General Plans

Findings and Recommendations

General Plan Policies and Programs

  • Update general plans every eight to ten years to ensure it reflects community vision, goals, and priorities. 
  • Revise the general plan, as appropriate, to support and enhance housing affordability and supply by increasing maximum residential densities, allowing a broader range of housing types in low-density, residential land-use designations, reduce the acreage designated for low-density, residential uses and increase the acreage designated for higher-density residential and mixed uses.
  • Eliminate pyramid land use systems that subsume lower-intensity uses in higher-intensity use zones/districts. Establish clear minimum density/FAR in each designation/district.
  • Engage with the public early and often throughout the general plan update process to foster community support for the plan. 
  • Include practical strategies in the updated general plan to ensure that general plan goals can be successfully achieved. Such strategies include approval process streamlining, objective design standards, and others best practices included in this report.
  • Increase State and regional technical support and funding for city and county housing elements, particularly smaller jurisdictions.

Environmental Justice

  • Consider coordinating updates to the housing element, safety element, and environmental justice element. This integration will allow for more efficient, effective, and thorough community outreach and policy development due to the overlapping objectives of recent legislation. For example, much of the topical content and extensive outreach required in the AFFH also furthers the goals of SB 1000 which requires jurisdictions to identify objectives and policies to promote civil engagement in the public decision-making process.
  • Identify local disadvantaged communities and discuss environmental justice, where appropriate, in the AFFH disparities analysis.
    • Address environmental justice issues in a comprehensive manner in planning frameworks, including:
    • pollution exposure and air quality,
    • public facilities,
    • food access,
    • safe and sanitary homes, and
    • improvements and programs that address the needs of disadvantaged communities.

Hazard Mitigation

  • Coordinate the analysis of existing conditions and constraints, site and technical analyses, demographic and infrastructure data, and public engagement activities to serve the preparation of the housing, safety, and environmental justice elements. This approach can help to develop a more holistic understanding of a community’s housing needs, vulnerable communities, climate adaptation, and resilience requirements. “Integration Concepts for General Plan Updates or Other Local Planning Activities” listed above. 
  • Look for opportunities to satisfy the State-mandated requirements of the safety element by incorporating other plans by reference where appropriate. 

Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

  • Align the housing element update process with SB 743. VMT policies have a substantial impact on the development of housing, and, therefore, jurisdictions are encouraged to develop localized screening thresholds such as 100 percent affordable and small infill in order to streamline the housing development process. 
  • Conduct a programmatic EIR when preparing the sixth cycle housing element to address mitigations for future projects that are high VMT. It is likely that some future housing projects will be considered high VMT and developing future mitigation strategies will potentially streamline the environmental review process, decreasing costs and time.