By Zach Friend, Supervisor, Second District
The County has been undertaking a process for a comprehensive update to the General Plan and Local Coastal Program.
Called the Sustainability Policy and Regulatory Update (Sustainability Update), it provides amendments to the County’s current General Plan and Local Coastal Program, updates sections of County Code, adds new County Design Guidelines and provides amendments to the General Plan land use designation and Zoning maps.
The goal of this update is to implement new policies and code regulations that support more sustainable communities in Santa Cruz County.
Over the last few months, County staff have held community outreach sessions and presented the draft to the Planning Commission over multiple study sessions for review. The draft will come to the Board of Supervisors soon.
What is the Purpose of the Plan?
The Sustainability Update involves work on three County documents:
- It provides amendments to the General Plan/Local Coastal Program
- Provides amendments to the County Code
- Creates Santa Cruz County Design Guidelines
The Update aims to modernize codes (some which haven’t been updated since the 1950s), look at how development occurs (in particular within the urban area and higher-density areas within the urban area) and incorporate design guidelines.
The County’s existing General Plan was adopted in 1994 with a focus on preserving natural and agricultural resources and limiting urban expansion outside the urban services line. While maintaining these core values, it’s important that after 25 years the General Plan/Local Coastal Program be modernized to address current needs and even state law changes.
Specifically, revisions included in the Sustainability Update are intended to introduce housing options, mitigate climate change, support multimodal transportation and align land uses with transportation corridors, support local agriculture and preserve agricultural land, update commercial zones to support evolving business needs and local job creation, as well as modernize the land use permit framework and types of uses allowed within various zone districts. In addition to these changes that implement past policy efforts, the Sustainability Update incorporated updates to the County’s 1994 General Plan/Local Coastal Program to align with recent state laws and new regional and local plans, as well as aligning the General Plan Land Use Designation and Zoning Maps.
What’s Included in the Plan?
With a focus on the General Plan/Local Coastal Program, County Code and creation of Design Guidelines, the Update includes changes to the County’s land use rules and regulations, in order to support sustainable development and meet the modern needs of the community.
Here is an overview of the proposals for the three main categories.
The key elements of the General Plan update include the incorporation of a new planning horizon of 2040 for population and employment growth, a reflection of the support for multimodal and transportation corridor focus of the Sustainable Santa Cruz County Plan, alignment with other adopted plans that focus on climate action, equity, parks strategic plan and economic vitality.
Alignment with State updates including general land use or regulatory updates as well as updates to the California Coastal Act and Local Coastal Program Guidelines support the greater County focus on metrics by clearly aligning objectives, policies and implementation strategies with goals, and set actionable and measurable implementation strategies that can be tracked over time to gauge plan success and more.
On the County Code amendment side, the Update amends several sections of County Code to implement the updated General Plan, remove obsolete code sections, and modernize development requirements and procedures.
The last focus is on the creation of Santa Cruz County Design Guidelines. Currently, the County does not currently have development design guidelines, aside from what is included in existing specific plans and in 13.11 of the County Code Design Guidelines are being developed for residential, commercial and mixed-use development which will present illustrated design concepts with useful examples.
These Design Guidelines are intended to be used in conjunction with the General Plan and County Code. The uses and development standards in the County Code are generally more quantitative (example: number of parking spots), while the Design Guidelines are generally more qualitative (example: parking lot design best practices). These guidelines are intended to simplify the process for the community and also modernize standards.
How Can You Learn More?
The County has a website with a lot more information about the proposals in the Sustainability Update. The site, listed below, includes links to the entire plan, ways you can get involved and easy fact sheets to obtain overview information.
More info can be found at: www.sccoplanning.com/SustainabilityUpdate
If you have any questions about the proposed code changes, or any other matters in our district, please don’t hesitate to call me at 454-2200. I’m maintaining regular updates on social media as well at www.facebook.com/supervisorfriend.