Phase 6: CEQA ReviewCounty staff evaluates your project's potential environmental impacts.
All discretionary projects are subject to review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The purpose of CEQA is to inform decision-makers and the public about potential environmental effects of a proposed project, to identify the ways that environmental damage can be avoided or significantly reduced, and to prevent significant, avoidable damage to the environment by requiring changes to a project through the use of alternatives or mitigation measures.
The following steps outline the CEQA process in Ventura County:
- Determine if your proposed project is subject to CEQA.
The County of Ventura must comply with CEQA when it permits an activity defined by CEQA as a "project." A project is an activity undertaken by a public agency or a private activity that requires some discretionary approval (meaning that the government agency has the authority to deny the requested permit or approval) and may cause either a direct physical change in the environment or a reasonably foreseeable indirect change in the environment.
Every development project which requires a discretionary governmental approval will require at least some environmental review pursuant to CEQA, unless an exemption applies.
- Determine if the proposed project is exempt from CEQA
There are two types of exemptions:
- Statutory Exemption: Projects that fall within the State Legislature’s statutory exemption are not subject to CEQA; and
- Categorical Exemption: Classes of projects that do not have a significant effect on the environment as defined by the State Secretary of Resources are exempt from environmental review.
- If the proposed project is not exempt from CEQA, an Initial Study Assessment will be prepared.
If your proposed activity is considered a “project” as defined by CEQA and is not exempt, then the Case Planner will begin the environmental review process by conducting an Initial Study. An Initial Study is prepared by the Case Planner with input from the various reviewing agencies, departments, and agencies to determine whether any potentially significant impacts on the environment would result from this project.
To view the Initial Study Checklist that will be used and learn more about Initial Study procedures, you can review the County’s Initial Study Assessment Guidelines by clicking here.
- Determine and prepare an environmental document for the project.
Based on the findings of the Initial Study, the Case Planner will determine the appropriate environmental document for your permit application. There are three types of environmental documents:
- Negative Declaration (ND): If the Initial Study determines that the project will not have an impact on the environment, the Case Planner will prepare a Negative Declaration (ND). A ND is a legal statement that either describes the reasons why a proposed project will not have a significant adverse effect on the environment or explains that compliance with specific Federal, State, or County regulations would avoid a significant impact, and thus, an environmental impact report is not required.
- Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND): The Case Planner will prepare a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) if the Initial Study review finds that the project has a potentially significant impact on the environment, but can be avoided or reduced through adoptions of mitigation measures. These mitigation measures can be changes in the project design or operation and must be agreed to by the applicant. An MND further requires that a mitigation monitoring and reporting program be adopted to ensure that applicants follow through on the mitigation measures required by the County.
- Environmental Impact Report (EIR): If the Initial Study finds that the project may have a significant impact on the environment and there are no obvious measures that the applicant can take to mitigate potentially significant impacts, an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) will be required. In many cases, this will be a focused EIR that analyzes a specific subject area or areas, such as traffic impacts, impacts on biological resources, or noise impacts.
In order to reduce costs, delays, and duplication in the preparation of environmental documents, County agencies/departments determine whether information provided in a previously prepared EIR (e.g., Master EIR, General Plan EIR, project EIR, etc.) or Mitigated Negative Declaration could be used, in whole or in part, for a proposed project. Use of previously prepared information could be through the subsequent use, or a supplement or addendum to an existing environmental document.
- Submit environmental documents for public review.
After the appropriate environmental document is drafted, it will be available for public review on the Planning Division’s website. A legal notice will be placed in the Ventura County Star newspaper, and notices will be posted with the County Clerk, at the Planning Counter, and on the bulletin boards at the exits in the County’s Hall of Administration building. The public review process is an opportunity for individuals in the community to submit comments concerning the project and the environmental document that was prepared. All comments must be submitted to the respective Case Planner by email or in a letter mailed to the Planning Division.
For NDs and MNDs, the public review period is a minimum of 20 days. If the environmental document must be submitted to the State Clearinghouse, the public review period is extended to 30 days. Projects with the following criteria must be submitted to the State Clearinghouse for state agency review: (1) where the lead agency is a state agency, (2) where there is a responsible or trustee state agency, and/or (3) where a State agency is required to review the project because the project has statewide, regional, or area-wide importance.
For EIRs, there are two types of public review:
- A Notice of Preparation (NOP) is a brief notice to responsible agencies, trustee agencies, and public or federal agencies that the County plans to prepare an EIR for this project. Although the NOP serves to solicit guidance from various agencies, it also encourages the public to submit concerns and issues early in the EIR drafting process. The NOP review period is a minimum of 30 days.
- After the NOP public review process, the Case Planner will draft the EIR. Once the EIR is completed, it will be available for public review. The public review process for the draft EIR is a minimum of 30 days. If the draft EIR must be submitted to the State Clearinghouse, the public review period will be extended to 45 days. Projects with the following criteria must be submitted to the State Clearinghouse for state agency review: (1) where the lead agency is a state agency, (2) where there is a responsible or trustee state agency, and/or (3) where a State agency is required to review the project because it has a statewide, regional, or area-wide importance.
Upon the completion of the public review period, all comments will be reviewed and responses will be drafted by County staff. Based on the comments received, if it is determined that the environmental document must be substantially revised before adoption by the decision makers, the County may have to re-circulate the proposed document for an additional public review period. However, if the comments received do not uncover deficiencies in the impact analysis of the project and the document is deemed complete and accurate by staff, the project will move forward to a public hearing.
To view current environmental documents for public review, please click here.
For additional information on the CEQA process, select any of the resources below:
- Public Information Brochure on CEQA
- Ventura County Administrative Supplement to the State CEQA Guidelines
Now that the environmental document has been prepared and completed, the Case Planner, in conjunction with other County staff members, will draft the conditions of approval, mitigation measures, and the staff report. Then the staff report and any other supplemental materials included in your permit application will be reviewed by the appropriate decision-making authority. To learn more about public hearings, click on the “Phase 7” link.