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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

California State Land Lease (3-CA-a)

A developer will need to obtain a lease from the California State Lands Commission (Commission) if the proposed project will occupy any portion of state lands that fall under the jurisdiction of the Commission. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 6501.1

The Commission has jurisdiction and management control over sovereign state land and California school lands (school lands). Sovereign state land consists of any land underlying the state’s navigable and tidal waterways. This includes the beds of California’s navigable rivers, lakes, and streams. The Commission also manages the state’s tide and submerged lands along the coastline and offshore islands from the mean high tide line to three nautical miles offshore. Approximately 4 million acres of sovereign state land is held by the Commission subject to the public trust which reserves the use and enjoyment of the land for statewide public purposes. When considering a lease dealing with sovereign state land the Commission must take into consideration a multiple use management policy that ensures the greatest possible public benefit is derived from the land. The Commission will also consider factors such as the size, location, intended use, and environmental impacts associated with the purposed project. The Commission can approve, condition, or deny any application based on its discretion or other issues raised during the application process. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 6009

School lands are also managed and controlled by the Commission through its Land Management Division (LMD). California still maintains approximately 468,000 acres of school lands which were originally granted to the state by Congress in 1853 for the benefit of public education. The LMD is responsible for administering surface resources on school lands, with the exception of mineral activities. Power plant and transmission developers should note that over half of all school lands are located in the California Desert. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 6501.1

The proposed project needing a right of way over land managed by the Commission must meet the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Commission may allow other governmental agencies to act as lead agency if the other agency has jurisdiction over some part of the project. For example, if part of the project falls on private property, the county will have jurisdiction and may act as CEQA lead. The Commission, if acting as lead agency, will not issue any lease if the project does not comply with CEQA regulations. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 6502 See Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 6502

See Memorandum of Understanding 2011

State Land Lease Process

3-CA-a.1 to 3-CA-a.3 – Contact the Department of General Services to Determine which Agency has Jurisdiction; Is the Land Under the Jurisdiction of the California State Lands Commission?; Contact the Relevant State or Local Agency with Jurisdiction

The first step in the leasing process is to determine who owns the land. In California, numerous state agencies have jurisdiction over various state lands, including the California Department of General Services, Caltrans, and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. In order to determine which agency has jurisdiction, the developer should consult the Department of General Services' Statewide Property Inventory (SPI). The SPI can be accessed on the Department of General Services' SPI Website.

As stated above, the Commission has plenary authority over sovereign state lands and school lands. See Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 6301. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 6501.1 gives specific authority to the Commission to lease the land under its jurisdiction, as established by Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 6301. The application process outlined below only applies to projects on lands that fall under the jurisdiction of the Commission or on other state lands where leasing authority has been transferred to the Commission. If another state agency has jurisdiction over the site, that agency should be contacted directly for more information about its leasing process.

3-CA-a.4 – State Land Lease Application

A developer planning on building on or otherwise occupying land under the jurisdiction and management control of the Commission must submit a lease application. The application must include an outline of the proposed project, data supporting environmental compliance, and all applicable fees or deposits required by the Commission. The developer is encouraged to contact the Commission prior to filing an application for assistance determining specific information needed for a proposed project.

For specific application requirements see Application Guidelines.

For a lease application see Commission Application.

3-CA-a.5 to 3-CA-a.6 – Review Application Materials for Completeness

The Commission will review the application to determine if it contains all the necessary information. To be deemed complete the application must include:

  • Information sufficient to allow the Commission to locate and describe the nature and extent of state-owned land that will be utilized in the project;
  • All deposits and fees required by the Commission;
  • Project specific information and environmental data sufficient for the Commission to determine the level and scope of environmental review required;
  • Information sufficient for the state to determine the fair rental price to be paid to the state for the use of the land; and
  • Information sufficient to allow the Commission to begin an analysis to determine if the application is: (a) consistent with Commission policies, practices and procedures; (b) conducive to public access; (c) consistent with environmental safeguards and policies of the State; and (d) otherwise in the best interests of the state.

If the application is not complete, the Commission will notify the developer of the information necessary to complete the application. If the developer does not send the requested information within a reasonable time, the Commission may close the application file and keep any fees or deposits that have been paid.

See Application Guidelines

3-CA-a.7 to 3-CA-a.8 - Will the Project Be in a Coastal Zone?

Coastal waters and beaches are state lands, but are not under the jurisdiction and management control of the Commission. If the project is located in a coastal zone then the developer will be required to obtain additional permits from the California Coastal Commission.

See California Coastal Act.

Under Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 30103, “coastal zone” means that land and water area of the State of California from the Oregon border to the border of the Republic of Mexico extending seaward to the state's outer limit of jurisdiction, including all offshore islands, and extending inland generally 1,000 yards from the mean high tide line of the sea. In significant coastal estuarine, habitat, and recreational areas it extends inland to the first major ridgeline paralleling the sea or five miles from the mean high tide line of the sea, whichever is less, and in developed urban areas the zone generally extends inland less than 1,000 yards.

Coastal Land Use Assessment:

3-CA-a.9 to 3-CA-a.11- Initiate Environmental Review

Once the Commission determines that the application is complete, the proposed project must meet the applicable environmental review requirements. Depending on the project, the environmental review will be conducted by either the CEC or the Commission. The CEC has management authority over the construction and operation of any thermal power plant with a generating capacity of 50 megawatts (MW) or greater. The CEC has a specific certification process that a developer must follow which is equivalent to the CEQA review. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 25216.5

If the CEC is the lead agency for proposed project see: State Plant Commissioning Process, Application for Certification:

The lead agency will be the Commission if the proposed project is for a thermal power plant with a generating capacity of less than 50 MW or a solar photovoltaic (PV) facility, regardless of generating capacity. The Commission will determine the process and requirements needed for a proposed project to satisfy the CEQA standards and will conduct the necessary review. The developer will be responsible for any costs associated with conducting an environmental review. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 6224.3

If the Commission is the lead agency for the proposed project see: State Environmental Review Process:

3-CA-a.12 to 3-CA-a.13 – Does the Commission Approve the Lease Application?

The Commission must approve or reject the application either within 180 days of receiving it or within 90 days after the completion of an environmental impact report, if one is required, whichever occurs later. However, 270 days after receiving the application is the maximum time allowed for the Commission to approve or reject the application. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 6502

If the Commission approves the state land lease application, a final lease will be presented to the developer which will include the cost of rent, the length of lease, and other specific terms that the project will be subject to. If the developer accepts the terms of the final lease, the lease will be recorded and the developer may begin the proposed project. Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 6501.2

If the Commission does not approve the application then the developer will not receive access to the state land and will have to relocate the proposed project.

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