California Adds Health & Equity Recommendations to General Plan Guidelines

California Adds Health & Equity Recommendations to General Plan Guidelines

February 6, 2018

Last fall, California's Office of Planning and Research (OPR) issued new guidelines for general plans, the documents created by the state's cities and counties to guide their future development. For the first time, the OPR guidelines include specific recommendations for how local general plans could address health, equitable development, and public engagement.

ChangeLab Solutions, with many statewide partner organizations, helped drive this innovation by submitting a detailed set of comments on a draft version of the OPR guidelines. We recommended, for example, that the guidelines be amended to better reflect the perspectives and needs of California's communities of color. Over two-thirds of the changes suggested by ChangeLab Solutions and its partners were incorporated into the final guidelines.

California law requires every city and county to periodically update its general plan, which always includes mandatory elements like housing, transportation, and land use. Recently, some jurisdictions have also begun considering community health and equity in their plans, and more localities are likely to incorporate these optional elements in the future. OPR's 2017 guidelines now provide California communities with free resources on best practices, data sources, model language, and case studies focused on community health, equity, climate change and resilience, and community engagement.

Publication of the new general plan guidelines is a momentous step for healthy, equitable planning in California. ChangeLab Solutions will be assisting with outreach related to the rollout of the new guidelines around the state as part of our continued work in healthy planning (such as our toolkit on creating and implementing healthy general plans). We also hope that other states will look to California and the OPR guidelines as a model for how to collaboratively advance health and equity in planning.