What is a General Plan?

The general plan is the principal long-range policy and planning document guiding the development, conservation, and enhancement of California cities and counties. It is a comprehensive collection of goals and policies related to the physical development of the City. State law requires every city and county to adopt a general plan to represent the jurisdiction’s view of its future.


The General Plan Vision

The Vision, or a statement of desired future conditions, values and characteristics to be achieved or reinforced by the plan, lays the foundation for the policies and programs developed for each of the general plan elements. The visioning process often provides an opportunity for the public to participate in the preparation of the general plan. Visioning can reveal values and identify needs of the community as well as distinguish the planning issues that are important to its residents and are used to shape the policies and programs of the general plan elements.


How is a General Plan implemented?

General plan implementation consists of shorter-term actions and programs to carry out longer-term general plan goals and policies. This includes one-time initiatives by the City (e.g., zoning code update to reflect changes in a new general plan), decisions on public and private development projects, municipal operational programs, capital improvements and partnerships with other jurisdictions or agencies.


Who will use the General Plan?

  • City Council and Planning Commission use the goals and policies of the general plan as a basis upon which to make both long-term and short-term decisions, determine long-term objectives, generate and evaluate budgets, plan capital improvements, and prioritize tasks.
  • City staff and all departments will also reference the general plan when considering development applications, capital improvements, service programming, and departmental budgeting.
  • Individual residents, existing and prospective business owners, and the development community can also seek guidance for preserving and enhancing the community through the general plan.
  • Other local and regional agencies will refer to the general plan when projecting future needs and services. The general plan is truly the City’s collective guide to the future.


What goes into the General Plan?

The General Plan is both geographically and topically comprehensive. The General Plan covers the territory within the boundaries of the City and areas outside of its boundaries that relate to its planning vision and activities related to community growth and development. The General Plan addresses a wide variety of issues that characterize the City, and state law requires all general plans to include a vision statement  and the seven elements listed on the follow webpage. Optional elements may also be added that the City and residents identify as specific needs of their City.


How do the elements work together?

All elements have equal legal status so no element has legal supremacy over another. State law requires the elements of a general plan to be internally consistent, meaning the goals, policies, and implementation measures cannot conflict with one another, and they must be consistent. For example, if the Land Use Element identifies an increase in development potential, then the Circulation Element (roadway capacity) must also address this anticipated change.