Integrating the principles of strategic environmental assessment into local comprehensive land use plans in California
MetadataShow full item record
The lack of early integration with the planning and decision-making process has been a major problem in environmental assessment. Traditional project-based environmental impact assessment has inadequate incentives and capacities to incorporate critical environmental impacts at a broader temporal or spatial scale. While many applications have been geared towards implementing project-level environmental assessments, comparatively little research has been done to determine how to incorporate strategically critical environmental impacts into local planning. Although the principles of strategic environmental assessment (SEA) are not yet required in local planning in the United States, these principles create a theoretical framework for local environmental assessment. The objective of this study is to examine the ability of local plans to integrate and implement the key SEA principles. This study focuses on increasing the understanding of how and where to integrate environmental impacts into the local planning and decision-making process by converting the principles of SEA into specific planning tools, policies, and implementation strategies. This study develops a protocol with 112 indicators to measure the strengths and weaknesses of integrating strategic environmental assessment into local comprehensive land use plans. A random sample of 40 California local comprehensive land use plans and associated planning processes is evaluated based on this plan quality evaluation protocol. Statistical analysis and multiple regression models identify the factors affecting the quality of plans with respect to their ability to assess environmental impacts. The results identify the relative strengths and weaknesses of the ability of local jurisdictions to integrate the SEA principles. The results show that many strategically important environmental issues and tools are rarely adopted by current local plans. The regression analysis results further identify the effects of planning capacity, environmental assessment capacity, public participation and contextual variables on environmental assessment plan quality. The findings extend established planning theory and practice by incorporating strategic environmental considerations into the existing framework of what constitutes a high quality local land use comprehensive plan and suggest ways to improve plan quality.
Strategic environmental assessment
Land use planning
Tang, Zhenghong (2007). Integrating the principles of strategic environmental assessment into local comprehensive land use plans in California. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from