General Plan

Purpose of General Plans
California law requires each city to adopt a comprehensive, long-term General Plan to guide the physical development of the incorporated area and land outside municipal boundaries that bears a relationship to its planning activities. In essence, a city’s General Plan serves as the blueprint for future growth and development. As a blueprint for the future, the plan must contain policies and programs designed to provide decision makers with a solid basis for decisions related to land use and development.

According to state law, the General Plan is the primary document the City utilizes to regulate land use. Consequently, the Zoning Ordinance, specific plans, and individual public and private development proposals must be consistent with the Genral Plan goals, policies, and standards.

The Rancho Santa Margarita General Plan addresses many issues that are directly related to and influence land use decisions. In addition to land use, State law requires the General Plan to address circulation, housing, conservation of natural resources, preservation of open space, the noise environment, and protection of public safety (Section 65302 of the California Government Code). These issues are discussed in the General Plan to the extent that they apply to Rancho Santa Margarita. The General Plan also addresses economic development, a topic of special interest.

Plan Elements
The City of Rancho Santa Margarita General Plan contains goals, policies, and plans that are intended to guide land use and development decisions in the future. The General Plan consists of a Land Use Policy Map and the following 7 elements, or chapters, which together fulfill the State requirements for a General Plan
  1. Land Use Element
  2. Economic Development Element (optional)
  3. Circulation Element
  4. Housing Element
  5. Conservation/Open Space Element (combined Elements)
  6. Safety Element
  7. Noise Element
The Rancho Santa Margarita elements sometimes deviate from the state and county mandated elements in non-substantive ways. For example, public utilities are included in the State requirements for the Circulation Element (PDF), but are addressed in the Land Use Element of the Rancho Santa Margarita General Plan. The City addresses the Measure M requirement for a Growth Management Element through policies and programs in the Land Use Element, and Rancho Santa Margarita has also included a non-mandatory element, Economic Development, in the General Plan.

Economic Development Element

The Economic Development Element (PDF) is an integral component of the General Plan and is essential to achieving the community’s vision for the future. The Economic Development Element addresses actions the City can take to provide a balance between employment opportunities and housing, attract and retain businesses that are beneficial to the community; and maintain fiscal strength and stability. The strategies and programs contained within the Element outline a course toward continued fiscal stability for the City.

Growth Management Element

In addition to the state-mandated elements, provisions of Orange County’s Measure M require cities to prepare a Growth Management Element, addressing timely provision of capital facilities and public services associated with new development.

Housing Element
Currently, the City is in the process of updating the Housing Element (PDF) as required by state law.

Map & Documents

On December 19, 2002, the City Council adopted the City of Rancho Santa Margarita's 1st General Plan. A copy of the General Plan, broken down by individual elements, is available below along with the accompanying Environmental Impact Report on the Documents page. On March 28, 2007, the General Plan Land Use Map was amended to correct the land use designations of several properties that were originally misclassified.

For More Information

For additional information on the General Plan program, please contact the City of Rancho Santa Margarita's Planning Department at 949-635-1800.