This summer the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research released their General Plan Guidelines Update (GPGU) - the first update since 2003. This latest update includes a list of prominent policies, online mapping tools and published documents to guide General Plans. The GPGU incorporates the most up-to-date research and methods to community planning. Sierra CAMP has summarized key updates which will affect Sierra communities in our General Plan Guidelines Update fact sheet.

Why an Update is Necessary

Within the last 15 years, a new vision for California has developed through policy and action, requiring an update to the standing 2003 General Plan Guidelines created by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR). Policies like AB 32 and SB 379 have rewritten how the state allocates funding and new technology has realized more feasible monitoring of statewide efforts for local governments.   

Updating the General Plan Guidelines streamlines general plans across the state and provides an original source of comprehensive planning elements which serve each community, city and region in California. Furthermore, the update reflects over a decade’s worth of widespread, multi-sector advancement towards addressing socio-economic and landscape changes such as: climate change, disaster preparedness, new definitions on social equity and health, and economic development.

Key New Requirements

The mandatory elements regulated by Government Code section 65302 for all jurisdictions are land use, circulation, housing, conservation, open space, noise, safety and air quality (in the San Joaquin Valley).  Recent additions to the Government Code, add two major updates:

  1.  A local analysis of Climate Change and Adaptation is now required under the Safety Element for General Plans (See the ARCCA fact sheet on SB 379 for a quick overview of this requirement). With a significant portion of California’s economy relying on natural resources, eco-tourism and agriculture, climate change poses an imminent risk.
  2. An Environmental Justice Element discussion, per SB 1000, is newly required as well. This element requires consideration of disadvantaged communities who will be disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change. The California Environmental Justice Alliance has released a toolkit to assist communities with this requirement.

However, the Environmental Justice element is currently regulated under CalEnviroScreen 3.0’s criteria for disadvantaged communities which largely discludes Sierra communities, and therefore, Sierra-based General Plans from conducting a robust report. For more information, see our Disadvantaged Communities in the Sierra Nevada policy memo.

Implementation Timeline

Implementation timeframes are contingent upon the Government Code.

For Climate Change: Implement by the next Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (LHMP) update or by January 2021 if no LHMP has been adopted. OPR recommends aligning updates with the Housing Element.

For Environmental Justice: include upon the adoption or next revision of two or more elements concurrently on or after January 1, 2018. 

Additional Resources

For more information and regular updates on the OPR’s statewide GPGU workshops sign up here and check out our General Plan Guidelines Update fact sheet to gain more understanding on what the GPGU means for local governments in the Sierra Nevada.