UC CEQA Handbook: Glossary


This glossary serves to clarify terms used in the UC CEQA Handbook, and, in some cases, provide a brief explanation of terms fully described in Article 20 of the CEQA Guidelines.

Addendum to an EIR: An EIR prepared for minor technical changes or additions that are necessary to make the EIR adequate, but which do not raise important new issues about significant effects on the environment. An Addendum does not need to be circulated for public review (see CEQA Guidelines Section 15164).

Administrative Draft EIR: The Administrative Draft EIR is the first complete draft of the EIR that is circulated for review to campus units and the Offices of the President and General Counsel. It is an internal draft document and is not circulated to the public.

Administrative Record: The compilation of notices, background reports and environmental review documents that provide a record of the environmental review, public involvement and decision-making processes required by CEQA related to the project.

Alquist-Priolo Special Study Zone: In 1972, the State of California began delineating Special Studies Zones around active and potentially active faults in the State. The zones extend about 660 feet on either side of identified fault traces. No structures for human occupancy may be built across an identified fault trace. An area of 50 feet on either side of an active fault trace is assumed to be underlain by the fault unless proven otherwise. Proposed construction within the Special Studies Zone can take place only following completion of a geotechnical report prepared by a California Registered Geologist or Certified Engineering Geologist.

Assignable Square Feet (ASF): A term used to describe occupiable areas. It does not include walls, stairways, corridors, restrooms, parking facilities, or mechanical space.

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA): California Public Resources Code Sections 21000 et seq.

Capital projects: The term is used broadly by the University of California to refer to most building or infrastructure projects, except for maintenance and repairs.

Categorical Exemptions: Classes of projects which have been determined by the Secretary for Resources not to have a significant effect on the environment and which are therefore exempt from the provisions of CEQA, unless exceptions to the exemption apply.

Constitutional Autonomy: Delegation by the California Constitution of “full” powers of governance with respect to affairs exclusive to theUniversity of California, Article IX, Section 9.

Discretionary Approval: A decision in which a governmental agency can use its judgment in deciding whether and how to carry out or approve a project (see also Discretionary Project in Section 15357 of the CEQA Guidelines ).

Discretionary Project: A project which requires the exercise of judgment or deliberation when the public agency or body decides to approve or disapprove a particular activity, as distinguished from situations where the public agency or body merely has to determine whether there has been conformity with applicable statutes, ordinances, or regulations. (CEQA Guidelines Section 15357)

Environmental Impact Classification (EIC or EIC Form): An EIC is a University document prepared for actions that may be subject to CEQA to determine whether a proposed action is statutorily or categorically exempt, whether an Initial Study will be prepared for the action, whether it is known that the action will have a significant effect on the environment, and whether the site for a proposed action is consistent with a Long Range Development Plan.

Environmental Impact Report (EIR): A detailed statement prepared under CEQA describing and analyzing the significant environmental effects of a project and discussing ways to mitigate or avoid the effects.

Exceptions to the Exemptions: A Categorical Exemption does not apply in the following situations: 1) a reasonable possibility exists that the activity may have a significant environmental impact because of unusual circumstances; 2) the cumulative impacts of the project would be considerable and therefore significant; 3) the project occurs within specified sensitive environments, 4) a project affects scenic resources within official state scenic highways, 5) a project is located on a toxic site that is listed by the California Environmental Protection Agency, or 6) a project causes substantial adverse changes in a significant historic resource. (CEQA Guidelines Section 15300.2)

Fairly Argued: The term used as a legal standard for reviewing the appropriateness of a Negative Declaration vs. an EIR. Courts have held that a Negative Declaration is inappropriate if it can be “fairly argued” that the project may cause significant environmental impacts. The “fair argument” standard creates a low threshold for requiring preparation of an EIR. (See UC CEQA Handbook 2.1.7 for discussion of “fair argument” versus “substantial evidence.”)

Findings: Findings required by CEQA are the conclusions made regarding the significance of a project in light of its environmental impacts. A Statement of Overriding Considerations does not obviate the need to make other required CEQA findings.

Fiscal Impact Assessment: A comparison of the net costs and revenues derived from a development project.

Floor Area Ratio (FAR): The ratio of gross floor area of all buildings on a lot to the total lot area.

Focused EIR: An EIR that evaluates potential impacts on a limited number of environmental issue areas that the campus determines to be significant (see CEQA Guidelines Section 15063(c)(3)).

General Rule: The general rule is that CEQA applies only to project that have the potential for causing a significant effect on the environment. Where it can be seen with certainty that there is no possibility that the activity in question may have a significant effect on the environment, the activity is not subject to CEQA. (See CEQA Guidelines Section 15061(b)(3)).

Gross square feet (GSF): The total square footage of the building including all walls, structures, mechanical spaces and the corridor system.

Groundwater recharge: The process by which rainwater and snowmelt percolate through unsaturated soil to below surface aquifers.

Hazardous material: A substance or combination of substances which because of its quantity, concentration, or physical, chemical or infectious characteristics, may either (1) cause, or significantly contribute to, an increase in mortality or an increase in serious, irreversible, or incapacitating reversible, illness; or (2) pose a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, disposed of or otherwise managed.

Hazardous waste: A hazardous material than cannot be reused or recycled.

Incorporation by Reference: Reliance on a previous environmental document for some portion of the environmental analysis of a project. See CEQA Guidelines Section 15150.

Important Farmlands: Important farmlands include prime farmlands, farmlands of statewide importance, unique farmlands and farmlands of local importance as defined and mapped by the California Department of Conservation. (Advisory Guidelines for the Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program, California Department of Conservation- Division of Land Resource Protection, 1984)

    Prime Farmlands: Lands with the best combination of physical and chemical features for the production of agricultural crops.

    Farmlands of Statewide Importance: Lands with a good combination of physical and chemical features for the production of agricultural crops.

    Unique Farmlands: Lands of lesser quality soils used for the production of the State's leading agricultural cash crops.

    Farmlands of Local Importance: Lands of importance to the local agricultural economy as determined by each County's board of supervisors.

Initial Study: A preliminary analysis prepared by the Lead Agency to determine whether an EIR or a Negative Declaration must be prepared or to identify the significant environmental effects to be analyzed in an EIR.

Irrevocable Commitment to Proceed: The decision point that commits the University to a definite course of action on a project. Typically design approval is interpreted as the irrevocable commitment to proceed with a project.

Joint EIR/EIS: An environmental document prepared for a project that involves the use of federal funds or which is subject to the jurisdiction of a federal agency. The campus procedure for preparing the environmental document should include steps in accordance with NEPA requirements (See CEQA Guidelines Section 15170).

Lead Agency: The public agency which has the principal responsibility for carrying out or approving a project. The Lead Agency decides whether an EIR or Negative Declaration is required for a project, and causes the appropriate document to be prepared.

Liquefaction: Liquefaction is the state or process in which soil material is transformed from a solid into a liquid state. This occurs due to increased pore pressure and reduced effective stress. Soil may become liquefied, for example, during and immediately following an earthquake.

Long Range Development Plan (LRDP): A general land use plan that expresses Regental policy governing the future physical planning and development of a UC campus or other University property such as a medical center.

Master EIR: An EIR that is intended to provide a detailed environmental review of plans and programs upon which the approval of subsequent related development proposals can be based. For example, a master EIR may be prepared for projects consisting of smaller individual projects to be implemented in phases, such as staged projects (See CEQA Guidelines Section 15175). Master EIRs may be relied upon for a period of five years.

Master Environmental Assessment: An environmental document that serves as an inventory or database for all, or a portion, of campus land. It serves to identify and organize environmental information for a designated area. An Environmental Assessment provides background information that can be referenced in EIRs or Negative Declarations (See CEQA Guidelines Section 15169).

Mineral Resource Zones: Zones that have been identified as having potential mineral and aggregate resources. The State Mining and Geology Board recommends that these lands be preserved as open space or used for interim uses to allow for future extraction.

Mitigated Negative Declaration: A Negative Declaration that incorporates mitigation measures into the design of the project or establishes measures as conditions of project approval to avoid significant effects.

Mitigation Monitoring Program: When a lead agency adopts a mitigated negative declaration or an EIR, it must adopt a program of monitoring or reporting which will ensure that mitigation measures are implemented. (See CEQA Statute Section 21081.6(a) and CEQA Guidelines Sections 15091(d) and 15097).

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): In 1969, the National Environmental Policy Act was enacted establishing a national environmental policy and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to advise the president on environmental issues. NEPA requires the preparation of environmental impact statements (EIS) for all major federal actions which would have a significant effect on the environment. NEPA served as a model for the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) enacted in 1970.

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permits: Under the NPDES Program (Federal Clean Water Act), any person responsible for the discharge of a pollutant or pollutants into any waters of the United States from any point source must apply for and obtain a permit. According to Section 402 of the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency is the issuing authority for all NPDES permits in a state until such time as the state elects to take over the administration and obtains EPA approval of its programs. (The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) has this authority in California.)

Dischargers are required to disclose the volume and nature of their discharges. Further, the EPA or equivalent State Agency has the authority to specify limitations to be imposed on discharges and to require monitoring and reporting as to compliance or non-compliance.

Negative Declaration: A written statement prepared by the campus (or other Lead Agency) that briefly describes the reasons that a project, not exempt from CEQA, will not have a significant effect on the environment and therefore does not require the preparation of an EIR (See CEQA Guidelines Section 15371).

Notice of Determination (NOD): A brief notice filed with the State Clearinghouse to document project approval. The filing of the NOD starts the statute of limitations period (See CEQA Guidelines Section 15373).

Notice of Exemption (NOE): A brief notice filed by the campus after it has decided to carry out or approve a project and has determined that the project is exempt from CEQA as being ministerial, categorically exempt, an emergency, or subject to another exemption from CEQA (See CEQA Guidelines Section 15374).

Notice of Intent to Adopt a Negative Declaration (NOI): A notice provided to the public, responsible agencies and trustee agencies that the lead agency (University) plans to adopt a Negative Declaration or Mitigated Negative Declaration based upon the attached environmental document. The filing of the Notice with the State Clearinghouse starts the public review period (See CEQA Guidelines Section 15072). A sample NOI is in UC CEQA Handbook, Appendix G.

Notice of Preparation: A brief notice sent out by the campus to notify the Responsible and Trustee Agencies and involved federal agencies that the campus plans to prepare an EIR for the project. The notice serves to solicit guidance from those agencies about the scope and content of the environmental information to be included in the EIR (See CEQA Guidelines Section 15375).

Office of General Counsel (OGC): The Office of General Counsel for the University of California has general charge of all legal matters pertaining to the University and oversees the provision of all legal services to the University.

Prime agricultural land: Class I and II soils as mapped by the Soil Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Program EIR: An EIR prepared on a series of actions that can be characterized as one large project, such as for an LRDP. A program EIR generally establishes a framework for tiered or project-level environmental documents that are prepared in accordance with the overall program (See CEQA Guidelines Section 15168(a)).

Project: Under CEQA, a project is the whole of an action which has the potential to result in significant environmental change in the environment, directly or ultimately (See CEQA Guidelines Section 15378).

Project description: Describes the basic characteristics of the project including location, need for the project, project objectives, technical and environmental characteristics, project size and design, project phasing and required permits. The level of detail provided in the project description varies according to the type of environmental document prepared.

Project EIR: An EIR that examines the impacts that would result from development of a specific project (See CEQA Guidelines Section 15161).

Project Planning Guide (PPG): The report prepared by the University of California as a first step for defining proposed capital improvement projects.

Public Hearing: A mechanism for providing the public an opportunity to comment on and present evidence relating to a proposed project and its Draft EIR. The Amended University Procedures for Implementation of the California Environmental Quality Act require a public hearing during the public review period for a University Draft EIR (See UC CEQA Handbook Appendix A).

Regents’ Items: Materials prepared for review, consideration and/or approval by The Regents of the University of California. The primary type of Regents item for which CEQA documentation is required is the design approval of a facility. The template for design approval items is available at: http://www.ucop.edu/facil/fmc/facilman/volume3/part1/model1.html

Responsible Agencies: Under CEQA, responsible agencies are all public agencies other than the Lead Agency that have discretionary approval power over the project (See CEQA Guidelines Section 15381).

Reviewing Agencies: Local, State and federal agencies with jurisdiction over the project area or resources potentially affected by the project. Cities and counties are also considered reviewing agencies.

Riparian: Refers to the zone and associated vegetation bordering creeks and streams.

Scoping meeting: An optional meeting under CEQA in which the campus (or other lead agency) meets with members of the public or agency representatives after the Notice of Preparation has been issued to discuss environmental issues related to a project. Scoping sessions provide the opportunity to discuss environmental issues, project alternatives and potential mitigation measures that may warrant in-depth analysis in the environmental review process.

Seiche: A free or standing-wave oscillation of the surface of water in an enclosed or semi-enclosed basin (as a lake, bay or harbor). It is generally caused by local changes in atmospheric pressure, aided by winds, tidal currents and small earthquakes.

Sensitive receptors: Sensitive receptors are people or institutions with people that are particularly susceptible to illness from environmental pollution, such as the elderly, very young children, people already weakened by illness (e.g., asthmatics), and persons engaged in strenuous exercise.

Significant effect on the environment: Under CEQA, a significant effect on the environment means a substantial, or potentially substantial, adverse change in any of the physical conditions within the area affected by the project including land, air, water, minerals, flora, fauna, ambient noise, and objects of historic or aesthetic significance (CEQA Guidelines Section 15382).

Staged EIR: An EIR is prepared for projects that are scheduled to be built in phases and require multiple discretionary approvals over a period of several years. For example, a campus might prepare a Staged EIR for a student housing project that is scheduled to be built in phases in response to anticipated enrollment increases. A Staged EIR evaluates the effects of the entire proposal in a general way, but evaluates in greatest detail the stage of the project currently proposed (See CEQA Guidelines Section 15167).

Standards of Significance (or Thresholds of Significance): Criteria for each environmental issue area to assist with determinations of significance of project impacts. They are based on CEQA Guidelines Appendix G.

Statement of Overriding Considerations: A statement indicating 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.

Statute of Limitations: The time period within which a lawsuit may be filed or other legal action to challenge a CEQA document and approval.

Statutory Exemptions: Exemptions from CEQA granted by the Legislature (See CEQA Guidelines Sections 15260-15285).

Subsequent EIR: An EIR prepared for projects that change substantially due to new information, a changed project description, or changed circumstances within which the project would take place. Generally, new information requiring a subsequent EIR would pertain to significant effects that were not previously analyzed. A subsequent EIR must receive the same circulation and review as the previous EIR (See CEQA Guidelines Section 15162).

Supplement to an EIR: An EIR prepared for projects in which only minor changes would be necessary to make the previous EIR adequate for the project as revised. A Supplement to an EIR may be circulated by itself without recirculating the previous Draft or Final EIR, but the Supplement must receive the same circulation and review as the previous EIR (See CEQA Guidelines Section 15163).

Thresholds of Significance: see Standards of Significance

Tiered EIR: An EIR that evaluates a specific project that is covered by a certified Program EIR. General information from the Program EIR is summarized or incorporated by reference so that the tiered EIR can focus on project-specific issues (See CEQA Guidelines Section 15385). A Tiered EIR is required when the Initial Study or other analysis finds that the later project may cause significant effects on the environment that were not adequately addressed in the prior EIR.

Tiered Mitigated Negative Declaration: A Tiered Mitigated Negative Declaration evaluates a specific project or later development action that is covered by a Program EIR. General information from the Program EIR is summarized or incorporated by reference so that the Tiered Mitigated Negative Declaration can focus on project-specific issues. A Tiered Mitigated Negative Declaration is used where project revisions or mitigations reduce all significant impacts to a less than significant level (See CEQA Guidelines Sections 15070-15075).

Tiered Negative Declaration: A Negative Declaration evaluates a specific project or later development action that has already been covered by a certified Program EIR. General information from the Program EIR is summarized or incorporated by reference so that the tiered Negative Declaration can focus on project specific issues. A Tiered Negative Declaration is used where there is no substantial evidence that the project may have a significant impact not previously analyzed and mitigated.

Tiered Project: A specific project evaluated in a project EIR, Negative Declaration, or Mitigated Negative Declaration that is covered by a certified Program EIR.

Tiered Project EIR: See Tiered EIR

Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations: Title 24 is part of the California Buildings Standards Code -- the building regulations of California. Part 6 is the Energy Code.

Trustee Agency: Under CEQA, a Trustee agency is a state agency that has jurisdiction by law over natural resources affected by a project which are held in trust for the people of the State of California (See CEQA Guidelines Section 15386). The four Trustee agencies are: California Department of Fish and Game, State Lands Commission, California Department of Parks and Recreation and the University of California (Natural Reserve System).

Tsunami: A sea wave produced by large-scale, short-duration disturbance of the ocean floor such as from subsidence, an earthquake, or a volcanic eruption.

Williamson Act lands: Lands preserved for agricultural production. Lands under Williamson Act contracts are assessed according to their agricultural use value rather than as potentially developable lands.

Whole of an Action: An action that may result in either a direct or reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change in the environment. (See CEQA Guidelines Section 15378)