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The General Plan in California

By David Early

  • Item# GP
  • ISBN: 978-1-938166-10-05
  • Copyright (c) 2015
  • Paperback
  • 240 pp.
  • Price: $80.00
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A detailed guide to preparing and updating a city or county General Plan in accordance with California law - with many ideas and tips relevant to comprehensive and regional planning across the US. Offers approaches to creating General Plans that are legally sound, technically rigorous, progressive, and reflective of the communities they serve. A practical, valuable reference for public sector planners, consultants, interested citizens, and students.


In addition to the information provided on this page you may also be interested in viewing the following links:

Preface (pdf)
Chapters at a Glance (pdf)
Table of Contents (pdf)
Front Cover
Back Cover



This book provides:

  • A detailed overview of legal requirements for General Plans.
  • Creative ideas for organizing the General Plan, following both State guidelines and other organizational models.
  • Detailed information on requirements and how to prepare the seven mandated General Plan elements, as well as ideas for optional elements too.
  • A step-by-step, nuts-and-bolts guide to the General Plan process.
  • An overview of the technical studies needed to support General Plan preparation.
  • Ideas for incorporating sustainability into the General Plan.
  • Options for involving the community in the General Plan process.
  • An overview of the environmental review process for General Plans under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
  • Information about adoption, implementation, and on-going maintenance of General Plan.


About the Author


David Early is the founder of Design, Community & Environment, a Berkeley-based planning and design firm that merged with The Planning Center in 2011 to become PlaceWorks. In his 25-year planning career, David has prepared, overseen or advised on over 40 General Plans, while also teaching UC Davis Extension's annual class on General Plan preparation. David is also an expert on sustainability, smart growth, environmental justice, public involvement, growth management, regional planning, environmental review, and multi-modal transportation, all of which are key elements of the modern General Plan. David holds Master's degrees in both City Planning and Architecture from UC Berkeley and is an emeritus member of the California Planning Roundtable. His work has won numerous awards from the American Planning Association at the local, state, and national levels.


Testimonials for The General Plan in California

"This book is a must for every California planner's bookshelf. David Early's book on general plans fills a huge gap in the California planning literature, and no one is better at communicating what a general plan is and how it's put together."
Bill Fulton
Director, Kinder Institute for Urban Research, Rice University

"A practical, innovative and relevant guide to updating a city or county's General Plan. I wish I had this book as a resource when we did our General Plan update."
Tim Snellings
Development Services Director, Butte County
Past President of the California Counties Planning Directors Association

"It helps to know what you are doing — especially when preparing something as daunting as a general plan for an entire city, county or region. Fortunately, David Early draws upon his well-honed intellect and over 20 years experience to create a clear and useful book to help guide and inspire us through this often challenging process."
Alex Hinds
Former Community Development Agency Director, Marin County

"The General Plan is a powerful tool communities can use to tackle tough growth issues in the comprehensive, "big picture" way that sustains positive change. The General Plan in California provides readable, insightful guidance that helps planners decision makers and community members use the power of the general plan to articulate their specific community's vision and establish the groundwork to implement that vision. Importantly, this book provides specific advice to help communities navigate general plan preparation and avoid getting lost in the general plan's complex issues and requirements."
Elaine Costello, FAICP
Project Manager of the "Reinventing the General Plan" Project of the California Planning Roundtable and California Chapter of the American Planning Association

"In California, no planning tool is more central or important than the general plan. This book is a valuable addition to the literature on the California general plan and its role, function, and potential. Its treatment of the subject is comprehensive and thoughtful, and clearly informed by wide experience with this fundamental California planning topic."
Professor Thomas Jacobson, FAICP
Sonoma State University, Department of Environmental Studies and Planning
Director, Center for Sustainable Communities

"This splendid compilation of planning fundamentals is a laudable contribution towards advancing understanding of planning complexities by one of California's leading planners: David Early. This affable and easy to read resource is a must have for anyone working on improving quality of life through policy and strategic thinking in California and beyond."
Miguel A. Vazquez AICP