Development in Conservation Areas

The Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (CVMSHCP) provides a means for streamlined development while protecting the region’s diverse natural resources. The signatories to the CVMSCHP, which includes the Valley’s nine municipalities and the County, are able to provide coverage for incidental take in urban areas in exchange for setting aside land for conservation in undeveloped areas.

The process for obtaining coverage under the CVMSHCP depends on the location of a proposed development project. Projects outside one of the CVMSHCP’s designated Conservation Areas need only pay the Local Development Mitigation Fee to obtain coverage. Developers proposing projects within a Conservation Area will need to submit their plans to the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission (CVCC) for analysis to determine whether the project is consistent with the CVMSCHP’s Conservation Objectives.

Use CVCC’s Parcel Look-Up Tool to check whether your project will need a consistency analysis.

Note that the CVMSHCP does not provide coverage for projects on tribal reservation land, nor does it cover impacts on aquatic resources.

Development Within Conservation Areas

The Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (CVMSHCP) allows for a minimal level of development to take place with designated Conservation Areas, provided that development is consistent with the Conservation Objectives and Required Measures for each Conservation Area; the Avoidance, Minimization, and Mitigation Measures for each Covered Species; and the Land Use Adjacency Guidelines for any development taking place within or adjacent to a Conservation Area.

CVMSHCP consistency is determined via a Joint Project Review, which must be completed ahead of the issuance of any grading permits. The entire Joint Project Review process generally takes approximately 75 days from the receipt of a complete application to the submission of a final consistency determination to the permitting jurisdiction. The JPR process is discussed in section (PDF).

It is strongly recommended that project proponents complete the Joint Project Review process ahead of issuing a draft CEQA document.

The Joint Project Review Process

Any developer seeking to implement a project that will result in ground disturbance within a Conservation Area must submit their project for Joint Project Review (JPR). The JPR process allows the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission (CVCC) to conduct an analysis of the project and determine whether or not the project is consistent with the requirements of the CVMSHCP. Upon completion of the analysis, CVCC will issue its consistency determination to the permitting jurisdiction which maintains ultimate land use authority in permitting any project.

In performing the consistency analysis, CVCC will assess the following criteria:

  • Total project impact: CVCC will determine the total acreage of disturbance proposed by the project. Because desert ecosystems recover so slowly from any type of disturbance, both permanent and temporary ground disturbance will be counted towards the project’s footprint. CVCC will account for any existing disturbance, and remove it from the total project impact.
  • Authorized disturbance: CVCC will identify whether the project will exceed the authorized disturbance quota for the permitting jurisdiction within the Conservation Area, accounting for any disturbance that has already been authorized under the CVMSCHP. Each jurisdiction’s authorized disturbance for a given Conservation Area is described in section 4.3 (PDF).
  • Required conservation measures: CVCC will confirm that the project’s work plan adheres to the Conservation Area’s required conservation measures, as described in section 4.3 (PDF).
  • Avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures: CVCC will review the work plan to confirm that the project incorporates the necessary avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures for any covered species, natural community, or essential ecological process that occurs within the project’s footprint. These measures are listed in section 4.4 (PDF), and additional considerations may be discussed in chapters 9 (PDF) and 10 (PDF).
  • Land use adjacency guidelines: Land use adjacency guidelines must be incorporated into the project’s work plan. These guidelines are listed in section 4.5 (PDF).
  • Rough step proportionality: Rough step refers to the relative proportion of permitted disturbance to land conserved for each Conservation Area. CVCC will analyze all the approved disturbance under the plan and compare it to the land conserved to make sure that disturbance is not outpacing conservation. Rough step is described in section 6.5 (PDF).

Application Materials

Joint Project Review applications must contain the following:

Additional materials may be required based on the project’s location. Applicants are encouraged to carefully review sections 4.3–4.5 and to make sure the project description considers the review criteria.