What is the General Plan?

A requirement of California law cities must adopt a General Plan to identify the community's priorities and vision of the future.  The General Plan is our collective vision for how we want the community to improve during the next 10-20 years.  It is the blueprint to determine the way Rancho Santa Margarita looks and feels, and for meeting anticipated future needs.  When the City Council makes decision on land use, transportation, open space, community services, and other important topics, they are guided by this community blueprint.  The General Plan is also used by the Planning Commission, boards, and city staff to evaluate proposed building and development projects and to make recommendations to the City Council.

As the name suggest, the General Plan provides general guidance to address the seven elements required by California law, in addition to topics that the community feels are important, such as Economic Development.  The plan is implemented through more specific and detailed City programs, ordinances, and regulations such as the Zoning Ordinance and Capital Improvement Program.

For more information, contact the Planning Department at (949) 635-1800 x6701
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About the General Plan

The General Plan included seven state-mandated "Elements" or chapters, that focus on specific topics. Each element included specific goals and policies.

  • Land Use
  • Noise
  • Safety
  • Conservation/Open Space
  • Economic Development
  • Housing*
  • Circulation*
Rancho Santa Margarita updated the Land Use, Noise, Safety, Conservation, Open Space, and Economic Development Elements.

The Housing Element covers the period 2013-2021 and is scheduled to be updated in 2021 pursuant to state law.

*Updated in 2013

Goals and Policies


Each element of the General Plan identifies goals and policies to guide future planning in the City.

  • Goal: A general statement describing a desired future condition.
  • Policy: A statement of commitment designed to guide future decisions in such a way that the General Plan goals will be achieved. 

Implementation Programs

The General Plan Implementation Program identifies the systems, procedures, or techniques that implement the General Plan goals and policies.