This morning, I was taking a nice walk in the neighborhood. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a sign:


Oh no!! A Mitigated Negative Declaration! Wow, that sounds terrible! I wonder what the heck that is?

It certainly caught my attention with that big bold title. I figured I’d better read the notice to figure out what was going on.

Surely this means that the high school district is about to set off some type of bomb. Or, at minimum, blow up a few of the cars that are always in the tow-away zone.

Intrigued, I continued reading:

Project Title


Aha! They say they are building classrooms and a new band room. But, we know better. Something evil must be afoot. After all, this is a Mitigated Negative Declaration! So I continued:


Hrm…that doesn’t sound so negative to me. I’d much rather have a new music building and some additional classrooms than a maintenance yard and a portable. So I finished reading:


Wow, that’s quite the 38-word sentence, but I digress.

So, where is this Mitigated Negative Declaration that they are scaring me with? And what on earth are they really trying to tell me?

Being the geek that I am, I Googled “CEQA Mitigated Negative Declaration”. Google returned a number of results. So, I selected the one titled, “What is a CEQA Mitigated Declaration?” It took me to the CalRecycle page, where I found this definition:

A MND is a ND that incorporates revisions and/or mitigation measures in the proposed project that will avoid or mitigate impacts to a point where clearly no significant impacts on the environment would occur. And, that there is no substantial evidence in light of the whole record before the public agency that the project, as revised, may have a significant impact on the environment.

Wait, what?  How is someone supposed to understand what any of this means? The average reading level in the U.S. is someplace between 6th and 8th grades.

Putting it into Plain English

As a community service, I’ve decided to rewrite this notice in plain English. Here goes:

Notice of Intent to Build

The Los Gatos – Saratoga Union High School District (LGSUHSD) would like to build a new music building and classrooms. We did a study and we found that the new buildings will not have a bad impact on the environment. The study is called an Initial Study (IS). The IS is required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Here is where you can find more information about the study <<<insert info here>>>. If you disagree with our results, you have at least 30 days to give us your feedback.

Project Title: Los Gatos High School Classroom and Music Buildings

Project Description: The LGSUHSD wants to build a classroom and music building. The buildings will replace the maintenance yard, paved parking, and portable classroom. The classroom building will be approximately 18,500 square feet. It will be two stories tall. It will not be taller than 35 feet…Before we build the new buildings, the maintenance yard will be demolished and the portable classroom will be taken away.

You have 30 days to look at the study, beginning on Thursday, December 17, 2015. The official time for you to review the study will end on Friday, January 15, 2016. If you have comments or concerns about this project, you can provide them in writing. You must be specific in your comments and provide facts to back them up. The LGSUHSD Board of Trustees will review the project on January 19, 2016.

I think that my rewritten version of the notice is easier to understand. It says the same thing as the mumbo jumbo version. Just in English. Plain English.

Val Swisher
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