The good neighbor law – IN one minute
CEQA is California’s environmental protection law – but it’s actually a lot more than that.
We think of it as the ultimate “good neighbor” law. It says if you are going to undertake a project that will potentially disturb your neighbors and their surroundings you have to do the neighborly thing and tell everyone what the potential adverse effects might be, before going forward with the project. That way, everyone knows what they are getting – in terms of biological impact, impact on public parks and facilities, traffic, aesthetics, fire hazards, air quality, noise, and many other impacts.
If the project owner decides it’s a slam dunk – that no fair argument could possibly be made by the neighbors for any significant adverse impact from any of these things, then they file what’s called an Negative Declaration or a Mitigated Negative Declaration – which is what DMUSD did here on the Heights’ project. DMUSD filed a Mitigated Negative Declaration or MND.
The public can comment on the MND – which is what Play Outside did – and tell the agency that they got it wrong, that there is a fair argument that can be made for a significant environmental impact on one of the items listed above. You don’t have to “win” the argument in your comments, you just have to show that there is a fair argument, that it’s not a slam dunk.
If the public or anyone else convinces the agency that a fair argument has been made, then the agency has to do a deeper study called an Environmental Impact Report or EIR, which then obligates the agency to a deeper and more thoughtful review, requires them to respond to public comments rather than just accept them and say nothing, requires a public hearing for debate, and requires consideration of any feasible alternatives that achieve the project goals at less downside to the neighbors.
Commenting is super easy and informal – learn how here. If you want to know more about CEQA, send us an email.