Public participation is an essential part of the CEQA process. Several agencies I work with include a community meeting at the beginning of the CEQA process, regardless of the size of the project. These meetings can be either formal or informal scoping meetings. The benefits of such meetings are that they introduce the public to the project, serve as an initial first vetting on what some of the community concerns may be, and lets the community members establish a relationship with city staff.
It is important to remember that some projects are required to have at least one scoping meeting. According to Section 15082(c)(1) of the State CEQA Guidelines, for projects that meet the criteria of statewide, regional or area wide significance, the lead agency shall conduct at least one scoping meeting. Projects that meet these criteria, per Section 15206, include:
- A project has the potential for causing significant effects on the environment extending beyond the city or county in which the project would be located. Examples of the effects include generating significant amounts of traffic or interfering with the attainment or maintenance of state or national air quality standards. Projects subject to this subdivision include:
- A proposed residential development of more than 500 dwelling units.
- A proposed shopping center or business establishment employing more than 1,000 persons or encompassing more than 500,000 square feet of floor space.
- A proposed commercial office building employing more than 1,000 persons or encompassing more than 250,000 square feet of floor space.
- A proposed hotel/motel development of more than 500 rooms.
- A proposed industrial, manufacturing, or processing plant, or industrial park planned to house more than 1,000 persons, occupying more than 40 acres of land, or encompassing more than 650,000 square feet of floor area.
- A project which would result in the cancellation of an open space contract made pursuant to the Williamson Act for any parcel of 100 or more acres.
- A project for which an EIR and not a negative declaration was prepared which would be located in and would substantially impact the following areas of critical environmental sensitivity: 1) The Lake Tahoe Basin; 2) Santa Monica Mountains Zone; 3) California Coastal Zone; 4) An area within 1/4 mile of a wild and scenic river; 5) The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta; 6) The jurisdiction of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission
- A project which would substantially affect sensitive wildlife habitats including but not limited to riparian lands, wetlands, bays, estuaries, marshes, and habitats for endangered, rare and threatened species.
- A project which would interfere with attainment of regional water quality standards as stated in the approved areawide waste treatment management plan.
- A project which would provide housing, jobs, or occupancy for 500 or more people within 10 miles of a nuclear power plant.