Finding General Plans
Finding General Plans is a bibliographic research guide to locating general plans, especially for California and the San Francisco Bay Area, in the UC
Berkeley libraries. It supports a number of UC Berkeley city planning classes, including CP 110 (Introduction to City Planning), CP 118AC (The Urban Community), and
CP 200 (History of City Planning). This guide also provides Web links to many full text resources. For additional assistance please consult the reference
staff of the Environmental Design Library, 210 Wurster Hall.
UC Berkeley faculty, registered students, and staff who are off campus may use items marked
UCB Only or
UC Only by using The Library's
off-campus access services.
Compiled by Deborah Sommer. Content reviewed: 4 June 2009
About General Plans
What is a general plan? General plans have many
synonyms, among them comprehensive plan, development plan,
land-use plan, master plan, and urban plan. Simply stated, a general
plan is "the official statement of a municipal legislative body which sets
forth its major policies concerning desirable future physical development..."
(Kent, The Urban general plan, 1964). As further elaborated
in Planning made easy (Toner, et al., 1994), a general plan
A public guide to community decision making
An assessment of the community's needs
A statement of community values, goals, and objectives
A blueprint for the community's physical development
A public document adopted by the government
Continuously updated as conditions change
Note that in California state law requires that each general plan contain the following seven elements: circulation, conservation, housing, land use, noise, open-space, and safety, as defined in the California Government Code (Title 7, Division 1, Chapter 3, Article 5, Section 65302). Optional elements often adopted include economic development, infrastructure, public services and facilities, and recreation. Both required and optional elements may be published as a single document or as individual items or both. To identify the elements included in the general plan of a specific California jurisdiction, consult The California planner's book of lists, California Office of Planning and Research. For a straightforward introduction to the general plan in California, see A Citizen's guide to planning (California Office of Planning and Research, 2001).
Finding General Plans
General plans are available in various libraries on the UC Berkeley campus. In addition to searching the catalogs and using journal indexes to locate information about general plans, you may wish to browse the Environmental Design Library stacks under these call numbers: HT168 and NA9127, keeping in mind that some titles may be in use. Plans are organized within these call number areas alphabetically by name of jurisdiction. Information on general plans is increasingly available on the Web. Note: For general plans in the Institute of Governmental Studies Library (IGSL) collection search
Melvyl catalog. For older pre-1983 materials not listed in
Melvyl check the card catalog at IGSL. Also consider an online search via the IGSL's California Local Planning Documents Database.
These subject headings will be useful in finding general plans listed in the OskiCat and
Melvyl catalogs. Remember that you may combine terms, e.g., subject berkeley california city planning AND subject housing policy berkeley.
[place name]--City planning
[place name]--Economic conditions
[place name]--Social conditions
Central business districts--
City planning--[place name]
Community development, Urban--
County planning--[place name]
Housing development--[place name]
Housing policy--[place name]
Infrastructure (Economics)--[place name]
Land use--[place name]--Planning
Open spaces--[place name]--Planning
Real estate development--[place name]
Regional planning--[place name]
Urban renewal--[place name]
The following subject headings are examples of ways to
search for specific areas or neighborhoods within a city:
Aquatic Park (Berkeley, Calif.)
Chinatown (San Francisco, Calif.)
Embarcadero (San Francisco, Calif.)
Hunters' Point Naval Shipyard
Mission Bay (San Francisco, Calif.)
San Antonio District (Oakland, Calif.)
Telegraph Avenue (Oakland, Calif.)
West Berkeley (Berkeley, Calif.)
Yerba Buena Center (San Francisco, Calif.)
Finding Journal & Newspaper Articles
Journal articles can provide supplementary information regarding the political process, community issues, and special interests that surround the creation of a general plan. For listings of California newspapers online see California Newspapers (News Link), organized by place within broad categories (e.g., dailies, business, alternative). These indexes are also available from The Library's home page→ Find Information→ Articles→ Article Databases A-Z.
Academic search complete via Infotrac - UC Only
Indexes articles in more than 10,900 general interest journals and scholarly
journals in the humanities, social sciences, and general sciences. Abstracts
and full text available for many titles indexed.
Avery index to architectural periodicals via CSA
- UC Only
Contains citations to articles in 1,000+ periodicals in architecture, planning,
urban design, and related disciplines.
Online ed.: 1890--
Print ed.: 1890-1995, EnvDesign fNA8 C64 1973 Index
Business source complete
via EBSCOhost - UCB Only
Citations to and full text for more than 7,400 scholarly business journals
and other sources. Useful source of information
for city & regional planning, regional and community development, housing,
IngentaConnect - UCB Only Provides
full-text access to domestic and international scholarly & academic
Coverage: Varies, depending on source
of planning literature via Sage - UCB Only
Columbus, OH: Sage Publications, Inc. Indexes 400+ journals and provides
comprehensive coverage of the city and regional planning literature.
See section 11-1: Comprehensive planning.
Online ed.: 2000--
Print ed.: 1985/86--, EnvDesign NA9000 J687 Index
academic - UCB Only Includes indexing to more than 6,000 journals and newspapers and provides full
text. Good for public policy issues.
Research Library via ProQuest - UCB Only Includes abstracts and indexing to more than 1,100 periodical titles,
plus current coverage of New York Times articles. It includes some
- Coverage: Varies, depending on source
Urban studies & planning - UCB Only Provides indexing to and full text of 12 journals
published by SAGE Publications and participating societies, some journals going back 37 years.
- Coverage: Varies, depending on source
Selected General Reference Sources
- A Bibliographic essay on the urban general plan, by
Holway R. Jones. IN: The Urban general plan, by T.J. Kent, pp.187-210.
A literature review of the development of the general plan idea. Good source
for historical materials. U.S. focus.
- EnvDesign NA9031 K45 1964
Community planning: an introduction to the comprehensive
plan, by Eric Damian Kelly and Barbara Becker. Washington, D.C.:
Island Press, 2000.
- EnvDesign HT167 K38 2000
General plans: how to, what not, when and why. Nuts
& Bolts Conference presented by American Planning Association, Orange
County Section.v[Santa Ana, CA]: The Section,  The "hows" and
"whys" of creating a general plan. Material presented at an APA-sponsored
EnvDesign HT393 C2 N87 1993 Reserve
- Goals of comprehensive planning, by Alan Altshuler,
IN: Journal of the American Institute of Planners, v.31:186-95,
August 1965. [Washington, D.C., etc., American Institute of Planners]
- EnvDesign NA9000 A48 Periodical stacks
- Guidelines for preparing urban plans, by Larz T. Anderson.
Chicago: Planners Press, American Planning Association, 1995.
- EnvDesign HT167 A748 1995
- Plan graphics, by David A. Davis, Theodore D. Walker. 5th ed.
NY: Wiley, 2000. A compilation of graphic techniques for both large- and small-scale plans.
- EnvDesign NA2700 W34 2000
- The Urban general plan, by Thomas J. Kent. San Francisco:
Chandler Publishing Co., 1964. Classic text by founder of DCRP and Berkeley
planner-city councilman. With a bibliographic essay on the urban general
plan by Holway R. Jones.
EnvDesign NA9031 K45 1964
Selected California Reference Sources
For more general information on California planning see the research guide California Planning online.
The California general plan glossary,
Naphtali H. Knox and Charles E. Knox, eds. Palo Alto: California Planning Roundtable.
- Print ed.: EnvDesign HT167.5 C2 C26 1990
- California planners book of lists (Governor's Office of Planning and Research, & Calif. Resources Agency) Lists
general plans and specific plan elements by municipality. A practical classic. Also includes directories of California local planning agencies and of the California Councils of Government and their jurisdictions.
- Print ed.: 1986-- , Environ Dsgn HT167.5 C2C33 latest Reference Desk
plan guidelines (PDF). State of California, Office of Planning and Research.
Sacramento: The Office. 1973--. Officially interprets and explains the
requirements of California planning law. Covers the 7 required elements
and the process of preparation and implementation of the general plan.
- Print ed.: 1973-- , EnvDesign KFC810 A85 latest Reference
- Guide to California planning, by William Fulton, 3rd
ed. Point Arena, CA: Solano Pr. Books, 2005.
- EnvDesign HD266 C2 F87 2005 Reserve, Reference; copy circulating
- The Planner's guide to specific plans 1998
Sacramento: Office of Planning and Research.
- Print ed.: EnvDesign HT393 C2 P638 2001
Planning commissioner's book. Governor's Office of Planning
and Research; Antero Rivasplata, author and principal planner.
Sacramento: Office of Local Government Affairs. A handy general reference on planning. Includes section on the general
Online ed.: 1998 http://ceres.ca.gov/planning/plan_comm/
- Print ed.: 1989, EnvDesign HT166 R59 1989
Planning, zoning, and development laws
| 1998 |
Sacramento: California Office of Planning and Research, 1980--. Approx.
biennial. Current California statutory planning law compiled as technical
assistance for local planning agencies. Includes Subdivision Map Act
and miscellaneous planning-related laws.
Online ed.: 1995--
- Print ed.: 1983--; EnvDesign KFC811 A31 latest Reference
Selected San Francisco Bay Area City General Plans
Use abagOnline http://www.abag.ca.gov/ (Association of Bay Area Governments) to check for more San Francisco Bay Area city websites.
bicycle plan: draft for inclusion in the general plan. Berkeley
Planning Development, Dec. 1998.
- Berkeley downtown area plan. City of Berkeley Planning Department. .
- -----. Draft environmental impact report.
Prepared for City of Berkeley, by Laphier-Gregory, 2009.
- EnvDesign FC 21 & FC 21 Appendix
City of Berkeley Aquatic Park master plan: final report.
Prepared for Joint Subcommittee on Waterfront Parks; Bill Montgomery, Parks/Marina
Division, City of Berkeley [by] MPA Design. San Francisco: The Firm, 1990.
- EnvDesign HT168 B45 C58 1990a
City of Berkeley housing element: adopted
December 18, 2001 by the Berkeley City Council. [Berkeley]: City of Berkeley, [2001?].
- EnvDesign HD7304 B37 B452 2001
- General plan:
Shattuck strategic plan, prepared by the City of Berkeley, Planning
and Development Dept., 1998. Note that the print version is much more extensive than the online version.
- Print ed.: EnvDesign HT168 B45 S67 1998
plan (Draft), City of Berkeley and University of California, Berkeley,
- Online ed. (2001, amend. 2003) http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/contentdisplay.aspx?id=448
- Print ed.: EnvDesign NA9127 B4 D72 2000
Southside planning chronology, 1992 to present, Physical
& Environmental Planning, UCB, for the City of Berkeley Planning Commission.
Berkeley: Physical & Environmental Planning, UCB, 
EnvDesign HT168 B45 S68 1997
University Avenue strategic plan, prepared for the City of
Berkeley by Calthorpe Associates with Bay Area Economics, 1995.
- Print ed.: EnvDesign HT168 B45 C25 1995
Berkeley plan. [West Berkeley Area Plan Committee]. Berkeley: The
- Envision Oakland: City of Oakland general plan: draft
land use and transportation element. Oakland: [Comprehensive Planning
- EnvDesign HT168 O2 E6 1997 v.1-2
- -----. Consolidated plan for housing and community development,
city of Oakland, July 1995-June 2000. Oakland: Office of Housing and
Neighborhood Development, 1995.
- EnvDesign Microfiche 10010 OCA-0261
2003 Draft housing element (City of Oakland)
- Oakland general plan: Open Space, Conservation and Recreation
(OSCAR) Element: administrative draft. [Oakland, CA: s.n., 1994].
EnvDesign HT168 O2 O2 1994
Oakland-sharing the vision: the Oakland strategic plan.
Oakland-Sharing the Vision. Oakland: Oakland-Sharing the Vision, Inc.,
- EnvDesign HT168 O2 O25 1992
- Plan for Oakland's downtown redevelopment area. Presented
to Mayor Elihu Harris, Oakland City Council, Oakland Redevelopment Agency. [Berkeley]: University-Oakland Metropolitan Forum, .
EnvDesign HC108 O2 W6 no.28 or Microfiche 10010 OCA-0227
Central Embarcadero urban design strategy. [San Francisco:
Roma Design Group, 1993].
EnvDesign Microfiche 10010 SFCA-0354; IGS 93 01397
- General plan:
San Francisco general plan
- -----. San Francisco general plan: amendments to the general
plan: adopted between September 1988 and July 1997. Planning Dept.,
City and County of San Francisco, .
- EnvDesign KFC810 A56 S31 1997
- Housing element: an element of the San Francisco general plan:
final draft for public review, prepared by Citywide Policy Planning,
San Francisco Planning Dept. San Francisco: The Dept., 2003.
- EnvDesign HD7304 S3 S265 2003 Noncirculating
Mission Bay plan: proposal for adoption. [San Francisco]
Dept. of City Planning, City and County of San Francisco, .
- EnvDesign NA9127 S35 M3772 1990
- The Port of San Francisco waterfront design &
access: an element of the Waterfront land use plan, prepared by the Port of San Francisco and the San Francisco Planning Department, with the guidance of the Waterfront Urban Design Technical Advisory Committee.
San Francisco, CA: Port of San Francisco, 1997.
IGS 97 00827
- Preservation element of the general plan, [Planning
Department, City and County of San Francisco]. San Francisco: The
- EnvDesign NA108 S4 S25 2000
- South of Market: an area plan of the city and county of
San Francisco. Department of City Planning. In: San Francisco (Calif.) Dept. of City Planning. Master plan, city and county of San Francisco.
San Francisco, The Dept., 1988-
EnvDesign HT168 S2 S35 1990b
- Transportation: an element of the general plan of the City and County of San Francisco
[San Francisco]: Planning Dept., .
- EnvDesign HE310 S4 T735 1995 Reference
- Vision of a place: a guide to the San Francisco general plan. San
Francisco: San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association,
- EnvDesign HT168 V5; IGS 2002 0116
Selected San Francisco Bay Area General Plans
Use abagOnline http://www.abag.ca.gov/ (Association of Bay Area Governments) or the California State Association of Counties http://www.csac.counties.org/ to check for San Francisco Bay Area county websites. Listed here is a selection of recent general plans from the nine San Francisco Bay Area counties.
County Planning Agencies & Plans
- Alameda County Planning Dept.
- -----. East County area plan: a portion of the Alameda County general plan. [Hayward, CA: 1996].
- EnvDesign HT393 C32 A43 1996
- Contra Costa County Community Development Dept.
- -----. Contra Costa County general plan, 1995-2010, 1996-.
- IGS 97 00821
- Marin County Community Development Agency
- -----. The Marin countywide plan 2004.. [San Rafael, CA: Marin County Community Development Agency, 2004].
- EnvDesign HT393 C22 M3 M27 2004
- Napa County Conservation,
Development and Planning Dept.
- ----. Napa County general plan, .
- EnvDesign HD211 C2 N361 1990
- San Mateo County Planning and Building Division
- Santa Clara County Planning Office
- -----. Santa Clara County general plan: charting a course for Santa Clara County's future,
- EnvDesign HT393 C32 S553 1994 v.2 in folio stacks books A & B
- Solano County Department of Resource Management
- -----. Solano County land use and circulation element: a part of the Solano County general
plan, prepared by the Solano County Planning Department. Fairfield, CA: Solano County
Planning Dept., .
- IGS 2005 0044
- Sonoma County Permit & Resource Management Dept.
- -----. Sonoma County general plan. [Santa Rosa: Sonoma County Planning Dept.], 1991.
- IGS 92 00076
- Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG)
- -----. Bay
Area futures: where will we live and work? Commissioned by the
San Francisco District Council of the Urban Land Institute. Oakland:
Association of Bay Area Governments, 
- Online ed.: http://www.abag.ca.gov/planning/bayareafutures/
- Print ed.; EnvDesign HD257 B39 1997
- -----. The Emergence of a regional concept 1910-1976. 1976.
- EnvDesign JS451 C28 S335 1976
- -----. ABAG 1961-1986: emergence of a regional concept. .
- IGS 86 00587; Trans HT394 S4 A8 1986
- -----. Regionwide planning: a collaborative approach: a proposal. Regional Planning Committee. [Oakland: Association of Bay Area Governments, 1994].
- EnvDesign Microfiche 10010 OCA-0249; IGS 94 00941
- Blueprint for a sustainable Bay Area, by Urban Ecology, Inc.
[Oakland, CA]: Urban Ecology, 1996.
- EnvDesign HC79 E5 B48 1996
- Metropolitan Transportation Commission
- -----. Regional transportation plan for the San Francisco Bay Area, prepared by Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Oakland, CA: The Commission.
- EnvDesign, Main HE310 S25 M48 Holdings vary; check catalog; ITSL RTS2006 R4; IGSL A5877
- -----. Transportation 2030 plan, February 2005.
- Tahoe Regional Planning Agency
- -----. Regional plan for the Lake Tahoe Basin: plan area statements. 
- EnvDesign HT392.5 T3 T3 1987
- -----. Regional plan update report (PDF) , Dec. 2008.
- -----. Lake Tahoe Basin Regional transportation plan, 2004-2027
- EnvDesign HT392.5 T3L35 2004
California Local Plans Collections
Design Library collects plans for major California cities and communities
within the San Francisco Bay area, as well as plans for other major California
and U.S. cities. Between 1948 and 1963 the library also collected general
plans across the U.S. and California. These plans are cataloged in the
library's catalogs; most titles are available for circulation.
of Governmental Studies Library (IGSL) maintains the most comprehensive
collection of California city and county planning documents on the UC Berkeley
campus. Ranging from the 1940s to the present, the collection is fully
cataloged and does not circulate. Since 1983 catalog records have appeared
in the Melvyl catalog; earlier catalog records are in the Library's
card and book catalogs.
Local Planning Documents Database is an online index of California
general plans owned by IGSL. The database may be accessed at IGSL or via
the Web. Current planning documents are the primary focus of the database,
which may be searched by jurisdiction or place name, element (i.e., housing,
open space), and year adopted. Includes addresses of planning agencies.
"701" Comprehensive Planning Reports
This large and diverse collection of general plans in the Environmental
Design Library spans the period from 1954 to 1976 when the U.S. Federal
Planning Assistance Program of the Housing Act of 1954 (P.L.83-560),
Section 701 of Title 7, susbsidized the preparation of comprehensive plans
and required their distribution to 13 U.S. urban planning depository libraries,
including the Environmental Design Library. More than 20,000 reports, issued
by state and local agencies, were distributed. Almost all the "701" reports--except
San Francisco Bay Area plans--are stored in the Northern Regional Library
Facility (NRLF) and may be paged on request.
For a history of the "701" federal planning assistance
program, see The Foundations of federal planning assistance, by
Carl Feiss, IN: Journal of the American Planning Association, v.51:2,
spring 1985, pp.174-184. Includes a chronology (1955-1981) of the Program's
appropriations and bibliographical references (EnvDesign NA9000 A48
- INDEXES: These reports are listed in the Library's catalogs. Access
is also provided in the Dictionary catalog of the United States Department
of Housing and Urban Development, Library and Information Division
in vol. 19 of the base set, and vol. 2 in Supplements 1 and 2 (EnvDesign
fHT166 A12 Reference) At NRLF.
More Special Collection Resources
- Housing and urban affairs, 1965-1976. Glen Rock, N.J.:
Microfilming Corp. of America, 1977. Microfiche collection
of 3,000 selected local planning reports, research papers, etc., in the
U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Affairs Library, 1965-76.
- Microfiche 855
- Index: Housing and urban affairs, 1965-1976: A
bibliographic guide to the microform collection provides subject, geographic
and author title access to the collection.
- EnvDesign HD7293 A121 H68 1978 Index
to current urban documents - UCB Only NY:
Greenwood Press. The key national resource for local government publications
of the United States. Online edition contains citations to and the
full text (PDF) of local government publications from approximately
500 selected cities and counties in the United States and Canada.
At the core of the collection are fiscal and planning documents, including
budgets and financial reports, and city, county and regional plans.
Contemporary subject headings for urban affairs (EnvDesign
JS13 A12 M851 1983 Index) serves as a guide to subject headings for
older volumes of the Index and is shelved with it. Subject
terms to use: City planning--policy, goals; Community facilities--planning;
Comprehensive (master) plans;
County planning--policy, goals;
Metropolitan area planning.
Online ed.: 2000-- ; available from
home page→ Find Information→ Electronic
Resources→ Government Information Sources-California/Regional
- Print ed.: 1972-- ; EnvDesign JS13 A12M85 Index; Index &documents on microfiche in Institute
of Governmental Studies Library
(Calif. Land Use Planning Information Network) Provides directories of California city and county general plans, habitat conservation plans,
regional plans, and tribal plans.
These libraries have significant collections of general plans. Community libraries are also excellent sources of local planning documents.