Town of Los Gatos  |  General Plan 

Town of Los Gatos  |  General Plan 2040

General Plan Basics

Envisioning our Future

What is a General Plan?

Every jurisdiction in California must have a General Plan, which is the local government’s long-term framework or “constitution” for future growth and development.  The General Plan represents the community’s view of its future and expresses the community’s development goals.  The General Plan contains the goals and polices upon which the Town Council and Planning Commission will base their land use decisions.  California State law requires that each Town, City, and County must adopt a General Plan for the physical development of the jurisdiction and any land outside its boundaries that bears relation to its planning.  Typically, a General Plan is designed to address the issues facing the jurisdiction for the next 20 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The General Plan is made up of a collection of “elements” or topic categories.  The State currently lists nine elements as mandatory.  These mandatory elements are: land use, circulation, housing, conservation, open space, noise, safety, environmental justice, and air quality.  Communities may include other elements that address issues of local concern, such as economic vitality, community character, or urban design. 

A General Plan has three defining features.

  • General.  A General Plan provides general policy guidance that will be used to direct future land use and resource decisions.
  • Comprehensive.  A General Plan is comprehensive, covering topics such as land use, housing, economic development, infrastructure, public safety, recreation, natural resources, and much more.
  • Long-Range.  A General Plan provides guidance on reaching a future envisioned 20 or more years in the future.  To achieve the vision, a comprehensive plan includes goals, policies, and actions that address both immediate and long term needs.

A General Plan is not to be confused with the Zoning Ordinance.  Although both the General Plan and the Zoning Ordinance designate how land may be developed, they do so in different ways.  A General Plan has a long term outlook.  It identifies the types of development that will be allowed, the spatial relationships among land uses, and the general pattern of future development.  A Zoning Ordinance regulates development through specific standards such as lot size, building setbacks, height, and allowable uses.  However, the land uses shown on the General Plan land use map will typically be reflected in the local zoning maps as well and changes to the zoning map are required to be consistent with the adopted General Plan map.  Development must not only meet the specific requirements of the Zoning Ordinance but also the broader policies set forth in the General 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, the following publications are recommended:

Process

  • Task A:
    August - October 2018

    Update Initiation

    This task lays the foundation for the General Plan update, including developing tools to be used throughout the update, meeting with the General Plan Advisory Committee (GPAC), the Planning Commission, and Town Council, and initiating the community engagement program.

  • Task B:
    August 2018 - February 2019

    Prepare Background Report

    During this task, the General Plan Team will compile information on existing conditions within the Town organized by the topics to be covered in the General Plan update.  An Existing Conditions Background Report (Background Report) will focus on identifying and evaluating existing conditions and future trends that will influence the development of the General Plan update, the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), and the future of the community.

  • Task C:
    September 2018 - February 2019

    Identify Community Issues, Opportunities, and Constraints

    The objective of this task is to work with the community on the identification of the issues, opportunities, and constraints that should be addressed as part of the General Plan update.

  • Task D:
    February - May 2019

    Development of General Plan Vision

    During this task, a vision statement and guiding principles will be developed to guide the preparation of the General Plan update.  The General Plan vision statement and guiding principles are intended to reflect what community members value most about their community and the shared aspirations of what they envision their community being in the future.  The vision statement should be inspirational and set the key values and aspirations for the General Plan’s guiding principles, goals, policies, and implementation measures.  The guiding principles should provide more specific guidance regarding the fundamental rules or doctrine that the Town will use to guide General Plan goals, policies, and implementation measures.

  • Task E:
    April - October 2019

    Development of Alternatives

    This task involves working with the community to prepare, evaluate, and ultimately define a preferred policy and land use alternative that will be the basis of the General Plan update.  This task involves developing alternative scenarios for special planning areas and other key locations in the community and evaluating the implications of each alternative.  Each alternative will be evaluated based on responsiveness to the key issues, opportunities, and constraints (from Task C) and the vision and guiding principles developed in Task D.

  • Task F:
    June 2019 - February 2020

    General Plan Goals and Policy Development

    Based on the Background Report, technical studies, visioning, and alternatives planning in previous tasks, the draft General Plan will be developed. The General Plan document will be attractive, contemporary, and user‐friendly, using extensive photos, illustrations, and maps.

  • Task G:
    October 2019 - July 2020

    Environmental Impact Report

    A General Plan is considered a project under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), so the Town must analyze the potential environmental impacts of carrying out the General Plan.  The General Plan Environmental Impact Report (EIR), will be released simultaneously with the Public Review Draft General Plan, with opportunities for community review and comment.

  • Task H:
    July 2018 - July 2020

    Community Outreach and Engagement

    Community outreach and engagement is an essential component of an effective General Plan that embodies the community’s shared values and goals for the future.  Throughout the project, the Town and the consulting team will conduct community outreach and engagement, which will include Town Council and Planning Commission Meetings, Community Workshops, Newsletters, Pop-up Booths at Festivals and Events, and more!

  • Task I:
    March - July 2020

    Certification of EIR and Adoption of the General Plan

    The General Plan will go to the Planning Commission and the Town Council for public hearings. The Town Council has the ultimate authority to adopt the General Plan.  The community will have opportunities to provide comments to the Planning Commission and Town Council during the final public hearings.

Task A: Update Initiation
(August - October 2018)

This task lays the foundation for the General Plan update, including developing tools to be used throughout the update, meeting with the General Plan Advisory Committee (GPAC), the Planning Commission, and Town Council, and initiating the community engagement program.

Task B: Prepare Background Report
(August 2018 - February 2019)

During this task, the General Plan Team will compile information on existing conditions within the Town organized by the topics to be covered in the General Plan update.  An Existing Conditions Background Report (Background Report) will focus on identifying and evaluating existing conditions and future trends that will influence the development of the General Plan update, the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), and the future of the community.

Task C: Identify Community Issues, Opportunities, and Constraints
(September 2018 - February 2019)

The objective of this task is to work with the community on the identification of the issues, opportunities, and constraints that should be addressed as part of the General Plan update.

Task D: Development of General Plan Vision
(February - May 2019)

During this task, a vision statement and guiding principles will be developed to guide the preparation of the General Plan update.  The General Plan vision statement and guiding principles are intended to reflect what community members value most about their community and the shared aspirations of what they envision their community being in the future.  The vision statement should be inspirational and set the key values and aspirations for the General Plan’s guiding principles, goals, policies, and implementation measures.  The guiding principles should provide more specific guidance regarding the fundamental rules or doctrine that the Town will use to guide General Plan goals, policies, and implementation measures.

Task E: Development of Alternatives
(April - October 2019)

This task involves working with the community to prepare, evaluate, and ultimately define a preferred policy and land use alternative that will be the basis of the General Plan update.  This task involves developing alternative scenarios for special planning areas and other key locations in the community and evaluating the implications of each alternative.  Each alternative will be evaluated based on responsiveness to the key issues, opportunities, and constraints (from Task C) and the vision and guiding principles developed in Task D.

Task F: General Plan Goals and Policy Development
(June 2019 - February 2020)

Based on the Background Report, technical studies, visioning, and alternatives planning in previous tasks, the draft General Plan will be developed. The General Plan document will be attractive, contemporary, and user‐friendly, using extensive photos, illustrations, and maps.

Task G: Environmental Impact Report
(October 2019 - July 2020)

A General Plan is considered a project under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), so the Town must analyze the potential environmental impacts of carrying out the General Plan.  The General Plan Environmental Impact Report (EIR), will be released simultaneously with the Public Review Draft General Plan, with opportunities for community review and comment.

Task H: Community Outreach and Engagement
(July 2018 - July 2020)

Community outreach and engagement is an essential component of an effective General Plan that embodies the community’s shared values and goals for the future.  Throughout the project, the Town and the consulting team will conduct community outreach and engagement, which will include Town Council and Planning Commission Meetings, Community Workshops, Newsletters, Pop-up Booths at Festivals and Events, and more!

Task I: Certification of EIR and Adoption of the General Plan
(March - July 2020)

The General Plan will go to the Planning Commission and the Town Council for public hearings. The Town Council has the ultimate authority to adopt the General Plan.  The community will have opportunities to provide comments to the Planning Commission and Town Council during the final public hearings.

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