Code Changes, the General Plan and CEQA

 The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires that a "project" be evaluated for conistency with the General Plan and for possible impacts of the "project".

Zoning Code amendments are a project under CEQA.

Learn more about CEQA here.

The Initial Study fails to:


1.    Examine consistency of the proposed Code changes with the La Habra Heights General Plan

2.    Consider impacts of the proposed Code changes



General Plan Consistency


Government Code Section 65860 requires consistency between local zoning ordinances and the general plans they implement.

Code changes are a “project” under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).


Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations (CEQA Guidelines Article 5) states that an Initial Study shall include:


“15063(d) (5) An examination of whether the project would be consistent with existing zoning, plans, and other applicable land use controls”


The Initial Study fails to examine General Plan consistency, and misstates the nature of the “project”.


Under Initial Study, 1. Land Use and Planning, the narrative states:


“The intent of these revisions is to amend sections of the Municipal Code to clarify and include language in the development code to facilitate the development process. Therefore, the amendments would not divide any established community or conflict with any land use policies”


In fact, most of the proposed changes have nothing to do with “process”, but, in fact, will create real effects.


Example: Proposed Code change deleting the definition of “View Corridor” and deleting its use in 7.12.30A, not only deletes implementation of General Plan policies protecting viewscapes (some noted below), but totally changes the effect of 7.12.30A, to only protecting impacts of new construction from public streets.


Goal 3. Preserve scenic views.

Environmental Resource Management Element Policy 31. Protect scenic corridors to maintain their aesthetic, recreational, cultural, or historic values.

Environmental Resource Management Element Policy 34. Take reasonable measures to preserve scenic views.

Land Use Element Policy 10. The significant primary views of local hills, valleys, city lights, ocean, and mountains enjoyed by residents shall be protected from obstruction by any new development’s structures or landscape elements, to the fullest extent consistent with the property rights of the owner of the site on which the new development is located.



Example: Proposed Code changes exempting portions of driveways, roads, parking spaces, and pools from hardscape and/or grading limits violates the General Plan, including, but not limited to:

Goal 2. Minimize alteration of the natural terrain.

Land Use Element Policy 13. Design all development to minimize impacts on the community character, the surrounding neighborhood, and natural features.

Land Use Element Policy 21. Limit impervious coverage to preserve the rural character of the community and to allow for the natural infiltration of water.

Circulation Element Policy 68. Implement policies for the preservation of natural conditions leading to retention of storm water where it occurs.

Circulation Element Policy 69. Review hard surface limitations on all development to ensure compliance with the government’s storm water retention policies.

Circulation Element Policy 1. Maintain street widths and rights-of-way consistent with our rural environment. Existing streets serve as the standard for any new or extended local streets.

Environmental Resource Management Element Policy 3. Encourage practices that stress soil conservation as a means to retain native vegetation, maximize water infiltration, provide slope stabilization, allow scenic enjoyment, and reduce flood hazards.


A good example of an Initial Study that looks at General Plan issues can be found here:


The Initial Study needs to be redone to address General Plan compliance as required by the California Environmental Quality Act.


Consideration of Impacts


The Initial Study repeatedly states that there are “no projects associated with these amendments”, and that environmental analysis will occur when those projects are submitted.


CEQA REQUIRES impacts to be considered up front, not postponed until some future date.


From Ceqa Guidelines: “In Antioch v. Pittsburg (1986) 187 Cal. App. 3d 1325, the court cited City of Carmel-by-the-Sea v. Board of Supervisors of Monterey County 183 Cal. App. 3d 229, to emphasize the importance of considering in the initial study all the activities and impacts involved in planning, implementation, and operation of a project.”


There is case after case establishing that potential impacts must be considered.


Sundstrom v. County of Mendocino (1988) clearly established that study of impacts cannot be postponed until some future date.


Walmart v. City of Turlock provides a clear framework for the City to follow in properly handling Code amendments.


The proposed changes will result in negative environmental impacts.


Example: A proposed 3 lot subdivision is proposed for a steep 7.5 acre parcel at 1662 Hacienda. The subdivision is dependent on passage of the Code changes. The subdivision could not be done under the Old Code or the current Code.

This is an impact. There is another subdivision on Casalero awaiting Code changes.


Example: The current Code allows hardscape and grading to be exceeded by 100% with a Standards Modification.

Driveway, Road, and Parking exemptions are allegedly required because of difficult access.

A Standards Mod would allow an additional 660 foot long driveway on a one acre parcel, without the exemption.

The proposed Code changes do not change any standards modification requirements or allowances, which will result in additional grading, hardscape, and building.


The proposed Code changes will result in additional runoff and negative aesthetic impacts.


A properly done Initial Study would reveal the negative environmental impacts and establish the need for an Environmental Impact Report for the proposed Code changes.


The Initial Study needs to be redone to consider and evaluate potential negative environmental impacts.