Occasionally, an EIR prepared for a previous project may have already evaluated the potential impacts of the RMDZ CEQA projects. For example, a general plan amendment or the adoption of a specific plan might have covered the development anticipated under the RMDZ CEQA project. In those cases, the Zone Administrator can use the prior document to simplify the CEQA process, describing in the Negative Declaration that the prior EIR provides the basis for the Lead Agency’s determination that the RMDZ project will not have any significant impacts.
In most cases, the Lead Agency’s first step will be to perform an Initial Study to identify any potential environmental issues associated with the proposed Zone action. Based on the results of the Initial Study, the Lead Agency next determines what type of documentation–either a Negative Declaration, Mitigated Negative Declaration, or an Environmental Impact Report (EIR)—it must prepare to comply with CEQA.
Here are several examples of CEQA documentation common to the process:
Most agencies considering RMDZ CEQA projects, which include designations, renewals or expansions likely will find no significant impacts in their Initial Studies and will prepare a Negative Declaration or Mitigated Negative Declaration. Therefore, this guide focuses on the preparation of Negative Declarations and does not discuss the EIR process. Nevertheless, if the Initial Study indicates substantial evidence that the proposed RMDZ action may cause a significant environmental impact, then an EIR is required.
The Negative Declaration is a brief, written statement explaining why the proposed project will not significantly affect the environment and does not require the preparation of an EIR. In cases where there may be potential significant effects that can be mitigated by modifying the project before approval, the Lead Agency must prepare and circulate a Mitigated Negative Declaration. CEQA Guidelines Section 15071 lists the following minimum content requirements for a Negative Declaration:
- Description and title of the project;
- Location of the project, preferably shown on a map;
- Name of the project proponent;
- A proposed finding that the project will not have a significant effect on the environment;
- An attached copy of the Initial Study documenting reasons to support the finding; and
- In the case of a Mitigated Negative Declaration, mitigation measures that have been incorporated into the project to avoid potentially significant effects.