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. The Public Records Act, Government Code sections 6250 to 6270, requires the Commission to make public records available for inspection by the public and to provide copies upon request. The Commission endeavors to ensure that all persons understand and are afforded the opportunity to use their right to access public records.
The Commission’s External Affairs Division is responsible for fulfilling Public Records Act requests for Commission records. Whenever possible, please submit your request directly to Commission’s Public Records Act Coordinator.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are public records?
The Public Records Act broadly defines public records to include all written and recorded records in the Commission’s possession, unless the Public Records Act 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 Public Records Act provides for public access to records the Commission generates, as well as records created by others that the Commission has in its possession. The Public Records Act provides for the disclosure of existing identifiable records. The Commission 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. The Commission strongly encourages members of the public to submit Public Records Act requests in writing. A Commission 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 Commission 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:
- A statement whether the requester wants to inspect records or wants copies of records The Public Records Act allows for either type of request, and a requester may elect to identify records for copying during an initial inspection. As explained below, the Public Records Act allows agencies to charge fees to cover the cost of copying records.
- 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 the Commission’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.
- The requester’s name, address, and other relevant contact information The Commission encourages, but does not require, requesters to include a telephone number or email address for use in the event that staff has questions about the request. Contact information is mutually beneficial to both the requester and Commission 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.
What is the Commissions' response to a Public Records Act request?
Within 10 days of receipt of a Public Records Act request, Commission 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, the Commission 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:
- 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;
- 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
- The need for consultation between two or more components of the Commission having a substantial interest in the Commission’s determination, in which case the consultation will be conducted with all practicable speed.
The Commission will make the records available as promptly as reasonably practicable. In general, the Commission 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 the Commission 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 Public Records Act 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 email or by telephone. Members of the public who have concerns about the Commission’s handling of a Public Records Act or difficulty obtaining information about the status of the Commission’s response may direct their concerns or questions to the PRA Coordinator.
When may public records be inspected?
Public records are available for inspection during Commission 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 Commission offices. The Commission 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 the Commission’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, the Commission will need sufficient time to separate public records from the records that are not subject to disclosure.
Will the Commission charge a fee?
The Commission does not charge a fee for assembling records for public inspection. When photocopies are requested, the Commission 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, the Commission 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 the Commission 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.
*Requests that exceed 50 pages and/or $25.00 must be paid for in advance.
8 ½” X 11″ and 8 ½” X 14″ copied in black and white – $0.10 cents per page
8 ½” X 11″ and 8 ½” X 14″ copied in color – $0.15 cents per page
Documents that exceed the maximum size of 11″ X 17″ must be sent to an offsite vendor selected by the Commission for reproduction. Reproduction will be charged at the vendor’s service rate. The requestor must arrange and make payment directly to the vendor for the reproduction and/or delivery of the copies. Commission staff is responsible for any transport of the original document(s) to and from the service vendor at no charge to the requestor.
The Commission does not provide electronic document conversion services. It may be possible to send electronic records via email after payment. If a record exists in an electronic format, the Commission will provide those electronic records on either CD-R or DVD. The cost for this service is as follows: $0.50 cents per CD-R required and $2.00 per DVD required
Certification of the authenticity of a record can be provided at the cost of $1.00 per page. (California Public Resources Code 6214).
Please submit a check or money order payable to the California State Lands Commission and submit it to the following address:
California State Lands Commission
100 Howe Avenue, Suite 100-South
Sacramento, CA 95825
A credit card may also be used by calling our Accounting Unit at 916.562.0026.
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 to 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 Public Records Act, 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:
- Commercial oil data, including sales receipts, proprietary information regarding third parties or information that can be classified as a trade secret;
- Preliminary drafts, notes, or inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda which are not retained by the Commission in the ordinary course of business, provided that the public interest in withholding such records clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure;
- Records pertaining to pending litigation to which the Commission is a party, or to claims made until such litigation or claim has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled;
- Personnel, medical, or similar files, the disclosure of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy;
- Records relating to investigations conducted by the Commission;
- Contents of real estate appraisals relative to the acquisition of property, until all of the property has been acquired;
- Records that are privileged under the California Evidence Code, including but not limited to attorney-client communications and attorney work product;
- Any records for which disclosure is prohibited by federal or state law;
- Correspondence from or to the Governor’s Office, or in the custody of or maintained by the Governor’s Legal Affairs Secretary.
The Public Records Act 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.
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 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 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 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 Public Records Act 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.