California Environmental Quality Act

Overview

California Environmental Quality Act

Environmental planning is essential for a sustainable future. At SCAG, environmental planning involves establishing programs and policies that encourage environmentally conscious transportation and land use patterns that protect the region’s environmental resources. SCAG’s California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Program focuses on preparing environmental documentation to ensure regulatory compliance with applicable environmental laws for all of SCAG’s plans and programs.

Most notably, SCAG serves as the lead agency responsible for preparing Connect SoCal, 2020-2045 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Plan Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) and addendums, and ensures completion of environmental documentation, such as Categorical Exemptions, for SCAG’s existing programs. Staff also works closely with local and regional agencies and stakeholders and conducts consultation and public outreach during the preparation of environmental documentation. 

The CEQA program also monitors changes in environmental compliance requirements, and provides tools and services related to CEQA and CEQA streamlining efforts, such as SB 375 and SB 743, to support local jurisdictions in taking advantage of existing CEQA streamlining opportunities and to provide a forum for regional dialogue on important environmental related topics.

Connect SoCal PEIR

Every four years, SCAG prepares a PEIR for Connect SoCal in accordance with CEQA. The PEIR serves as a programmatic document that conducts a region-wide assessment of potential significant environmental effects of Connect SoCal. Please follow the links to find out more information about the 2020 Connect SoCal PEIR, PEIR Addendum #1, PEIR Addendum #2, and previous PEIRs.

Development Streamlining Efforts 

Recent changes in State laws to CEQA’s environmental review process as well as new State laws to streamline administrative review processes have created new opportunities for jurisdictions with regulatory land use control to streamline and shorten the entitlement process, and accelerate the production  of much needed housing. SCAG’s goal is to help local jurisdictions accelerate housing production by streamlining their development approval and CEQA environmental review processes and implementing State laws focused on expediting housing development approvals. We are working to provide supportive and guidance materials to local jurisdictions and land use practitioners to address these challenges.

CEQA has provisions and tools that streamline the environmental review process for qualifying housing projects. These are often narrow, include many exceptions, and can be confusing for both local jurisdictions and developers. Although SCAG has no land-use authority and does not implement nor approve housing developments, Connect SoCal does provide pathways to streamline CEQA review for housing developments that qualify as Transit Priority Projects (TPPs) or Residential/Mixed-Use Projects (as defined in SB 375). Furthermore, SB 743 and SB 226 provide additional CEQA streamlining provisions for certain projects (e.g., projects in transit priority areas and infill development projects). 

In addition, new legislative actions and State laws (e.g., SB 35, SB 330, and the Housing Production Package bills) promote and streamline administrative review processes for certain types of housing development projects and may require cities to implement objective development standards, changes to zoning codes, general plans, or restructuring local agency applications, discretionary oversight, and approval processes. Cities and counties that wish to comply with the expedited review processes while at the same time retaining the ability to perform site planning and design/aesthetic reviews may wish to reconsider their approval processes.

In support of steamlining both the CEQA and general administrative review processes, SCAG will be preparing guidance documents, best practices, hosting and recording workshops, and providing other materials and resources to help jurisdictions implement these tools and accelerate housing production. This program is part of SCAG’s Regional Early Action Planning Grant (REAP) program, funded by the State of California.

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions to the housing crisis, so our goal is to tailor our offerings as much as possible to the unique housing needs, circumstances, and challenges of your community. We’d like to hear from you about your community’s housing approval processes, CEQA approaches for housing developments, and what it’s been like to implement recent State housing laws in your community.

Please complete this short, 10-minute questionnaire to share your experiences and thoughts with us. Your responses will directly inform the housing development streamlining materials and services that we are putting together for you.

Complete The Questionnaire

Submit CEQA Notices 

CEQA Section 15206 defines projects of statewide, regional, or areawide significance and instructs public agencies to submit environmental documents, including Negative Declarations and Draft Environmental Impact Reports (DEIRs), to the State Clearinghouse and the appropriate metropolitan area council of governments for review and comment.  

SCAG encourages local agencies to submit CEQA notices to the IGR Program via the IGR Submissions webpage.

To learn more about the IGR Program, please visit the IGR webpage.

Useful Resources

Site Check 

Site Check is a free, online, interactive tool, funded by the California Housing and Community Development Department as part of the technical assistance for Senate Bill 2, the Building Homes and Jobs Act, which may be used to identify streamlining options under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that may apply to facilitate planning decisions that accelerate the production of housing in California.

Users can search and filter parcels to determine whether they meet certain requirements in specific CEQA provisions for a variety of housing types. Site Check will provide a downloadable report which will identify the accelerated pathways to CEQA compliance that may apply based on the parcel(s) selected, providing a helpful starting point and guide users to the appropriate provisions within CEQA.

Please visit the following link for further information and access to the tool: https://sitecheck.opr.ca.gov/ 

Contact

For questions related to the CEQA Program, contact Karen Calderon at (213) 236-1983 or via email at calderon@scag.ca.gov