While uncertainty remains regarding the CEQA statute of limitations under the Judicial Council’s April 6th Emergency Order (available here), the Governor issued Executive Order N-54-20 (EO N-54-20) on April 23 to provide some clarity on noticing procedures under CEQA (available here) while physical distancing protocols are in effect.
EO N-54-20 suspends certain public filing and notice requirements under CEQA for 60 days. Any materials that would normally be required to be publicly posted, filed with a county clerk, or made available to the public may now be posted online so long as the notice is a) posted on the relevant agency’s or applicant’s public-facing website and b) submitted electronically to the State Clearinghouse CEQAnet Web Portal for the same period of time that physical posting would otherwise be required. In addition, agencies are directed to engage in outreach to any individuals or entities known to be interested as generally contemplated by CEQA. This broad statement would be satisfied by emailing notices to any individual or entity that requested notice of the project and to properties surrounding a project areas per the agencies standard local noticing requirements.
EO N-54-20 applies explicitly to the to the following notice provisions: Notice of Intent to adopt an MND or EIR, Notice of Availability, Notice of Exemption, and Notice of Determination. In what might be an unintentional omission, EO N-54-20 does not apply to notice requirements for a Notice of Preparation of an EIR. Importantly, the 60-day suspension does not change any of the requirements related to the length of public review, only the method by which the notices are delivered to the public. Therefore, provisions for the length of posting remain in effect and are not extended.
EO N-54-20 does suspend the time for tribes to respond to a lead agency for tribal consultation under AB 52 (for preparation of MND and EIRs) for 60 days. (Note, this does not apply to consultation under SB 18 for general plan amendments). For projects that need to complete tribal consultation with non-responsive tribes, this will add at least 60 days to completing consultation. This suspension will not affect projects where tribes are responsive and complete consultation independent of the timing deadline.