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General Plans – The Most Important Document in Land Use and Development

Updated on August 21, 2018

Whether you are involved in the business real estate development or just looking to build a home in California, a City’s general plan is going to be of critical importance to your plans.  Pursuant to California Government Code section 65860, all California cities must set forth their development policies, objectives and standards in a general plan.  In other words, the general plan is a city’s basic planning document. It is the blueprint for any city’s development, and the California Supreme Court held the general plan to be “the constitution for all future development.” (Lesher Communications, Inc. v. City of Walnut Creek (1990) 52 Cal.3d 531, 540.) Simply stated, the general plan is the single most important planning document. Indeed other land use documents, such as zoning ordinances, tentative maps, and development agreements are all subordinate to the general plan. Meaning, for example, if zoning ordinance is not consistent with the general plan, the general plan controls and the zoning ordinance is “invalid at the time it is passed.” (Id. at 544.)

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As a practical matter this means that if you are considering building anything in California, the first thing you want to look at is the relevant city’s general plan.  Of course, the general plan is just the tip of the iceberg in the land entitlement process.  If you have questions regarding land use and development in California, please feel free to contact us to see if you qualify for a free consultation. You can send us a message by email at [email protected] or by using our Contact Form. You could also give us a call at (310) 954-1877, or text us at (323) 487- 7533.