The General Plan
The general plan forms the foundation of local land-use planning.28 When an agency adopts a general plan, it creates a vision for the foreseeable planning horizon — usually 10 to 20 years — and translates that vision into objectives, goals, policies and implementation programs for the community’s physical development.
When a city or county embarks on an effort to revise or update its general plan, local officials have the opportunity to weave health considerations throughout the plan’s elements. But health concerns can be included in the general plan in ways that are less time-consuming and costly than a full update or revision. For example, communities can opt to revise a particular general plan element or add a new element. In recent years, some communities have added an optional health element to their general plan. Other communities have used the process for amending their existing general plan to address the linkages between health and the built environment.
The general plan and other local plans can be used in a variety of ways to create healthier neighborhoods. Two of the most important are increasing access to parks and improving the environment for walking and bicycling. To increase access to parks, the general plan’s circulation element can include policies and actions to connect parks and recreational facilities with a network of safe and continuous on-street and off-street bicycle routes.
The Institute offers a series of tip sheets on land use decisions, available in both English and Spanish. Access About General Plan Amendments using the link below, which explains:
- What a “general plan amendment” is
- How general plan amendments fit into efforts to shape communities
- How to participate in the decision-making process