Guidelines for Public Records Act Requests

The California Legislature has declared that access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state, as set forth in Article 1, Section 3 of the California Constitution and the California Public Records Act (Gov. Code, § 6250 et seq. (PRA)). Executive Order S-03-06 requires executive agencies including the California State Lands Commission (CSLC) to adopt and post guidelines to help ensure agencies' compliance with the PRA. Pursuant to the Executive Order, CSLC has established these guidelines for the purposes of: (1) instructing CSLC employees on how to handle requests for records under the PRA, and (2) informing the public about its rights to access CSLC records under California law.  These guidelines apply to requests for records held by CSLC.  The Executive Order requires CSLC to post a copy of these guidelines in all their offices.  Copies of these guidelines will be provided free of charge upon request.

What are "Public Records"?

The PRA broadly defines “public records” to include all written and recorded records in CSLC's possession, unless the PRA or other law exempts the records from disclosure. Printed and photocopied documents, internal and external correspondence, handwritten notes, computer data, electronic files, and audio and video recordings are all public records subject to disclosure unless they fall within an exemption. The PRA provides for public access to records CSLC generates, as well as records created by others that CSLC has in its possession.

The PRA provides for the disclosure of existing identifiable records. CSLC is not required to prepare new records in response to a request, or to compile, synthesize, summarize, or index information or records in a form that does not exist at the time of the request.

How May the Public Obtain Access to a Public Record?

Any member of the public may inspect public records or request copies of public records that are reasonably identified by the requester.
CSLC strongly encourages members of the public to submit PRA requests in writing. A CSLC employee who receives a verbal request for records may ask, but cannot require, the requester to submit the request in writing. If the requester declines to submit a written request, the CSLC employee must document the verbal request and process it in accordance with these guidelines.
It is important to include the following information in a request:

  1. A statement whether the requester wants to inspect records or wants copies of records
    The PRA allows for either type of request, and a requester may elect to identify records for copying during an initial inspection.  As explained below, the PRA allows agencies to charge fees to cover the cost of copying records.
  2. A clear and specific description of the records sought
    A requester should identify specific dates or a date range for the records whenever possible; describe the subject in adequate detail; and include document titles, authors, and other information when known.  Vague or unnecessarily broad descriptions, e.g., a request for all records “relating to” a general subject will delay CSLC's response to the request and result in a larger volume of records than the requester intended.

Additionally, identifying the county or counties to which the record relates and the subject of the record (e.g. a lease, an easement, or an Environmental Impact Report in County X) will help narrow the search to the most responsive documents.

  1. The requester's name, address, and other relevant contact information
    CSLC encourages, but does not require, requesters to include a telephone number or e-mail address for use in the event that staff has questions about the request.  Contact information is mutual beneficial to both the requester and CSLC staff as it gives staff the ability to address ambiguities/uncertainties regarding the requested records and to expedite the identification of the records being sought.  Failure to work with staff may result in a denial of the request on the grounds that the public interest is outweighed by the undue burden placed on the agency.

Where Should Requests be Submitted?

CSLC's External Affairs Division is responsible for accepting and processing PRA requests for CSLC records. Whenever possible, all requests should be submitted directly to CSLC's PRA Coordinator:

Public Records Act Coordinator
California State Lands Commission
100 Howe Avenue Suite 100-South
Sacramento, CA 95825
E-Mails can be directed to the PRA Coordinator at: CSLC.PRARequest@slc.ca.gov

CSLC'S Response to a PRA Request

Within 10 days of receipt of a PRA request, CSLC staff will determine whether the request, in whole or in part, seeks copies of disclosable public records in its possession and will notify the requester of such determination.  In unusual circumstances, the 10-day time limit may be extended up to 14 additional days by written notice to the requester identifying the need for the time extension.  If records cannot be provided by the response deadline, CSLC will provide the requesting party with an estimate of the time needed to gather and review the documents for delivery.

Unusual circumstances warranting an extension may include the following:

  1. The need to search for and collect the requested records from field facilities or other offices that are separate from the office processing the request;
  2. The need to search for, collect, and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records that are demanded in a single request; or
  3. The need for consultation between two or more components of CSLC having substantial interest in CSLC's determination, in which case the consultation will be conducted with all practicable speed.

CSLC will make the records available as promptly as reasonably practicable. In general, CSLC will need more time to locate and assemble a large number of records, especially when they are maintained at various locations, than to locate one or several documents. Copying a large volume of records will also generally take more time than if the requester only seeks to inspect records.

When CLSC completes its search for relevant documents, and its copying of these documents, it will advise the requester of: (1) the location, date, and time at which the requested records may be inspected, or provide a contact person to arrange a date and time for inspection; (2) if copies of records are requested, the copying fee, which must be paid to obtain the copies; and (3) if applicable, provisions of the PRA which exempt some or all of the requested records from disclosure. This information is usually provided in a letter delivered by U.S. mail, but may be provided by e-mail or by telephone.

Members of the public who have concerns about CSLC's handling of a PRA request or difficulty obtaining information about the status of CSLC's response may direct their concerns or questions to:

Public Records Act Coordinator
California State Lands Commission
100 Howe Avenue Suite 100-South
Sacramento, CA 95825
E-Mails can be directed to the PRA Coordinator at: CSLC.PRARequest@slc.ca.gov

When May Public Records be Inspected?

Public records are available for inspection during CSLC office hours, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, except for state holidays. The inspection of public records is subject to a rule of reason as to time and duration, and must be consistent with the efficient functioning of CSLC offices.  CSLC asks any person who wishes to inspect public records to telephone the External Affairs Division to schedule an appointment to inspect the records.  It is CSLC's policy that records not exempt from disclosure by state law will be open for public inspection with the least possible delay and expense to the requesting party.  If public records, in whole or in part, are maintained in files that may also contain records that are privileged or otherwise exempt from the disclosure requirement, CSLC will need sufficient time to separate public records from the records that are not subject to disclosure.

Will CSLC Charge a Fee?

CSLC does not charge a fee for assembling records for public inspection. When photocopies are requested, CSLC charges a fee of $0.10/$0.15 per page to cover the direct cost of duplicating the records, which includes the proportionate cost of operating the copy machine and the expense of the person operating the copy machine, but not costs associated with retrieval, inspection and handling of the records.

When copies of electronic records are requested, CSLC will charge an amount sufficient to cover the cost of the media used (e.g., a CD or DVD) and the time spent compiling and duplicating the records.  HOWEVER, when CLSC must compile or extract electronic data or perform computer programming, it may charge its full costs. This fee will vary depending on the records sought and the media used.  For more information regarding the costs to produce documents go to Reproduction Fees.

What Records are NOT Available for Inspection?

In addition to the public's right to access public records, California law recognizes both an individual's right of privacy and the need for state agencies to be able to competently perform their duties. To protect those interests, the Legislature has identified in the PRA, and other statutes, certain records and information that are exempt from public disclosure. A list of those exemptions is included in the Public Records Act (Government Code §§ 6250-6276.48) and should be consulted by anyone interested in seeing the full text of these exemptions.  Below is a summary of a few of the most common exemptions:

  1. Commercial oil data, including sales receipts, proprietary information regarding third parties or information that can be classified as a trade secret;
  2. Preliminary drafts, notes, or inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda which are not retained by CSLC in the ordinary course of business, provided that the public interest in withholding such records clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure;
  3. Records pertaining to pending litigation to which CSLC is a party, or to claims made until such litigation or claim has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled;
  4. Personnel, medical, or similar files, the disclosure of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy;
  5. Records relating to investigations conducted by CSLC;
  6. Contents of real estate appraisals relative to the acquisition of property, until all of the property has been acquired;
  7. Records that are privileged under the California Evidence Code, including but not limited to attorney-client communications and attorney work product;
  8. Any records for which disclosure is prohibited by federal or state law;
  9. Correspondence from or to the Governor's Office, or in the custody of or maintained by the Governor's Legal Affairs Secretary.

The PRA also allows agencies to withhold records that do not fall within a specific exemption if the agency determines the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure.

Other Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Can I bring in my own computer, scanner, camera or copy service to copy the record?

    No. State Lands Commission staff will arrange for all required reproduction. Reproduction charges will apply. One may, however, take as many notes with pencil and paper as is necessary.

  • How can one obtain copies of records in electronic format?

    If a request seeks public records in an electronic format, the California State Lands Commission will provide those public records that are not exempt from disclosure in an electronic format if the California State Lands Commission has them in that format at the time the request is received.

  • Are there rules that govern my handling of original records?

    Yes. Since many of the records of the State Lands Commission are original, of historical value and sometimes fragile, you are required to handle all records carefully, use only a pencil and paper to take notes, and never eat or drink around or near the records at any time. Your cooperation will ensure that important records will be available in the future.

  • How long will the State Lands Commission hold requested records for me?

    Items requested for review under the California Public Records Act will be available for review for 22 business days from the date of notification to the requestor. Requested materials will be returned to file and the PRA request will be considered complete after 22 days. If, after 22 business days, the requestor still wishes to pursue a request for records, a new request will be required.