What are the steps in the EIR process?

There are different steps and review timelines for a negative declaration (ND) or a mitigated negative declaration (MND), however, this discussion will focus on the environmental impact report (EIR) process. For a proposed project that requires an EIR the following steps are incorporated into the review process:

  1. Notice of preparation (NOP) and EIR scoping period
    • A NOP provides public notice of the lead agency’s decision to prepare an EIR for a proposed project. 
    • A NOP may be released with an initial study (IS) analyzing and potentially scoping out topic areas that have insignificant environmental impacts or that were adequately evaluated in a previous program level EIR (as in the case of the certified ConnectMenlo program level EIR) or it may be released without an IS if no topic areas are proposed to be scoped out or the EIR is not proposed to tier from a previously certified EIR.
    • The NOP begins the 30-day EIR scoping period to solicit comments on the scope and content of the EIR, including on any topics that were scoped out based on the IS analysis.
    • During the minimum 30-day scoping period, the city solicits and receives written comments and the Planning Commission holds an EIR scoping session to solicit verbal comments on the scope and contents of the EIR for the proposed project.
    • The City will review and consider all comments in the preparation of the draft EIR.
  2. Notice of Availability (NOA) and release of draft EIR (DEIR)
    • After the EIR scoping period, the City prepares a DEIR that discloses the proposed project’s potential environmental impacts, identifies applicable mitigation measures, and evaluates project alternatives that could reduce potential environmental impacts.
    • The public review period for a DEIR should not be less than 30 days nor longer than 60 days except in unusual circumstances.  If the project qualifies as a regional project, the DEIR must be submitted to the State Clearinghouse and the public comment period is automatically extended from 30 to a minimum of 45 days.
    • Potentially affected and interested parties upon request, are notified of the release of the DEIR. The City will also send notification to occupants and property owners within a minimum of 300 feet radius from the project site.
    • The DEIR is made available on the City’s website. Hard copies are typically located at the City’s public libraries or may be checked out from the library.
    • During the 45-day comment period, the Planning Commission holds a DEIR public hearing where members of the public are encouraged to provide comments on the DEIR.
    • Public comments may be provided in writing via mail or email to the project planner or orally at the Planning Commission DEIR public hearing.
  3. Final EIR (FEIR) certification
    • Following the close of the DEIR comment period, the City will prepare a Response to Comments document generally referred to as the FEIR, which will include responses to all substantive comments received on the DEIR.
    • The FEIR is circulated for a minimum of 10 days prior to any final action on a proposed project.
    • The DEIR and FEIR will be considered by the final decision-making body (Planning Commission and/or City Council) in making the decision to certify the EIR as compliant with CEQA and in taking final action on the proposed project.
    • Certification of the EIR would include adoption of a mitigation monitoring and reporting program (MMRP) requiring the project to implement any required mitigation measures and the City to monitor implementation.
    • If the EIR identifies significant and unavoidable impacts from the proposed project, then the Planning Commission and/or City Council could only approve the project upon making a statement of overriding considerations (SOC) finding that the merits of the proposed project would outweigh the significant and unavoidable environmental impacts.
    • The Planning Commission and/or City Council must certify the final EIR before approving any of the project entitlements.  There is no requirement to approve a project for which an EIR has been certified as compliant with CEQA requirements.
  4. Notice of determination (NOD)
    • Upon certification of the EIR, the City will file a NOD with the San Mateo County Clerk’s office, the State Office of Planning and Research, and the State Clearinghouse.

Show All Answers

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?