The CEQA Guidelines outline certain types of projects that are not expected to impact the environment to be exempt from environmental review requirements. Some examples of exempt classes of projects, known as Categorical Exemptions, are:
- Repair, remodel, or minor additions to existing facilities;
- Construction of a single-family residence;
- Gardening, landscaping, or minor grading for a driveway or sidewalk,
- The creation of four or fewer parcels from one piece of land when public services are available and no variances or exceptions are required.
There are other exemptions under CEQA known as Statutory Exemptions. These are projects exempt from CEQA as determined by the State Legislature. For example, a project for restriping streets or highways to relieve traffic congestion or the installation of a new pipeline or the maintenance, or restoration of an existing pipeline as long as the project does not exceed one mile in length.
General Rule Exemptions are sometimes applied to proposals that are clearly not expected to impact the environment but do not fit into any of the specified exemptions categories of CEQA.
Even if a project is listed as an exempt class, it will be subject to environmental review if the lead agency determines that special circumstances exist that could result in an environmental impact. For example, a small parcel split that may otherwise be a candidate for an Exemption happens to be in the floodplain, contains special habitat, has a historic building, or other special characteristics that would trigger the need for environmental review. A project proposed on such a parcel is not likely to qualify for an exemption.