Every city and county in California is required by State to adopt a General Plan that sets forth a comprehensive, long-range plan for the physical development of the community.  The Land Use Element is the most recognizable to the general public since it consists of a map of the jurisdiction with different colors designating properties planned for housing as well as a variety of commercial, industrial, and other non-residential uses.

The Land Use Element is important for two reasons.  First, its residential designations need to be able to accommodate a variety of housing densities, particularly those that are needed by developers of affordable housing.  Secondly, the sum total of residential and non-residential designations will determine the community’s balance or imbalance between jobs and housing.

A separate part of the General Plan is the Housing Element.  Click here for SV@Home’s policy position on Housing Elements.

SV@Home’s Position on General Plans

Silicon Valley at Home urges local jurisdictions to draft and adopt General Plan Land Use Elements that meet the following criteria:

  • In major updates to General Plan when the planning horizon is extended and in cases where there is a comprehensive review of progress-to-date (such as San Jose’s 4-year cycle):
    • Plan for ways to address the municipality’s role in correcting the region’s jobs & housing balance – not just in future development but also to redress existing imbalances.
    • Allow high-density housing in areas currently planned for non-residential use.
    • Provide for mixed-use, high-density, and complete neighborhoods along transit corridors and proximate to transit stations.
    • Identify sites available for housing development that would accommodate RHNA obligations for each of the RHNA cycles within the new planning horizon.
    • Allow affordable housing developments to be entitled “by right” when they conform to existing zoning.
    • Allow 100% affordable housing developments in areas with a commercial or different residential land use designations.
    • Exempt 100% affordable housing developments from the requirement to provide ground-floor commercial space.
    • Consider Affordable Housing Overlay Zones that privilege the development of affordable housing in areas near jobs and transportation.
    • Except in cases where it has been determined to be in serious disrepair, discourage demolition and replacement of naturally occurring affordable housing by designating it on the Land Use Element at its existing density.
  • In other amendments, such as in an annual process:
    • Be supportive of property owners’ requests for changing land use designations from non-residential to residential at as high a density as can be supported in particular locations.
    • Be supportive of property owners’ requests for higher allowed densities on sites already designated for residential use.
    • Learn from limits of the General Plan implementation to strip away barriers to increased housing densities.

Photo: Essex Property Trust