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General Plan Basics


PLANSOLVANG

What is a General Plan?

Every city, town, and county in California must have a general plan, which is the local government’s long-term framework or “constitution” for future growth and development. The general plan represents the community’s aspiration for its future and intentions for community development. The general plan also contains the goals and policies upon which the City Council and Planning Commission will base their land use decisions. Typically, a general plan is designed to address the issues facing the city for the next 20 years.

The general plan is made up of a collection of “elements,” or topical categories. There are currently nine mandatory elements: land use, circulation, housing, conservation, open space, noise, safety, environmental justice, and air quality. Communities can include other elements that address issues of local concern, such as economic development, community character, or urban design. Communities can also organize their general plans any way they choose, as long as they address each of the required topical categories.

A general plas has three defining features:

A general plan provides general policy guidance that the local government will use to guide future land use and natural resource decisions.

A general plan is comprehensive, covering a range of topics, such as land use, housing, economic development, infrastructure, public safety, recreation, natural resources, and much more.

A general plan provides guidance for reaching a future envisioned 20 or more years in the future. To achieve the vision, a comprehensive plan includes goals, policies, and actions that address both immediate and long-term needs.

Did you know: A general plan is distinct from zoning?

Although both the general plan and the zoning ordinance designate how land may be developed, they do so in different ways. A general plan has a broad, long-term outlook that identifies the types of development that will be allowed, the spatial relationships among land uses, and the general pattern of future development. Whereas a zoning ordinance regulates development through specific standards such as lot size, building setbacks, height, and allowable uses. While the land uses shown on the general plan diagram are typically similar to the zoning map, upon adoption of the updated General Plan, the City must amend the zoning ordinance to ensure consistency with the adopted General Plan.

For more information on the structure and legal requirements of a general plan, or to see a list of planning-related terms and acronyms, review the following publications:

General Plan Guidelines

Published by The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (2017)

The California General Plan Glossary

Published by The California Planning Roundtable (2001)
PlanSOLVANG

City of Solvang
Planning and Community Development Division
411 2nd Street
Solvang, CA 93463

Phone: (805) 688-5575

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