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When Does CEQA Apply?

Resources listed in, or determined to be eligible for listing in, the California Register are resources that must be given consideration in the CEQA process.

All projects undertaken by a public agency are subject to CEQA. This includes projects undertaken by any state or local agency, any special district (e.g., a school district), and any public college or university.

CEQA applies to discretionary projects undertaken by private parties. A discretionary project is one that requires the exercise of judgement or deliberation by a public agency in determining whether the project will be approved, or if a permit will be issued. Some common discretionary decisions include placing conditions on the issuance of a permit, delaying demolition to explore alternatives, or reviewing the design of a proposed project. Aside from decisions pertaining to a project that will have a direct physical impact on the environment, CEQA also applies to decisions that could lead to indirect impacts, such as making changes to local codes, policies, and general and specific plans. Judgement or deliberation may be exercised by the staff of a permitting agency or by a board, commission, or elected body.

CEQA does not apply to ministerial projects. A ministerial project is one that requires only conformance with a fixed standard or objective measurement and requires little or no personal judgment by a public official as to the wisdom or manner of carrying out the project. Generally ministerial permits require a public official to determine only that the project conforms with applicable zoning and building code requirements and that applicable fees have been paid. Some examples of projects that are generally ministerial include roof replacements, interior alterations to residences, and landscaping changes.

For questions about what types of projects are discretionary and ministerial within your community, you must contact your local government; usually the local Planning Department handles such issues.