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Statutes & Regulations

Recent Planning Law Updates

Planning in California is governed and directed by an ever evolving and changing body of legislation and case law.  At the heart of these laws are those establishing requirements for general plans, specific plans, zoning, land division, redevelopment, and environmental analysis.  The Statutes and Regulations drop down menu summarizes these relevant California statutes and provides links to the full text of the laws and supporting guidelines.

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

CEQA requires all public agencies in California to identify and consider the environmental (or physical) effects of their actions related in approving “projects” as defined by the Act.

Land Subdivision

The Subdivision Map Act regulates the division of land in California.  The Act requires that all land divisions be approved by the city or county in which they are located.  Each city and county must adopt a subdivision ordinance regulating land division consistent with the requirements of the Act.  Tentative subdivision or parcel maps must be submitted to a city or county for review, approval, and recordation.  Subdivision maps, which are required for land divisions resulting in five or more parcels, must include a broad range of detailed info


Zoning is the division of a city or county into districts for the purpose of regulating land use and development standards.  The typical zoning ordinance regulates land use by dividing the community into districts or “zones” and specifying the uses that are to be permitted, conditionally permitted, and prohibited within each zone. Text and map(s) describe the distribution and intensity of land uses in such categories as residential, commercial, industrial, and open space.

Specific Plan

The specific plan is a planning tool typically used to plan a particular portion of a city or county.  Often a specific plan is used by a public agency to implement the general plan in selected areas of the community requiring special planning attention.  A specific plan is also used by private property owners to plan large land areas, particularly where there are multiple owners.

General Plan

California State law requires each city and county to adopt a general plan “for the physical development of a county or city, and any land outside its boundaries which bears relation to its planning” (§65300). The California Supreme Court has called the general plan the “constitution for future development.” The general plan expresses a community’s development goals and embodies public policy relative to the distribution of future land uses, both public and private.


The California Community Redevelopment Act was enacted in 1945 to give local governments the tools necessary to address problems such as blight, degraded buildings, and a lack of housing. While the Act is now known as Community Redevelopment Law (CRL), the goals of redevelopment remain the same: to focus on problems in developed areas. The CRL was revised in 1993 to further restrict and focus redevelopment activities, ensuring that they can occur only in predominately urbanized areas on previously or currently developed properties.