Environmental Assessments

What Are Technical Studies?

During the entitlement process, many states require some form of assessment as to the environmental impacts anticipated from a proposed project.  In California, a state law known as CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) requires an environmental assessment to accompany any project put before a planning commission or city council for approval.  Some projects can possibly be categorically exempt, but most need an environmental document.

Technical studies refer to a variety of analyses and reports prepared by specialized consultants, evaluating for potential impacts.  One common report is a traffic study, typically prepared by a traffic engineer, that analyzes potential traffic flow and congestion from the new development.  Another study is a Biology Report, prepared by a professional biologist, that evaluates the impact on threatened and endangered species along with its habitat.  Other technical studies can include assessments for cultural/archaeology, air quality, noise, hydrology, and geological impacts.

Keep in mind that not all, if any, of these technical studies may be necessary.  The environmental assessment process typically starts with an “Initial Checklist” form provided by the local jurisdiction.  With the assistance of an environmental consultant, a developer may determine that any impacts from the project will be “less than significant” and negate the need for any further studies.  The city/county staff will need to agree with the Initial Checklist and confirm the need for technical studies.

When hiring an environmental consultant, I have typically found that the firm might have the in-house expertise for completing a portion of these technical studies.  But in many cases, the environmental consultant will subcontract with traffic engineers, air quality consultants, and other experts to complete whatever report is required.  If not a subcontract, then the developer will contract directly with these other experts.

We welcome you to share your comments and questions below.

John Kaye has over 30 years experience within the land development and homebuilding industries, having held senior management positions with The Irvine Company, Koll Real Estate Group, and Brookfield Homes. As a developer, John has overseen the land acquisition, entitlements, and development of master planned communities, residential tracts, urban infill sites, and land assemblages. His experience and skill sets include land acquisition, land brokerage, project management, market analysis, finance, and strategic planning.

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