What is a General Plan?

The General Plan is a policy document and establishes a citywide vision and consistent direction for future development. It reflects community priorities, values, and includes supporting goals, policies, and implementation measures to achieve the community's vision.

NEW! General Plan Update Process

The General Plan Update is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for all Oaklanders to work together to create a visionary blueprint for our City's future over the next two decades. The update will occur in two phases, guided by a set of core principles rooted in equity.

Visit the General Plan Update page for more details.


California Law requires specific topics, also called "Elements," to be covered in a general plan (Gov. Code § 65302). Required elements include land use, circulation, housing, conservation, open space, noise, and safety. 

Senate Bill 1000, passed in 2016, requires that cities with disadvantaged communities adopt environmental justice policies or an Environmental Justice Element. State law allows a jurisdiction to include within its General Plan any other element(s) that it sees fit.

Elements in a General Plan Required Contents

Land Use

The Land Use Element focuses on how land in Oakland is used for various uses such as housing, jobs, commercial, schools, community uses, public buildings and facilities, parks, and open space and promotes equitable distribution of different land uses.

The current 1998 Land Use and Transportation Element (LUTE) and the 1999 Estuary Policy Plan (EPP) establish the General Plan land-use policies.


The Circulation Element identifies the general location and extent of existing and future transportation networks in Oakland for all users (automobile, pedestrian, bicycle, and trucks), public transportation routes and terminals, and public utilities (water, sewer, stormwater, communications).

The circulation element has a direct relationship with the land use element. The 1998 Land Use and Transportation Element (LUTE), the 1999 Estuary Policy Plan (EPP), the 2019 Oakland Bike Plan, and the 2017 Pedestrian Plan establish the General Plan circulation policies.


The Housing element analyzes Oakland's housing conditions and needs for all income levels, including low-income and households with special needs. It provides various programs to create a variety of housing to meet Oakland's housing needs.

Oakland's 2014 Housing Element establishes the goals, objectives, and policies that are the foundation of the City's housing strategy. In Oakland, the Housing Element must be revised and submitted to State HCD for review on an eight-year cycle.


The Conservation Element describes Oakland's natural resources and establishes goals and policies to preserve, enhance, and develop them. The conservation element works in coordination with the land use and open space Elements.

The 1996 Open Space, Conservation, and Recreation Element (OSCAR) establish the General Plan conservation policies.

Open Space

The Open Space Element identifies valuable undeveloped areas of land or water designated as open space in Oakland and creates a long-term plan to preserve them. The open space element works in coordination with the land use and conservation Elements.

The 1996 Open Space, Conservation, and Recreation Element (OSCAR) establish the General Plan open space policies.


The Noise Element describes the noise environment in Oakland and analyzes current and projected noise levels to limit community exposure to excessive noise levels.

The 2005 Noise Element outlines policies and implementation measures to address existing and foreseeable noise problems.


The Safety Element identifies safety issues - environmental and man-made in Oakland and focuses on protecting the community. The 2004 Safety Element (amended in 2012) establishes the General Plan policies to minimize risk and protect people, property, and the environment from environmental hazards in Oakland and provide policies to reduce exposure.

The 2016-2021 Local Hazard Mitigation Plan informs residents of the risks from natural hazards, such as earthquake, fire, or flooding.

Environmental Justice


Under SB 1000, Oakland has to adopt an Environmental Justice Element, either standalone or interwoven with other Elements, at the same time that the Housing and Safety Elements are updated, with required adoption currently projected for early 2023. The Environmental Justice Element should include objectives and policies that

  • Reduce health risks in disadvantaged communities,
  • Promote civic engagement in the public decision-making process, and
  • Prioritize programs that address disadvantaged communities' needs.

Historic Preservation

The Historic Preservation Element is optional and provides an inventory of historic "Areas of Primary Interest" (APIs) and Areas of Secondary Interest (ASIs) in Oakland.

The 1994 Oakland Historic Preservation Element provides policies and actions to encourage the preservation of these areas.

Scenic Highways

The Scenic Highways element was a required element under State Law until 1984.

The 1974 Scenic Highways Element establishes policies to preserve and enhance attractive roadways traversing through Oakland.