When does CEQA apply?

CEQA applies to actions by a local agency that are: (1) discretionary; and (2) constitute a “project” as defined by CEQA. 

An action is discretionary when it requires the exercise of judgment.1 The action is a project if it may cause a direct physical change in the environment, or a reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change in the environment.2  The term “project” is “given broad interpretation in order to maximize protection of the environment, therefore the general rule is, if it’s not clearly seen that the item it is not a project, then treat it as a project.”3


  1. “Discretionary project” means a project which requires the exercise of judgment or deliberation when the public agency or body decides to approve or disapprove a particular activity, as distinguished from situations where the public agency or body merely has to determine whether there has been conformity with applicable statutes, ordinances, regulations, or other fixed standards. 
  2. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21065.
  3. Azusa Land Reclamation Co. v Main San Gabriel Basin Watermaster, 52 Cal.App.4th 1165, 1189 (Cal. App. Ct. 1997). 

Show All Answers

1. What is CEQA?
2. Where did CEQA come from?
3. When does CEQA apply?
4. Who does it affect?
5. How is it implemented?
6. Does my project qualify for an Exemption?
7. What are Exceptions from Exemptions?