CEQA: Program vs. Project EIR


Citizens for a Sustainable Treasure Island v. City and County of San Francisco

(2014) 227 Cal.App.4th 1036

Recently, a California Appellate Court took the opportunity to explore the difference between a “project” and “program” EIR, and held the EIR’s level of specificity is determined by the nature of the project rather than the title of the EIR.

In 2001, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a project, and certified a project-level EIR, for the reuse of the former naval station on Yerba Buena Island. A group challenged the Board’s certification of the EIR, arguing, among others, that the City should have prepared a program EIR rather than a project EIR.

The court explained a project-level EIR generally focuses on the environmental changes caused by a development project, including planning, construction, and operation. A program EIR, on the other hand, generally looks at the broad policy of a planning document, i.e., a general plan, and may not address potential site-specific impacts of the individual projects that may fall within the planning document. The court emphasized, however, that the project determines the level of specificity required within the EIR, not the name, as all EIRs must include the same general content. Because the EIR covered all of the CEQA required elements based on the project at hand, the court found the name to be inconsequential.

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