General Plan Guidelines

OPR is statutorily required by Government Code Section 65040.2 to adopt and periodically revise the State General Plan Guidelines (GPG) for the preparation and content of general plans for all cities and counties in California. A general plan is the local government’s long-term blueprint for the community’s vision of future growth. The GPG serves as the “how to” resource for drafting a general plan. The 2017 version includes legislative changes, new guidance, policy recommendations, external links to resource documents, and additional resources.

For mandatory and common optional elements of the general plan, the GPG sets out each statutory requirement in detail, provides OPR recommended policy language, and includes online links to city and county general plans that have adopted similar policies. Each chapter contains a sample selection of policies as well. Users can also click the links provided for more detailed policies and plans. All of the referenced policies as well as additional policies are compiled in an appendix.

As more resources become available, they will be added to the GPG through periodic updates. A full update of the OPR website is currently underway, and the General Plan Guidelines page will be reformatted during that process, to enhance navigability and user experience. The new format will allow OPR to add updated text, links, and information directly to the GPG, and announce any additions through the GPG listserv and on the OPR website.

OPR will be conducting workshops around the State over the next year to update communities on the new GPG. Sign up for email alerts on the OPR General Plan email list. Additionally, OPR plans to next update the GPG in 2018 with additional guidance for communities on environmental justice, climate change, and recommendations for the development of an optional water element.

General Plan Guidelines Email List

Please sign up for the General Plan Guidelines E-List to hear about updates and the final release of the General Plan Guidelines.

Prior (2003) GENERAL PLAN INFORMATION

General Plan Guidelines
The 2003 General Plan Guidelines provides guidance to cities and counties in the preparation of their local general plans. In addition to the 2003 Guidelines, three subsequent supplements were also developed.

Fire Hazard Planning, General Plan Technical Advisory The goal of the Fire Hazard Planning, General Plan Technical Advisory is to help provide a robust fire hazard mitigation program to California communities. Development and incorporation of effective policies in the General Plan as well as the integration of the General Plan with other relevant hazard reduction policies, plans, and mitigation activities are essential actions to achieve this goal. This advisory is designed to assist city and county planners in discussions with fire mitigation, preparedness, and response professionals for the purpose of developing effective fire hazard policies for the General Plan.

Community and Military Compatibility Planning, Supplement to the General Plan Guidelines
The Community and Military Compatibility Planning, Supplement to the General Plan Guidelines (Military Supplement) assists cities and counties in addressing military compatibility issues when developing, updating or significantly amending their general plans. These guidelines are the result of the passage of SB 1468 (Knight, 2002) and SB 1462 (Kuehl, 2003), which outline the responsibilities of cities and counties regarding the military in the planning and land use decision-making process.

Update to the General Plan Guidelines: Complete Streets and the Circulation Element This December 2010 update to the 2003 General Plan Guidelines provides guidance on how cities and counties can modify the circulation element to plan for a balanced, multimodal transportation network that meets the needs of all users of the streets, roads, and highways for safe and convenient travel in a manner that is suitable to the rural, suburban, or urban context of the general plan.

Annual Progress Reports
General law cities, applicable charter cities, and counties are required to file annual progress reports on the implementation of their General Plan with their local legislative body, OPR and the Department of Housing and Community Development. These reports are due April 1st of each year.

General Plan Extensions
The Director of OPR is authorized to grant reasonable extensions of time (up to two years) for the preparation of new general plans or the update of existing general plans upon application by cities or counties. The statutory basis of this authority and OPR's procedures and criteria for granting extensions are described here.

Local and Tribal Consultation
State planning law requires cities and counties to consult with California Native American tribes during the local planning process for the purpose of protecting Traditional Tribal Cultural Places. OPR’s consultation guidelines, background information, and training session information are all available online.