By Paul Singarella, Shivaun Cooney, Andrea Hogan, and Adam Thomas

On July 16, 2013, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed on first reading an ordinance that would amend the  California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) procedures set forth in Chapter 31 of the City’s Administrative Code.  A vote on final passage of the ordinance is on the Board’s July 23, 2013 agenda.  The ordinance follows a number of previous attempts over the past decade to revise the City’s procedures related to CEQA, and reflects several amendments to address key differences between competing proposals. 

Many of the ordinance’s provisions are intended to create local consistency with revisions to CEQA and the CEQA Guidelines, and also to codify certain preexisting City practices. The ordinance also establishes new requirements and procedures, particularly with regard to public notice and appeals. The ordinance would, among other things, amend the City’s CEQA procedures to:

  • specify that, where a CEQA decision is appealed and pending before the Board of Supervisors for a project requiring multiple City approvals, other City agencies and officials may not carry out or consider further the approval of the project. Should the Board reverse the CEQA decision before it, the prior CEQA decision and any actions approving the project in reliance on the reversed CEQA decision shall be deemed void;
  • establish procedures for appeal to the Board of Supervisors of negative declarations and determinations by the City Planning Commission, Planning Department, or other City departments that a project is exempt from CEQA, including noticing and posting requirements with regard to exemption determinations;
  • require the City’s Environmental Review Officer to determine whether a change to an exempt project that requires a subsequent approval constitutes a substantial modification, in which case there would be a new, appealable CEQA decision;
  • provide that exemption determinations, negative declarations and environmental impact reports are appealable to the Board of Supervisors within 30 days of the applicable action;
  • provide priority processing for affordable housing and bicycle and pedestrian safety projects; and
  • require the Planning Department to create an electronic notification system for subscription by individuals and organizations interested in various projects and CEQA documents.