General Plan FAQ
- What is the General Plan? What is a Community Plan?
The General Plan is a comprehensive policy document which aids County decision-makers in guiding future development in a manner that is consistent with the needs, goals, and interests of the public. Our current General Plan, which was adopted in 1980, consists of eight elements: Land Use, Circulation, Conservation, Open Space and Recreation, Noise, Safety, Public Facilities, and Economic Development. However, the County is currently completing an update to its General Plan, which has involved comprehensive revisions, amendments, and the creation of additional General Plan elements. Click here to learn more about the latest Draft General Plan information.
The General Plan is structured to address issues that are of countywide importance. In California, however, more detailed local-level planning is often carried out through community-based plans. Community-based plans in the County, such as Community Plans and Area Plans, are a part of the General Plan but focus on a particular region or community in the unincorporated County. Community-based plans refine policy at a local level and must be consistent with the General Plan, but they may not cover all of the topics that are covered in the countywide General Plan. As such, community-based plans should not be seen as a replacement to the General Plan, but instead, as a supplemental policy document.
As required by State law, all zoning regulations and development permits must be consistent with the jurisdiction’s General Plan (which includes all additional Community or Area Plans as well). However, being long-range in nature, General Plans are continually amended to reflect changes in land use policy and development patterns.
- What is the General Plan or Community Plan category for my property?
- How can I apply for a General Plan or Community Plan amendment?
Plan amendments may be initiated by the Board of Supervisors, the Regional Planning Commission, or by individual property owners who desire to develop property with a land use or density that is not permitted by the General Plan or Community Plan. The General Plan or Community Plans can be amended to address changed circumstances but only after thorough study and public hearings before the Regional Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. Amendments to State mandated elements of the County-wide General Plan are limited to four per calendar year.
Major issues involved in the evaluation of plan amendments include the need and justification for the amendment, including development plans for the subject property; consistency with General Plan (or Community Plan) goals, policies and programs; compatibility with surrounding general plan designations, existing, and proposed land uses; rationale for existing map designations and/or text; land suitability and physical constraints; availability of adequate access, public services and facilities to serve the proposed development; potential environmental impacts and mitigation measures; and consistency with State and County standards.
To apply for a General Plan or Community Plan amendment, please follow the instructions on the Zoning Permit application (PDF or Word) for submittal. Along with the items listed on that application checklist, you will have to submit a General Plan Amendment Burden of Proof. Click here for further details on the procedure. Please refer to the fee schedule for the cost of a particular application submittal. Note that all discretionary applications requiring a public hearing, except Subdivision applications or in conjunction with Subdivision applications, are currently taking approximately 1 year to process. Applications which involve a subdivision are currently taking a minimum of 2-3 years to complete. Please contact the public counter for more information or assistance.
- What is an SEA?
Please visit the Significant Ecological Areas (SEAs) FAQ page for more information.
- What is the SEATAC?
Significant Ecological Areas Technical Advisory Committee (SEATAC) is a group of members from the private and public sectors with a range of expertise in ecology and habitat restoration.
For more information, please visit the SEATAC page.