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California Office of Planning & Research
General Plan Guidelines

General Plan Guidelines

The Governors Office of Planning & Research has produced an excellent 300 page document on a wide range of issues related to updating County & City General Plans in California.

Prepared in 2003, the Guidelines are an extraordinarily valuable resource for citizens seeking to understand General Plans, how they are updated, and the law.

(click here to see / download entire document)

2003 Office of Planning & Research
General Plan Guidelines

Table of Contents
(click on Chapter Headings for individual chapters)


Milestones in California’s Planning Law

Chapter 1: General Plan Basics
Internal Consistency
Long-Term Perspective
Defining the Parts of the General Plan
Community Plans, Area Plans, and Specific Plans
Elements, Issues, and Flexibility
Adoption of Another Jurisdiction’s General Plan and Joint Adoption

Chapter 2: Sustainable Development and Environmental Justice
Sustainable Development
Environmental Justice
Transit-Oriented Development

Chapter 3: Preparing and Amending
the General Plan

The Work Program
Formulate Goals
Collect and Analyze Data
Refine Goals and Determine Objectives
Developing and Evaluating Alternative Plans
Selecting the Preferred Plan
Implementing the General Plan
General Plan Amendments

Chapter 4: Required Elements
Relationships Among Elements and Issues
Land Use Element
Circulation Element
Housing Element
Conservation Element
Open-Space Element
Noise Element
Safety Element

Chapter 5: Format and Element Integration
Equal Status and Internal Consistency
Six General Plan Guidelines
Element Consolidation
Style and Presentation

Chapter 6: Optional Elements
Air Quality
Capital Improvements / Public Facilities
Community Design
Economic/Fiscal Development
Flood Management
Parks And Recreation




Chapter 7: CEQA and the General Plan
EIR Preparation
Public Review of the EIR
Adoption and Certification
Program and Master EIRs
Combining the General Plan and its EIR
Mitigation Monitoring and Implementation
Master Environmental Assessment

Chapter 8: Public Participation
Environmental Justice
Goals and Outcomes
Process Design

Chapter 9: Implementing the General Plan
Specific Plans
Subdivision Regulations
Capital Facilities
Development Agreements
Building and Housing Codes
Seven General Plan Guidelines
Preferential Property Tax Assessments
Land Trusts
Transportation System Management
Infrastructure Funding Mechanisms
Transportation Financing Methods
Consistency in Implementation
Zoning Consistency
Enforcement and Remedies
Annual Progress Reports

Chapter 10: Special General Plan Considerations
California Coastal Act
Surface Mining and Reclamation Act
California Integrated Waste Management Act
County Hazardous Waste Management Plans
Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning Act
Seismic Hazards Mapping Act
Cobey-Alquist Floodplain Management Act
Airport Land Use Commission Law
Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000
Regional Transportation Planning
Endangered Species Laws
Wetlands Protection
Air Quality
Water Quality
Delta Protection Act of 1992

Appendix A: Pertinent State Code Sections

Appendix B: Court and Attorney General Opinions

Appendix C: Noise Element Guidelines



For more information about the Calaveras Planning Coalition, please contact CAP.