Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the General Plan?

A. A General Plan is a long-term document consisting of text and maps that expresses how a community should develop. The plan is the basis for detailed development regulations in the Zoning Ordinance and decisions by policymakers on public improvements and private developments. All cities and counties in California are required by law to have general plans.

Click here to see the current General Plan.


Q. Why is a general plan required?

A. State law mandates that each city and county in California adopt “a comprehensive, long-term general plan.” The purpose is to plan for important community issues such as new growth, housing needs, and environmental protection. Furthermore, the general plan is used to project future demand for services such as sewer, water, roadways, parks, and emergency services.


Q. What goes into a general plan?

A. There are both State-mandated and optional elements that go into a general plan. The elements of the general plan make up the framework for decision-making regarding growth and development in the City. State law requires that a general plan contain at least the seven mandated elements: Land Use, Transportation, Housing, Conservation, Open Space, Noise, and Safety.


Q. Why are we updating the General Plan?

A. General Plans are typically updated every 20 years in order to reflect a community’s present day values and goals. Our existing General Plan is from 1993 and in need of an update. Changes within our community have occurred and many planned developments have not gone forward – resulting in a General Plan that is nearly obsolete. Additionally, the current General Plan does not have an Open Space Element, which is one of seven mandatory elements required per State planning law. Other areas in need of an update include water allocations for land uses needs, environmental and hazard vulnerability maps, climate action plans, and more.


Q. What is a Local Coastal Program (LCP)?

A. The California Coastal Act of 1976 contains a set of policies intended to protect coastal resources and maximize public access to the sea within the State-designated Coastal Zone. The Coastal Act allows local governments to prepare and implement LCPs that are consistent with and achieve its objectives. Once an LCP is approved by the Coastal Commission, the local government takes the responsibility of issuing coastal development permits for most new development, subject to the standards set in the certified LCP. An LCP contains two parts: the Local Coastal Land Use Plan (LCLUP), which establishes land use policies within the Coastal Zone and is similar to a general plan, and the implementing ordinances that are typically combined with the Zoning Code.

​Click here to see the current Local Coastal Program.


Q: What is the Housing Element?

A. The housing element is one of the seven required general plan elements mandated by California state law. State law requires that each city and county adopt a housing element that conforms to the detailed statutory requirements established in Article 10.6 (Sections 65580 to 65589.8) of the Government Code, and which must be updated every five to eight years. According to state law, all housing elements must identify and analyze existing and projected housing needs; state goals, policies, quantified objectives, financial resources, and scheduled programs for the preservation, improvement, and development of housing; identify adequate sites for housing, including rental housing, factory-built housing, mobile homes, and emergency shelters; and make adequate provision for the existing and projected needs of all economic segments of the community. To ensure compliance, each housing element is submitted to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) at specified times during the update cycle for mandatory review.

Half Moon Bay's Housing Element was recently updated to correspond to the planning period of January 31, 2015 to January 31, 2023. It has been certified by HCD and adopted by the City of Half Moon Bay in March 2015. The Housing Element, General Plan, and LCP, will be checked for consistency throughout the update process, with any necessary updates to the housing sites inventory of the Housing Element to take place at the time of adoption of the updated General Plan and LCP.
Click here to see the adopted Housing Element.

Q. What is an Environmental Impact Report (EIR)?

A. An environmental impact report is a detailed analysis of the environmental effects of a plan or development project. The EIR identifies alternatives to the proposed project and presents ways to reduce or avoid environmental damage. Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a general plan is considered a project, thus requiring that an EIR be completed in conjunction with the plan. Community members can provide input at two different phases in the EIR process: in response to the Notice of Preparation (NOP), declaring that an EIR is going to be prepared, and to the Draft EIR itself.


Q. What are the Guiding Principles?

A. The Guiding Principles are essentially the mission statement of the General Plan update. The principles are to maintain the City’s small-town character, enhance and protect environmental resources, foster a balanced community with local businesses and diverse residential opportunities, promote a more connected street network, support downtown and encourage tourism.​ Click here to see more information about the Guiding Principles.


Q: What are the General Plan Building Blocks?

A: The Building Blocks are four big topic areas that organize the General Plan and LCP policy discussion around themes that are important to the community, allowing us to explore related issues in-depth. Many aspects of the Building Blocks are interconnected, and will ultimately be tied together in the draft General Plan and LCP. See the About page for more information about the Building Blocks.


Q. What can be done to reduce traffic and congestion on Highways 1 and 92?

A. It is assumed that the overall traffic volume on Highways 1 and 92 will continue to gradually increase because there are simply no alternative thoroughfare routes into and along the Coastside. However, increased transit and multimodal traffic (bicycle, shuttles, etc.) opportunities as well as providing more of a balance of local jobs with housing will alleviate some of the traffic.

Q. What is being contemplated for pedestrian safety along Highway 1?

A. Highway 1 operational improvements to provide for left hand turn pockets at street intersections and new traffic signalization/coordination at select locations are being contemplated to improve the safety associated with crossing the freeway.
Click here to view planned improvements to Highway 1.


Q. Will the General Plan update lessen the amount of public open space?

A. No. There are no plans to reduce the amount of public open space in the community. Privately owned and vacant developable land, some of which is west of Highway 1, is being incorporated into the General Plan update. One of the primary guidelines for this process is to identify ways to strengthen the protection of environmental land that is cherished by the community.


Q. What is the Planned Unit Development designation?

A. Planned Unit Development (PUD) is a General Plan designation and zoning classification. The current General Plan has 19 different PUD’s comprising roughly two-thirds of the City. Most of these PUDs have not been developed for a number of reasons, but primarily because all the owners of property within each PUD area must agree (in some cases hundreds of parcels with different owners) and submit a common application for development of the entire PUD area. Click here for a handout with more information on PUDs.


Q. What can be done to reduce traffic and congestion on Highways 1 and 92?

A. It is assumed that the overall traffic volume on Highways 1 and 92 will continue to gradually increase because there are simply no alternative thoroughfare routes into and along the Coastside. However, increased transit and multimodal traffic (bicycle, shuttles, etc.) opportunities as well as providing more of a balance of local jobs with housing will alleviate some of the traffic.


Q. What is being contemplated for pedestrian safety along Highway 1?

A. Highway 1 operational improvements to provide for left hand turn pockets at street intersections and new traffic signalization/coordination at select locations are being contemplated to improve the safety associated with crossing the freeway.

Click here to view planned improvements to Highway 1.