The California Environmental Quality Act and Local Planning

Robert B. Olshansky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper describes the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and its importance to local planning in California. More than an environmental protection act, CEQA governs the review and approval process of all large developments in the state, both public and private, and is implemented primarily by local governments. CEQA has spawned a multi-million dollar industry, producing approximately 25,000 environmental documents per year. To understand CEQA is to understand how planning has evolved in California, how it might change in the future, and how it differs from planning systems in other states. This research found that local planning directors are in remarkable agreement that CEQA has improved planning practice in California, and that CEQA is nearly as important as General Plans. The research also confirmed that planning decisions are of ten made piecemeal, rather than comprehensively. Several factors contribute to that pattern, and CEQA may be one. On balance, however, CEQA adds intelligence to local planning, and is a valuable component of California's planning environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-330
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the American Planning Association
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Urban Studies


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