CEQA: Beware the Naked Checklist
"The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires public agencies to be fully aware of the potential environmental impacts of their decisions before voting on proposed projects. After an agency makes the initial determination that CEQA applies to a particular application, the agency must then predict whether there are risks that significant environmental impacts may result from the project. This determination is typically made through use of an initial study. The initial study is a means for gathering information useful to assess whether to prepare an environmental impact report (EIR) or a negative declaration. Often a checklist procedure is utilized to make this assessment.
...[R]eliance on a 'naked' or 'barebones' checklist to support a determination that an EIR is not necessary and that a negative declaration instead can be prepared is suspect. A naked checklist is one in which only the boxes on the list are checked "yes" or "no" and little or no evidence or data is included to explain the basis on which judgments about potential impacts were made. Use of such a checklist as a way to defend the decision to adopt a negative declaration on the basis that no significant environmental impacts exist is rarely, if ever, legally defensible."