Frequently Asked Questions
FRESNO GENERAL PLAN UPDATE BRIEFING
What is a General Plan?
A general plan is a set of policies and programs that form a blueprint for physical development throughout the community. It is a long-term document consisting of written text and diagrams that expresses how a community should develop, and is a key tool for influencing the quality of life. The plan is a basis for land use decision-making used by policymakers such as the Planning Commission and the City Council. All cities and counties in California are required by law to have general plans.
Why is a General Plan required?
State law mandates that each city and county in California adopt "a comprehensive, long-term general plan." The purpose is to plan for important community issues such as new growth, housing needs, and environmental protection. Furthermore, the general plan is used to project future demand for services such as sewer, water, roadways, parks, and emergency services.
What goes into a General Plan?
There are both State-mandated and optional elements that go into a general plan. The elements of the general plan make up the framework for decision-making regarding growth and development in the City. State law requires that a general plan contain at least the seven mandated elements: Land Use, Transportation, Housing, Conservation, Open Space, Noise and Safety. Fresno’s General Plan may include additional elements for Economic Development and Fiscal Sustainability; City Design; Historic Preservation; Air Quality and Greenhouse Gas Emissions; Healthy Communities; and Community Facilities and Public Services.
Why is the Plan Being Updated?
Fresno’s current General Plan was adopted in the 2002 and now needs to be reexamined to ensure that it reflects the city’s goals and priorities for the next 25years. Many of the objectives of the existing General Plan have been met, and new opportunities and challenges have arisen. Substantial new population growth is expected over the next several decades. We need a new plan to manage Fresno’s future growth, attract high quality businesses and jobs, protect natural resources, conserve energy and water, promote high quality design of buildings and public spaces, provide land for new parks and schools, and maintain public safety and municipal services—all of which contribute to the quality of life that residents have come to expect.
How is the General Plan Used?
The General Plan will:
What is a Master Environmental Impact Report (EIR)?
An environmental impact report is a detailed analysis of the environmental effects of a plan or development project. The Master EIR for the General Plan Update will identify alternatives to the proposed project and presents ways to reduce or avoid environmental damage. Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a general plan is considered a project, thus requiring that an EIR be completed in conjunction with the plan. Community members can provide input at two different phases in the EIR process: in response to the Notice of Preparation (NOP), declaring that an EIR is going to be prepared, and to the Draft EIR itself. The Master EIR will be the subject of a separate Request for Proposals (RFP).
What does Sustainability mean, and why is it important to the General Plan process?
Sustainability is a term used to address a wide range of issues that ultimately affect our quality-of-life. In its most widely recognized definition, it means making choices today that will not limit our children’s ability to have a high quality-of-life when they reach our age. Sustainability can be implemented operationally through policies and decisions that consistently maintain quality-of-life opportunities for all residents and communities.
Sustainability relates to many things we have heard about for years – having readily available and safe drinking water, having clean air that we can feel comfortable to breathe, avoiding toxic wastes and material use in our communities and reducing the amount of garbage we send to the landfill. It also relates to maintaining business and industry development, expansion, entrepreneurship and job creation opportunities throughout our city, and providing different transportation modes that connect housing with jobs.
In the General Plan update, choices about land use and development patterns will affect how much we drive and how that impacts air pollution, time with our family and in many cases a loss of important agricultural or natural resource lands. Because the General Plan process creates policies that will shape the form of our community, striving for a more sustainable outcome means the General Plan needs to look carefully at how and where we grow. It also means ensuring adequate fiscal resources for the City. Computer models are now available that can enable us to ensure that the new General Plan has positive net benefits for the City.
What does climate change mean, and what is its relationship to the General Plan?
Climate change is the term used to describe anticipated changes in weather patterns, caused by human actions. As we increase our use of energy, increase the miles we drive, or use excessive amounts of water, we increase the amount of ‘greenhouse gases’ (GHG) released into our atmosphere. Greenhouse gases (like carbon dioxide, which is a by-product of burning gasoline in our car) build up in the air, retaining the sun’s heat. This results in changing rainfall patterns, increased temperatures, more severe thunderstorms and loss of snow pack, which affects the amount of water available for our use and for irrigation. The amount of GHG in the atmosphere is influenced by the choices we make in our day to day lives. Many of these impacts can be moderated by policies contained in the General Plan. Building more energy efficient homes, increasing availability of transit and making routes to schools safe and more walkable for our children all help to reduce GHG.
How can Residents and Business Owners get involved?
City staff will be soliciting citizen participation in all phases of General Plan development. A General Plan Update Advisory Committee will appointed by the City Council and Mayor to represent the various components of the community in the General Plan Update. The role of the committee will to ensure that the new General Plan reflects the community’s vision for the future. Serving as a voice of the community by gathering diverse community input during the process, and providing feedback to the project team are all responsibilities of individual committee members. All meetings will be open to the public, and will include opportunities for public comment. The City’s website will have information on the Workshops and Meetings that are planned and enable residents and business owners to contact them directly with their thoughts.
When convened, the General Plan Update Advisory Committee will start off by reviewing and discussing working papers on Sustainability, Economic Development, Healthy Communities, Urban Form and Corridors, and Transportation and Connectivity, that will then inform review and discussion about community vision, analysis of plan alternatives, and recommendation of a preferred alternative general plan concept to be fully assesses by the Master EIR.
WHAT IS A WORKING PAPER?
The working papers summarize existing conditions and future prospects in Fresno with regard to a wide range of subject matter affecting physical development, including land use, population and growth trends; the local economy; neighborhood character; urban design; transportation systems; parks and open space; historic, arts, and cultural resources; community services; natural resources; sustainability; and safety considerations. Working papers will provide background information to help the General Plan Advisory Committee and decision-makers engage in dialogue about policy issues and directions. They provide a framework for the preparation of land use alternatives and focused policy directives.
These papers will include a discussion of the local, state, and federal legislative and judicial landscape that has a bearing on planning (e.g. SB 375, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act).
Each working paper will be concise, visually rich, and clearly written so that it can be easily understood by the public, relevant committees, and elected officials. Maps will be included to help focus discussion. Each paper will present:
- Background data and information on Fresno today;
- Analysis of existing conditions as either obstacles or facilitators of Plan concepts; and
- Key issues and implications that require policy deliberation.
Working papers are interim documents meant to stimulate thought and discussion, rather than to be adopted or endorsed.