What are the different levels of CEQA review?

The level of analysis required by CEQA is determined by the lead agency upon receipt of a proposed discretionary project. In some cases, the state has decided that no environmental review is necessary and a project is exempt from the environmental review process. There are two sources of exemptions. One source is the CEQA statute and these exemptions are referred to as “statutory exemptions.” Statutory exemptions include ministerial projects where no discretion is involved (e.g. building permit), residential infill projects meeting certain requirements, regional transportation improvement programs and housing needs allocation. The other source of exemption in the CEQA Guidelines, known as “categorical exemptions.”  Categorical exemptions include classes of projects such as replacement or reconstruction of buildings and minor alterations to land that the state has determined not to have a significant effect on the environment. If a project is not exempt, then an initial study (IS) is typically prepared to determine the level of environmental review, which can be a negative declaration (ND), mitigated negative declaration (MND), or an environmental impact report (EIR). For some projects, a lead agency may determine that an EIR is required without the need to prepare an initial study.

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1. What is the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)?
2. What is the purpose of CEQA?
3. What are the different levels of CEQA review?
4. How is the level of review determined?
5. Why is an EIR being prepared for projects in the Bayfront Area when the ConnectMenlo General Plan EIR considered the potential environmental impacts from the land use changes?
6. How can the community get involved in the CEQA process?
7. What do the decision-makers do with the environmental document?
8. What are the steps in the EIR process?