additional data or other information. New information added to an EIR is not “significant” unless the EIR is changed in a way that deprives the public of meaningful opportunity to comment upon a substantial adverse environmental effect of the project, or a feasible way to mitigate or avoid such an effect (including a feasible project alternative) that the project proponents have declined to implement. “Significant new information” requiring recirculation include, for example, a disclosure showing that:
If the revision is limited to a few chapters or portions of the EIR, the lead agency need only recirculate the chapters or portions that have been modified (CEQA Guidelines Section 15088.5 (c)).
A decision not to recirculate an EIR must be supported by substantial evidence in the administrative record.
Practical Considerations for Recirculation Prior to Certification
In deciding whether to recirculate the EIR, the campus needs to evaluate how much information has changed and the level of concern the community is likely to express about the specific issues. This decision should be discussed with the Offices of the President and the General Counsel.
Generally, if information has changed substantially, the campus revises and then recirculates the original EIR. If the EIR is to be recirculated, the campus must again provide public notice (see UC CEQA Handbook Section 2.3.8), consult with Responsible Agencies and other public agencies with jurisdiction over the project, hold a new public hearing, and grant an additional 45-day review period. In addition to responding to comments on the initial Draft EIR, all oral and written comments received during the second review period must be responded to in the Final EIR. To distinguish between responses to comments on the initial Draft EIR and the recirculated EIR, responses to comments on each of the drafts should be placed in a separate section or document.
If the new information or project changes are not significant, the project description should be revised and included in the Final EIR.
Changes to the EIR After Certification of an EIR
Once an EIR has been certified, then the procedures in CEQA Guidelines Sections 15162, 15163 and 15164 apply in determining whether a subsequent EIR, a supplement, or addendum to an EIR must be prepared. Circulation of subsequent or supplemental EIRs is not “recirculation.”
The purpose of a Final EIR is to respond to comments made on the Draft EIR. Any changes made to the Draft EIR, such as additional mitigation measures and corrections to Draft EIR text, must be included in the Final EIR. If “significant new information” is proposed, the Draft EIR should be recirculated (See UC Handbook Section 2.3.11).
Copies of the comment letters and the public hearing transcript must also be included. Additionally, the Final EIR incorporates the contents of the Draft EIR or revision of the Draft EIR in total or by reference and the Mitigation Monitoring Program. The campus may republish the Draft EIR with any text changes and any other changes resulting from the review process as part of the Final EIR. It is advisable to republish the final document for those who will consult the document in an ongoing manner, i.e. the campus planning office, the Office of Planning, Design and Construction and Office of General Counsel.
Contents and Organization of the Final EIR
I. Introduction and Purpose of Final EIR
This chapter describes the purpose and content of the Final EIR, the environmental process, and how to use the report.
II. Text changes, if any.
Depending on the amount of text changes, campuses may opt to highlight the changes in a section of the Final EIR or, if minimal, may revise Draft EIR text with highlights, brackets or other editorial devices.
If minor changes have been made to the project description, it should be revised and included in the Final EIR. Changes to the project description should be made visible through the use of underlining, highlighted text, or other editorial technique.
When the response requires that the Draft EIR text be changed, changes should be indicated by boldface, underlining, or a similar editorial device. Text changes affecting the summary table should be incorporated into Section III of the Final EIR. Text changes may also be summarized in a separate section of the Final EIR (optional).
III. Revised Summary of Impacts and Mitigation Measures (if required)
The summary table of impacts and mitigation measures should be revised if there are any changes made as a result of comments on the Draft EIR or staff initiated text changes.
IV. Response to Comments
The Responses to Comments chapter of the Final EIR includes comment letters received, transcripts from any public hearings, and responses to comments. Each letter and transcript should be provided a number. Comments are most commonly organized by; (1) federal agencies, (2) state agencies, (3) regional and local agencies, (4) letters from members of the public and the campus community, and (5) public hearing transcripts.
Responses should be numbered so that they correspond to the appropriate comment. For example, the responses to the first comment of Comment Letter 1 is Response to Comment 1-1.
A factually detailed and reasonable response to each comment should be provided (CEQA Guidelines Section 15088) supported by analysis and data. Referencing the analysis in the Draft EIR should be used to support responses, as appropriate. It is not necessary to repeat each comment before providing the response.
Cross-referencing between responses to comments should be used. In addition, it may be advisable for the campus to prepare "Master Responses" that address significant and repeated issues raised by comments.
V. Mitigation Monitoring Program
The Mitigation Monitoring Program should include an introduction which describes why a Mitigation Monitoring Program has been prepared and the content and format of the Mitigation Monitoring Program. The revised summary table (see Section III) should be used so that revisions to mitigation measures as a result of responding to public comment are incorporated. The Mitigation Monitoring Program should include (1) mitigation measures (taken verbatim from the Draft EIR, as revised), (2) identification of mitigation timing (what stage of the process the mitigation must be completed), and (3) identification of monitoring responsibilities (who is responsible for monitoring implementation). See UC CEQA Handbook, Chapter 5.
To the extent feasible, all issues raised in reference to a particular subject should be addressed once, in response to the earliest question raised on that subject, (the “master response”). Responses to all subsequent comments on that subject should refer to the “master response.” Because it often takes a great deal of time to format and organize all of the comments and because such a task can only be completed after the close of the public comment period, the preparation of “master responses” is critical in order to minimize the time required to prepare the Final EIR. It will be helpful to assign subject areas to specific parties responsible for the preparation of “master responses.”
Important issues should be resolved early. Similarly, a policy review on master responses should be conducted as early as possible.
Generally, for an LRDP, it is advisable to produce a Final LRDP that incorporates any changes made as a result of the Final LRDP EIR and a list of adopted mitigation measures and the Mitigation Monitoring Program. This will make subsequent use of the document easier.
Form Letters and Petitions
Each form letter must be numbered separately. The comments raised in the first form letter should be answered in detail; responses to subsequent form letters should reference the response to the first letter. Petitions need be addressed only once.
The Office of the President and the Office of the General Counsel should be consulted during the preparation and internal review of the Final EIR. If the campus anticipates a need for outside counsel to assist with preparation of the Final EIR, consultation with the Offices of the President and General Counsel is required. It is also advisable that the campus discuss master responses with any internal campus committee or working group established to assist with campus projects.
Because of the importance of agency and public input, the following considerations should be taken into account to ensure an adequate response:
The campus need not respond to every comment, but only to those raising environmental issues. However, to avoid any contention that a comment has been ignored, it is advisable to respond to non-environmental comments to the extent feasible.
Comments received after the circulation period may be treated differently than those received during the circulation period. The CEQA Guidelines provide that “the lead agency shall respond to comments received during the noticed comment period and any extensions, and may respond to late comments.” However, if late comments actually raise significant issues that are not adequately addressed in the EIR, some type of response is advisable. Therefore, responses should be provided to late comments if at all possible. Responses to late comments may be included or attached to the findings prepared for the EIR, and need not be contained in the Final EIR.
Final EIR Formats
Alternative formats can be used in preparing the Final EIR depending upon the need to convey information about changes in the project or the analysis of complex project effects. For example, rather than responding to one letter at a time, individual comments can be lifted from letters or transcripts and addressed by issue, reflecting the organization shown in the Table of Contents of the Draft EIR. Thus, all comments on land use, water, air quality or traffic would be responded to as a topical group, thereby minimizing fragmentation in analysis. Letters would be bracketed and comments numbered as usual, with a numerical listing that ties comments to the narrative section of the Final EIR where they are addressed. While individual commentors must cross-reference to find a response to each comment extracted from their letter, the information can be more easily organized in a coherent fashion and the totality of the campus?s response to issue areas is more clearly presented in this process.
Distribution of the Final EIR
The campus should use its discretion in determining how many copies of the document should be produced, with consideration given to local need. Local circumstances should similarly dictate the appropriate distribution, but at a minimum, copies should be provided to each decision maker, the Offices of the President and General Counsel, public agencies that submitted comments on the DEIR, the city, and the county. The campus should retain one or more copies of the Final EIR as public record until the project is completed. A copy of the Final EIR should also be filed with the appropriate planning agency of any city and county where significant effects on the environment may occur.
CEQA Statute Section 21092.5 requires that public agencies which have commented upon a Draft EIR be provided written proposed responses to their comments at least 10 days prior to certifying an EIR. The proposed responses to comments may be limited to those submitted by the agency, or the Final EIR as a whole may be sent.
If information in the EIR can be incorporated into other projects, the EIR should be kept on file after the project has been completed. In addition, a copy of the EIR should be available to facilitate implementation of the Mitigation Monitoring Program associated with the project until all adopted mitigation measures are completed.
The Office of the President currently requires forty-five (45) copies of environmental documents (both Draft and Final EIRs) for distribution to The Regents at the time the project is brought to The Regents for approval. Copies are to be delivered to the Planning, Design and Construction office. For due dates see CEQA Compliance/Environmental Document Submission Information.
Although CEQA does not require public review of the Final EIR, some opportunity for review is recommended. If a notice of the availability of the Final EIR is provided, this notice should be provided in the same manner in which it was provided for the Draft EIR.
Copies of the Final EIR and the Mitigation Monitoring Program should be made available to the public for approximately one week prior to The Regents meeting at the same locations that the Draft EIR was made available during the public review period.
Findings required by CEQA are the conclusions made regarding the significance of a project in light of the impacts and mitigation measures that have been identified; they establish the analytical link between the CEQA document and a decision derived from the document.
CEQA requires that a public agency, when approving a project, make Findings for each significant environmental effect identified in the EIR, as described in the CEQA Guidelines Section 15091, and shown in Figure 8. The Findings should set forth the underlying rationale used by the UC decision maker to approve or deny the project. Specifically, the Findings must explain whether and why mitigation measures and project alternatives have been accepted or rejected.
For each significant effect and alternative, the campus should make one or more of the following Findings accompanied by a brief explanation of each Finding:
Changes or alterations have been required in, or incorporated into the project that mitigate or avoid the significant environmental effects thereof as identified in the completed EIR.
The Findings should also include a general statement that a Mitigation Monitoring Program has been adopted to ensure implementation of feasible mitigation measures identified in the EIR.
Findings must also specify the location and custodian of the administrative record. (See CEQA Statutes Section 21081.6(a)(2))
Findings are to be drafted by campus planning staff and/or their consultants, given their relative familiarity with the project and its environmental impacts. Substantial assistance from counsel may be required on findings for complex projects or in situations that present novel legal issues, as well as findings for LRDP revisions. Draft Findings should be submitted for review by the Office of Planning, Design and Construction and the General Counsel several weeks before the applicable deadline (the environmental document deadline for projects approved by The Regents, or the anticipated approval date for projects to be approved by the Chancellor or the President). See UC CEQA Handbook Section 2.4 for information about processing Findings and Section 3.4 for Findings content.
Statement of Overriding Considerations
Where significant effects are unavoidable, a detailed statement of overriding considerations is separately required in addition to the Findings required by CEQA Statutes Section 21081 (a)(3) and the CEQA Guidelines Section 15091 (a)(3) of summarized above.
A “statement of overriding considerations” indicates that even though a project would result in one or more unavoidable adverse impacts, specific economic, social or other stated benefits are sufficient to warrant project approval. The statement explains the justification for proceeding with the project despite the significant adverse environmental impacts.
A statement of overriding considerations provides specific reasons why the benefit of a proposed project outweighs the adverse effect. If the benefits of a project outweigh the unavoidable adverse environmental effects, those effects may be considered “acceptable” (CEQA Guidelines Section 15093 (a)).
Findings must clearly state whether any significant impacts remain after mitigation measures have been applied. They also provide the basis for making a statement of overriding considerations.
The decision maker must make the Findings, including the statement of overriding consideration, before approving or carrying out a project for which an EIR has been completed.
Campuses should prepare the Regents’ design approval items in accordance with the template for Design Approval items in the Facilities Manual, Volume 3 - Design, Resource Directory 2: Models.
When preparing an item which requires design approval, the President recommends action by the Committee on Grounds and Buildings. This is reflected in the action section of the item through the following language:
“The President recommends that, upon review and consideration of the environmental consequences of the proposed project as indicated in the attached (environmental document) the Committee on Grounds and Buildings:
If the project requires site approval because the project site does not conform to the LRDP, the entire Board of Regents must take action (only they have the authority to amend an LRDP), rather than the Committee on Grounds and Buildings. The preamble to the actions should read:
“The President recommends that, upon review and consideration of the environmental consequences of the proposed project as indicated in the attached (environmental document) the Grounds and Building Committee recommends to The Regents that The Regents:
Environmental Impact Summary Section
The Environmental Impact Summary section of the Background of the item should summarize the document preparation and public review process, any significant environmental consequences of the project and related mitigation measures, and summarize any comments received on the document. If an LRDP amendment is proposed, the rationale behind this change needs to be provided.
This section refers to the attached Findings.
The Regents convene six times per year. The EIR must be scheduled well in advance of The Regents’ meetings. All environmental documentation, must be completed and sent to the Office of the President in advance of the meeting so that they can be sent to The Regents. See UCOP Planning, Design and Construction's Environmental Document Submission Information for details about how many copies of documents, and document due dates.
Certification of the EIR
The UC decision makers must certify the Final EIR. Certification of the EIR requires verification that the Final EIR has been completed in compliance with CEQA and that The Regents, the President, Chancellor, or Laboratory Director (UC decision makers) have reviewed and considered the information contained in the Final EIR prior to making the decision to approve or deny a project.
Design approval has been determined to be the irrevocable commitment to proceed with a project. A Mitigation Monitoring Program must be adopted at the same time the UC decision makers approve a project.
To approve a project in accordance with CEQA, UC decision makers need to find that after reviewing and considering the Final EIR, the project as approved will not have a significant environmental impact, that the impacts have been eliminated or mitigated to less than significant levels, or that the impacts are acceptable due to overriding considerations. The types of Findings required are discussed in the UC CEQA Handbook Section 2.3.13.
The normal time of approval for capital projects is at the end of the Planning phase, when schematics are complete. The design approval is the time the environmental documents must be complete, so that they can inform this decision.
A Notice of Determination (NOD) for an EIR serves to notify the public, interested parties, and Responsible Agencies that a project for which an EIR has been prepared was approved (UC Handbook, Appendix O). It also starts a 30-day statute of limitations for court challenges to project approval.
The NOD should be sent out within five days after the UC decision makers certify the Final EIR and approve the project. If the project is approved by the campus, then the campus is responsible for sending the Notice of Determination to the State Clearinghouse, with a copy to Planning, Design and Construction. If the project is approved by The Regents or the President, the Planning, Design and Construction Office will submit the Notice of Determination to the State Clearinghouse and copy the campus. Copies must also be sent to all persons who have requested such notice. (CEQA Statutes Sections 21092.2 and 21167(f)).
Steps for Preparing and Distributing the Notice of Determination
Prepare Notice of Determination according to sample in UC CEQA Handbook, Appendix O.
Fish and Game Fee
State law requires that a fee be paid to the Department of Fish and Game, or a Certificate of Fee Exemption be filed if the UC decision maker makes a de minimis impact finding for wildlife resources (UC CEQA Handbook, Appendix P). Fish and Game fees are $1,250 for a Negative Declaration and $850 for an EIR. Make checks payable to “State of California.”
A statute of limitations defines the time period within which a suit can be filed on a particular action. Under CEQA Statutes Section 21167(b), a 30-day statute of limitations applies after a Notice of Determination (NOD) has been filed for either a Negative Declaration or an EIR. Any court challenges related to the adequacy or certification of the EIR have to be filed within this period.
The 30-day period begins the first day after the filing of the NOD. It is important to confirm receipt of the NOD by OPR. The 30-day period ends 30 calendar days later, or on the first working day following a weekend or holiday. If no NOD is filed, a lawsuit may be filed up to 180 days after approval of the project.
If a suit is filed during the 30-day statute of limitations, the Offices of the General Counsel and the President should be contacted immediately.
It is generally best to delay project implementation and contractor mobilization until after the 30-day period and it is confirmed that no lawsuit has been filed.