Land use and community development play a foundational role to how Californians are able to prepare for, and respond to, the impacts of climate change. Development patterns, land conservation and protection, and land management practices can help, or hinder, the State’s long-term community health, environmental, and economic goals, including climate adaptation. Incorporating climate considerations into local long-range planning is a critical step to adapting to the impacts of a changing climate. While the practice of adaptation planning continues to evolve, there are a number of ways local governments address climate change, meet statutory requirements, and build community resilience.

General Plans and Local Hazard Mitigation Plans

The Safety Element of every jurisdiction’s General Plan is required to identify hazards and hazard abatement provisions. The legislature has recognized that increases in average temperature, a greater incidence of extreme weather conditions, and sea level rise exacerbate existing hazards and may create new hazards where none previously existed. SB 379 (Jackson, 2015) now requires local governments to include a climate change vulnerability assessment, measures to address vulnerabilities, and a comprehensive hazard mitigation and emergency response strategy. The General Plan Guidelines include additional information on requirements and recommendations for addressing climate risk, including policy recommendations.

Climate change reflects new uncertainties and factors shaping and conditioning hazard mitigation planning. As with general plans, chapter 4.5 in the 2013 California State Hazard Mitigation Plan (SHMP) addresses a specific approach for local communities to evaluate their risk as a result of climate change. The hazard mitigation guidance materials are the same materials referenced in Chapter 4: Safety Element of the General Plan Guidelines. The similarities in base science, policy guidance, and implementation materials provides for consistency across multiple documents such as an adaptation plan, climate action plan, general plan, implementation plan, local hazard mitigation plan, local coastal plan, etc. See the CalOES website for additional discussion on co-benefits.

Climate Action Plans and Adaptation Plans

Many local governments are incorporating climate adaptation considerations into standalone Climate Action Plans (CAP) or Adaptation Plans. Through these plans and other local planning documents, local governments have the ability to influence many activities that contribute to climate change and can help address the impacts of climate change on the community. Many climate action plans that have been developed since 2009 have been created in response to CEQA mandates regarding GHG emissions. More recently, adaptation is being added to respond to local planning requirements. As the planning practice around CAPs continues to evolve, many local governments are using these plans to also align adaptation and mitigation planning efforts. Additional information on what local governments are doing throughout the state on climate change can be found by reviewing the Air Resources Board interactive CAP-Map, the OPR Annual Planning Survey, General Plan Guidelines (Chapter 8: Climate Change and Chapter 4: Safety Element). For additional resources and examples of work being done around the United States, resources such as the US Climate Resilience Toolkit and the Georgetown Climate Center can be helpful.

Local Coastal Programs

Jurisdictions in the coastal zone are required to develop a local coastal plan in addition to the development of a general plan. As part of a Local Coastal Program, update, or amendment, prepared pursuant to the Coastal Act, local governments should evaluate and plan for sea level rise. Sea level rise potentially increases the risk of coastal hazards as identified in Public Resources Code Section 30253 (geologic flood, and fire), as well as potentially increasing impacts on coastal resources identified throughout the Coastal Act. The analysis can be performed through a vulnerability assessment, climate action plan or other document and is best coordinated with the guidance in the general plan guidelines on how to address climate change risk, vulnerability and adaptation. The Coastal Commission maintains Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance on how to plan for sea level rise within an LCP or permit. Additional information on LCP planning, such as updating certified LCPs and Best Practices for amending LCPs, can be found on the Coastal Commissions Local Government Resources page. Additional information regarding Coastal Act Requirements and the General Plan can be found in the Implementation Chapter of the General Plan Guidelines.

Local governments play a critical role in safeguarding California from the impacts of climate change and just as no two communities are the same, local governments have the flexibility to incorporate climate considerations into long-range planning in various ways that can be tailored to local needs and context.

All Resources for Land Use And Community Development

SB 379

Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson. 2016
Drought Extreme heat Extreme storms Ocean acidification Sea level rise Snowpack Temperature Wildfire
Planning and policy guidance
California Senate Bill 379 requires all cities and counties to include climate adaptation and resiliency strategies in the safety elements of their general plans upon the next revision beginning January 1, 2017. The bill requires the climate adaptation update to include a set of goals, policies, and objectives for their communities based on the vulnerability assessment, as well as implementation measures, including the conservation and implementation of natural infrastructure that may be used in adaptation projects. Specifically, the bill requires that upon the next revision of a general plan or local hazard mitigation plan, the safety element is to be updated as necessary to address climate adaptation and resiliency strategies applicable to the city or county.

Silicon Valley 2.0 Climate Adaptation Guidebook

County of Santa Clara Office of Sustainability. 2015
Drought Extreme heat Extreme storms Flooding Sea level rise Temperature Wildfire
Assessment Plan or strategy
The Silicon Valley 2.0 Project was a multi-year, multi-stakeholder process designed and managed by the Santa Clara Office of Sustainability to minimize the anticipated impacts of climate change within Santa Clara County. The outcomes of the effort include a vulnerability and risk assessment, a decision support tool and a guidebook with a comprehensive set of adaptation strategies.

CAL FIRE Urban Forestry Advisors

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). 2018
Extreme heat Temperature
Planning and policy guidance
CAL FIRE’s Urban and Community Forestry Program provides seven regional urban foresters who provide expert urban forestry support to communities, non-profit groups and other municipal governments to create and maintain sustainable urban forests. These specialists also administer and provide technical support for grants that are offered for activities such as tree planting, municipal tree inventories and management plans, urban forest educational efforts, and innovative urban forestry projects.

CAL FIRE Urban and Community Forestry Program

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). 2018
Extreme heat Temperature
Planning and policy guidance
CAL FIRE’s Urban and Community Forestry Program (U&CFP) houses many resources for local and regional governments to use when planning and maintaining urban forestry. Resources include a list of Regional Urban Foresters that provide technical assistance, a State Strategic Plan, Urban Forest Management Plan Toolkit, Urban Forest Map, Urban Tree Carbon Calculator, and many tree growing, buying and care guidelines and resources.

California Healthy Soils Action Plan

California Department of Food and Agriculture. 2016
Drought Extreme storms Flooding
Plan or strategy Planning and policy guidance
California’s Healthy Soils Action Plan is an interagency plan resulting from the Healthy Soils Initiative lead by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). The Plan provides guiding principles and actions to reach the goals outlined by the interagency working group. Healthy agricultural soils have many adaptive benefits aside from increasing plant health and yields. Healthy soils increase water filtration and retention and reduce sediment erosion and dust - assisting in flood management and air and water quality control.

City of Crescent City General Plan – Local Coastal Plan Extract – Policy Document

Crescent City Planning Department. 2011
Flooding Sea level rise
Plan or strategy
Crescent City added references to sea level rise in the 2011 update to their Local Coastal Program (LCP). This LCP requires that residential and commercial analyze potential coastal hazards associated with sea level rise between 3 and 6 feet. These developments must then include this analysis in their final designs.

City of Goleta Coastal Hazards Vulnerability and Fiscal Impact Report

City of Goleta. 2015
Flooding Sea level rise
Assessment Plan or strategy
The 2015 City of Goleta Coastal Hazards Vulnerability and Fiscal Impact Report focuses on sea level rise as the City’s greatest climate change impact. The report develops a vulnerability assessment based on different sectors including land use, coastal armoring, oil and gas, hazardous materials, etc. In addition to the vulnerability assessment the report estimates fiscal impacts to the city from sea level rise and its associated coastal impacts – erosion, tidal inundation, and flooding. In Section 7, the city proposes specific regulatory changes it could make to address these threats.

City of Malibu Local Coastal Program Land Use Plan

City of Malibu. 2002
Flooding Sea level rise
Plan or strategy
In 2002 Malibu amended its Local Coastal Program (LCP) directly through its local use plan. The plan requires new development on beaches or bluffs to create an impact report that includes future sea level rise projections. The plan also states that one of the cities intended policies is to develop a strategy to address the issue of sea level rise.

City of Oxnard - Sea Level Rise Atlas

City of Oxnard. 2016
Flooding Sea level rise
The City of Oxnard published this report to share initial findings from their sea level rise assessment as part of their path toward an Local Coastal Program update. The report covers four different coastal hazards – erosion, coastal storms, coastal waves and tidal inundation – and maps how different sea level rise scenarios will impact the city.

City of Point Arena - General Plan / Local Coastal Plan

City of Point Arena. 2006
Flooding Sea level rise
Plan or strategy
In 2006 Point Arena amended its Local Coastal Program (LCP) directly through its general plan. The City added language to its health and safety section. It now requires the siting and design of new shoreline development and protection structures consider anticipated changes in sea level