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Development Review Committee

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The Development Review Committee is a committee comprised of staff members from each department within the Resource Management Agency. The Committee is responsible for evaluating the environmental impacts of projects in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Committee determines the level of environmental review necessary for land use applications and other projects brought before it and ensures that significant environmental effects are avoided where possible, or mitigated where feasible.

Most private development projects and public improvement projects are subject to review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), unless they fall under an exemption. As part of this process, projects are circulated to federal, state, and local review agencies, and then evaluated by the County Development Review Committee to determine what type of environmental document needs to be prepared. An initial study is prepared to summarize the conclusions of commenting agencies and to formally address the potential for environmental effects in several categories. One of three types of environmental documents are typically required.

For projects where it can be determined that no significant environmental effects will be generated, a "negative declaration" is prepared. Alternatively, if it is found that potentially significant impacts may occur, but that the impacts can be eliminated or reduced to less-than-significant levels if the applicant agrees to make changes or incorporate conditions into the project, a "mitigated negative declaration" is prepared. Both negative declarations and mitigated negative declarations are typically prepared by Planning Department staff.

For projects where there is substantial evidence that significant environmental effects would be generated, but because of the size, scale, or nature of the project it is not immediately possible to identify and incorporate changes to reduce impacts to less- than-significant levels, an "environmental impact report" (EIR) must be prepared. An EIR provides detailed analysis of the environmental setting, identifies and describes impacts and mitigation measures, and evaluates project alternatives. EIRs are prepared by an independent consultant retained by the County, and are normally prepared only for large scale or complex projects.

The determinations and recommendations made by the Development Review Committee are subject to appeal to the Planning Commission. For instance, if the Committee determines that an EIR is necessary to address the impacts of a particular project, and the applicant believes that the preparation of an EIR is not justified, an appeal may be filed. The Planning Commission then evaluates the available information to determine if there is substantial evidence that an significant impacts will occur, and whether an EIR must be prepared.

Some of the terms commonly used as part of the Development Review Committee's review process as described below.


The physical conditions which exist within the area which will be affected by the proposed project including land, air, water, minerals, flora, fauna, ambient noise, and objects of historical or aesthetic significance. The area involved shall be the area in which significant effects would occur either directly or indirectly as a result of the project. The "environment" includes both natural and man made conditions.


Impacts or effects are synonymous.

  1. Effects include:
    • Direct or primary effects which are caused by the project and occur at the same time and place.
    • Indirect or secondary effects which are caused by the project and are later in time or farther removed in distance, but are still reasonably foreseeable. Indirect or secondary effects may include growth inducing effects and other effects related to induced changes in the pattern of land use, population density, or growth rate, and related effects on air and water and other natural systems, including ecosystems.
  2. Effects analyzed under CEQA must be related to a physical change.


  1. Avoiding the impact altogether by not taking a certain action or parts of an action.
  2. Minimizing impacts by limiting the degree or magnitude of the action and its implementation.
  3. Rectifying the impact by repairing, rehabilitating, or restoring the impacted environment.
  4. Reducing or eliminating the impact over time by preservation and maintenance operations during the life of the action.
  5. Compensating for tile impact by replacing or providing substitute resources environments.

Significant Effect on the Environment

A substantial, or potentially substantial, adverse change in any of the physical conditions within the area affected by the project including, but not limited to, land, air, water, minerals, flora, fauna, ambient noise, and objects of historic or aesthetic significance. An economic or social change by itself shall not be considered a significant effect on the environment.

Negative Declaration

A written statement describing the reasons that a proposed project, not exempt from CEQA, will not have a significant effect on the environmental and therefore does not require the preparation of an EIR.

Mitigated Negative Declaration

A written statement describing the reasons that a proposed project, not exempt from CEQA, will not have a significant effect on the environmental and therefore does not require the preparation of an EIR.

Environmental Impact Report (EIR)

An informational document which will inform public agency decision makers and the public generally of the significant environmental effect of a project, identify possible ways to minimize the significant effects, and describe reasonable alternatives to the project. The public agency shall consider the information in the EIR along with other information which may be presented to the agency.