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Glossary of Useful Terms

Please find below a helpful list of common terms and acronyms.



The maximum amount of building that can take place within a certain area, typically over a given period of time.​


California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)​

A statute established in 1970 that requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible. EIRs are prepared as required by CEQA. State-level equivalent of national policy, NEPA. See also: National Environmental Protection Act.

Certificate of Compliance (COC)

A mechanism for legalizing a parcel of land that was created without benefit of review and approval by a local government.  The current landowner must present evidence that the parcel would have complied with applicable laws at the time it was created. The local government (city or county) then issues a Certificate of Compliance. Often, parcels legalized by COCs do not meet today's zoning standards, and may not be buildable (can not be legally developed).

Conditional Certificate of Compliance (CCOC)

A mechanism used by local governments in limited circumstances to require changes in parcel configuration or size to comply with current zoning. With the passage of SB 497, the law will be clarified to make CCOCs applicable in more situations. Often, COCs and CCOCs have been used to legalize parcels which don't really suit the needs of the landowner, or which may not even be developable, but accompanying Lot Line Adjustments can fix this problem.


Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR)​

A draft report prepared as part of the CEQA review process — state level. The DEIR is an open document that is expected to be modified by public comment.

See also: Environmental Impact Report



Eminent Domain​

​The right of any government entity to take private property for public use in exchange for payment of that property's fair market value. Although the MROSD board issued a resolution (their "willing sellers only" policy) to eliminate the District's right to use eminent domain in the Coastside Protection Program area, residents feared that this decision might be overturned in the future.


Environmental Impact Report (EIR)​

A final report prepared as part of the CEQA review process - state level. Analyzes the effect on the environment of significant projects. See also Draft Environmental Impact Report.


Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

A document required of federal agencies (or other agencies, when federal funds are involved) by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for major projects or legislative proposals significantly affecting the environment. A tool for decision making, it describes the positive and negative effects of the undertaking and cites alternative actions.


Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

A federal agency established in 1970 to protect, maintain, restore, and enhance environmental quality and human health through the regulation of activities that have potentially harmful effects on air, water, and land resources.


California also has an Environmental Protection Agency, which includes the California Air Resources Board, the State Water Resources Control Board, and other agencies.


Finding Of No Significant Impacts (FNSI or FONSI)​

A document prepared by a federal agency showing why a proposed action would not have a significant impact on the environment and thus would not require preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement. An FNSI is based on the results of an environmental assessment.


General Use Permit (GUP)

A development entitlement document granted by a governing agency that defines and sets conditions for the amount and type of development allowable within a certain area. A GUP also contains conditions of approval and environmental mitigations for the identified impacts of development.


Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP)

A document prepared under the federal Endangered Species Act. HCPs are designed to minimize and mitigate impacts to threatened and endangered plant and animal species while allowing development to proceed through the issuance of "incidental take" permits to developers and landowners. Although some HCPs can be very small, covering only a few acres, many cover entire counties or other large areas.​

For more information, visit:
California Dept. of Fish & Game -
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service -
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Conservation Plans and Agreements Database -



League of Women Voters (GUP)

A nonpartisan political organization that the informed and active participation of citizens in government.



Local Agency Formation Committee (LAFCo)

The agency in each county chartered by the California State Legislature to encourage the orderly growth and management of cities and special districts in California.

Each LAFCo is comprised of two representatives of cities, two representatives of counties, one member of the public and - in some counties - two representatives of Special Districts.

Lot Line Adjustment (LLA)

A mechanism for adjusting the common boundary lines between two or more adjoining parcels, provided that no new parcels are created. LLAs are used in combination with COCs (and CCOCs) to create more buildable parcels - generally without public review and approval. Together they increase the risk of development in inappropriate locations, loss of open space, and strain on limited public services. SB 497 will now limit the use to LLA's to four parcels per ownership. Landowners who seek greater numbers of LLA's can use a "resubdivision" process, which has greater public review.



National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA)

A federal act of 1969 requiring federal agencies to identify the predicted environmental impacts of a proposal in an Environmental Impact Statement.

See also California Environmental Quality Act:

Negative Declaration (Neg Dec)

A negative declaration is filed when the lead agency filing an Environmental Impact Report has determined that a proposed project poses no significant chance for effect on the environment.



An outlined piece of land that can be sold.



Special District

A local government agency generally organized to perform a single function, such as managing water, sewer, fire, recreation or parks services.


Trust for Public Land

A national nonprofit founded in 1972 and working exclusively to protect land for human enjoyment and well-being.


Urban Growth Boundary (UGB)

A boundary, typically enacted for a period of 20 years, to designate areas in which future urban development should occur, and to create economic incentives for development to take place within those areas. UGBs often extend beyond a city’s Urban Service Area as part of a long-term planning strategy; before urban-scale development can occur on land within the UGB, the land must first be annexed to the city’s USA.

Compare to Urban Service Area (USA).


Urban Service Area (USA)

City land (developed, undeveloped or agricultural), either incorporated or unincorporated, that is served by urban services (police, fire, water and sanitation) or that is proposed to be served by urban services in the near future. Because land must be annexed to a city’s USA before urban-scale development is allowed, USA boundaries encourage orderly city growth.

Compare to Urban Growth Boundary (UGB).


Williamson Act

The Williamson Act is a procedure authorized under state law to preserve agricultural lands as well as open space. Property owners entering into a Williamson Act contract receive a reduction in property taxes in return for agreeing to protect the land's open space or agricultural values.



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