What is a General Plan?

A general plan acts as the "constitution" for making rational decisions regarding a county's long-term physical development. The general plan expresses the community's development goals and incorporates public policies relative to the distribution of future public and private land uses. California State law requires that each county adopt a general plan "for the physical development of the county and any land outside its boundaries which bears relation to its planning." Typically, a general plan is designed to address the issues facing the county for the next 15-20 years.

The general plan is presented as a collection of "topical elements," of which seven are mandatory. The seven State-mandated elements are: Land Use, Circulation, Housing, Conservation, Open Space, Noise, and Safety. Each of the seven mandatory elements are required to be addressed by the general plan; however, State law allows these to be consolidated as long as the required issue areas are addressed. San Joaquin County's 1992 General Plan includes three volumes. Volume I contains countywide goals, policies, and implementation measures in three chapters and several subsections as follows:

  1. Community Development
    • Community Organization and Development Pattern
    • Economic Development
    • Housing
    • Infrastructure Services
    • Public Facilities
    • Transportation
  2. Public Health and Safety
    • Seismic and Geological Hazards
    • Flooding Hazards
    • Fire Safety and Law Enforcement
    • Noise
    • Hazardous Materials and Wastes
    • Emergency Preparedness
  3. Resources
    • Open Space
    • Agricultural Lands
    • Extractive Resources
    • Energy
    • Air Quality
    • Water Resources and Quality
    • Vegetation, Fish, and Wildlife Habitat
    • Heritage Resources
Volume II of the General Plan contains individual policies and diagrams for unincorporated communities and fringe areas of incorporated cities. Volume III contains various background reports on the subjects addressed in the 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, please view the following sites:

What are the objectives of the General Plan Update?

San Joaquin County is updating its 1992 General Plan to create a comprehensive and integrated policy framework with the following objectives:

  • Reflect the unique values, geographies, and aspirations of San Joaquin County residents;
  • Ensure compliance with California planning law;
  • Respond to climate change;
  • Provide for sustainability;
  • Enhance the agricultural sector;
  • Diversify the economic base;
  • Protect the Delta;
  • Provide Infrastructure for future growth; and
  • Protect and enhance scenic landscapes and routes.

When was the General Plan Last Updated?

San Joaquin County last conducted a comprehensive update to its entire General Plan in 1992. In January 2010 the County adopted an updated Housing Element as required by California planning law and pursuant to a legislatively established deadline. The Housing Element was formally found in compliance by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). The 2010 Housing Element was updated as part of this General Plan Update.

How can I get involved and provide input?

Please refer to the feedback page.

Why is an Update Needed?

San Joaquin County is comprehensively updating the 1992 General Plan to meet the changing housing, environmental, economic, and growth needs of the county and to incorporate the community's vision for the future in the new General Plan. San Joaquin County's update of the General Plan will serve several purposes as follows:

  • Provide a description of current conditions in the county that can be used to assess the current state of development and highlight trends impacting the county;
  • Provide information to the public on San Joaquin County and opportunities for meaningful participation in the planning and decision-making process;
  • Identify planning issues, opportunities, and challenges;
  • Ensure the General Plan is current and internally consistent;
  • Create a systematic and integrated framework for implementation;
  • Improve coordination with cities in the county, and other local, regional, State, and Federal agencies and organizations; and
  • Provide guidance for County departments and decision makers in the planning and evaluation of future decisions.

How long will it take to update the General Plan?

The General Plan Update started in June 2008 and is expected to conclude in 2016. The update is being conducted as follows:

  • Phase 1 - Project Start-up - Complete
  • Phase 2 - Baseline Information Gathering (Background Report) - Complete
  • Phase 3 - Housing Element Update - Complete
  • Phase 4 - Issues and Opportunities Identification - Complete
  • Phase 5 - Alternatives Evaluation - Complete
  • Phase 6 - Draft General Plan - In Process
  • Phase 7 - Environmental Review - In Process
  • Phase 8 - Public Review
  • Phase 9 - General Plan Adoption
During the General Plan Update, the Zoning Code will be evaluated for consistency with the new General Plan goals and policies. After adoption of the General Plan, the Zoning Code will be updated.