The General Plan

What is a General Plan?

A general plan is a State required document that includes a land-use plan and goals, policies, and implementation programs, which guide the development of the community. These goals, policies, and programs are then used by the City Council and Planning Commission when making land-use decisions. General plans benefit local communities by promoting better projects, streamlined processes, integrated planning, and improved access and use of available resources.

All general plans must cover the following “elements,” or topic categories, at a minimum:

General Plan Update Timeline

Bakersfield General Plan Update timeline

Click to enlarge

Past Event Materials

January 2024

Virtual Land Use Alternatives Townhall Meeting - January 30, 2024

October 2022

Bakersfield Sites Inventory Workshop - October 11, 2022

July 2022

General Plan Online Visioning Workshop - July 12, 2022

June 2022

General Plan In-Person Visioning Workshop - June 22, 2022

General Plan Online Visioning Workshop - June 7, 2022

March 2022

Intro to the General Plan Workshop #1 & #2 - March 22-23, 2022

April 2022

Housing Element Update Study Session with City Council - April 22, 2022

Intro to the General Plan Workshop #3 - April 14, 2022


What is included in the General Plan?

All General Plans must cover the above required “elements,” or topic categories, at a minimum. In addition, State law permits the inclusion of optional elements which address needs, objectives, or requirements particular to that city or county. Counties and cities also have flexibility in organizing their general plans, as long as all of the requirements specified for each of the seven mandated elements are addressed. For example, it is permissible to combine the Open Space and Conservation Elements into a single element.

As a result, State law has given a city some latitude in formatting, adopting, and implementing its general plan, as long as it adheres to the minimum requirements of State law. Bakersfield expects that, in addition to the elements required by general plan law, optional elements specific to the needs of the Bakersfield community will be included in the Bakersfield 2045 General Plan Update. Optional elements might be:

  • Community Design
  • Downtown
  • Economic Development

Why update the General Plan?

This City is updating its General Plan to respond to changing conditions and needs, and to reflect the most current planning strategies to make the City of Bakersfield a great place to live, work, and play. The city last updated its General Plan in 2002, and since that time a lot has grown and changed. In brief, it is time to establish a new vision and guiding principles that reflect the community’s hopes for the future.

What are the legal requirements to update a General Plan?

California State law requires that every City adopt a general plan. While a general plan will contain the community vision for future growth, California law also requires each plan to address the mandated elements listed in Government Code section 65302. While developing the general plan, local planning agencies are required to provide opportunities for the involvement of the community. Such involvement includes public agencies, public utility companies, community groups, and others through hearings or other appropriate methods (Gov. Code § 65351). Jurisdiction must also make a diligent effort to include all economic groups in the community engagement process (Gov. Code § 65583(c)(8)).

How is the General Plan related to zoning?

Although both the general plan and the zoning code designate how land may be developed, they do so in different ways. The Land Use Element of a general plan has a broad, long-term outlook that identifies the types of development that will be allowed, the spatial relationships among land use, and the general pattern of future development. A zoning code regulates development through specific standards such as lot size, building setbacks, height, and allowable uses.

How is the General Plan related to the Housing Element and Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA)?

The Housing Element is one of the State-mandated components of the City’s General Plan. It offers a comprehensive strategy for the City to provide housing in the community that meets the needs of residents at all income levels. The Housing Element has two main purposes:

  • To provide an assessment of current and future housing needs for the next eight years.
  • To establish housing goals, policies, and programs that address housing needs, reduce barriers to housing development, and ensure compliance with State legislation.

State law requires that cities and counties update their housing elements according to statutory deadlines. The update is undertaken to identify the jurisdiction’s housing needs and establish a strategic plan to meet those needs. The updated Housing Element must be certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) by a pre-determined deadline, January 15, 2024.

The Housing Element includes a strategy for the City to meet its share of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). HCD determines the total number of new housing units that each region must accommodate during the eight-year planning period, which gets broken down into a specific number for each city and county. Through land use and zoning regulations, Bakersfield must plan for its share of the RHNA, including housing that is affordable to households at all income levels. The Housing Element also addresses housing for special needs populations, such as persons with disabilities, very low-income residents, and persons experiencing homelessness. The City’s housing strategy must also affirmatively further fair housing, which means that it must reduce any identified barriers to equality and opportunity.

Additional information on the Housing Element update process can be found here.

When will the General Plan be completed?

The General Plan development is a multi-year process, with an estimated adoption date of 2024. However, the Housing Element – just one chapter of the General Plan – must be certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) by a pre-determined deadline, January 15, 2024.

How can I get involved?

Robust and inclusive community engagement is a vital component of the development of a general plan, so we need your input. Visit the Get Involved! page for links to sign up for our email list, find upcoming events, and more. Help Bakersfield RISE!

The City will continue to take measures to protect the health and safety of its residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Community outreach will be facilitated in a manner that prioritizes safety as it continues to make opportunities for the community involved.

How will my feedback be used?

Community feedback gathered through engagement activities will be incorporated into the planning process at all stages of the project. Your input is extremely valuable in helping the City understand the vision, goals, and direction you would like Bakersfield to take in the next 25 years. While there will be a range of suggestions and desires from the community, we will do our best to capture the diverse perspectives and opinions and create a planning framework and goals and policies that reflect the underlying values and community needs we hear from you throughout the process. For more information on how you can be involved and give your input, visit the Get Involved! page.