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County of Santa Barbara Comprehensive Plan

Guide to the Comprehensive Plan Elements

State law requires that all cities and counties adopt a comprehensive, long-term general plan that outlines physical development of the county or city. The general plan must cover a local jurisdiction's entire planning area so that it can adequately address the broad range of issues associated with the city or county's development. Ultimately, the general plan expresses the community's development goals and embodies public policy relative to the distribution of future public and private land uses. The general plan may be adopted as a single document or as a group of documents relating to subjects or geographic segments of the planning area.

Comprehensive Plan and Coastal Land Use Plan Consistency

All elements of a general plan, whether mandatory or optional, must be internally consistent with each other. Each element's data, analysis, goals, policies, and implementation programs must be consistent with and complement each other. Community Plan principles, goals, objectives, policies, and plan proposals must be consistent with the overall Comprehensive Plan and all elements have equal legal status (i.e. no element is legally subordinate to another). The Coastal Land Use Plan should be internally consistent with the Comperehensive Plan elements.

Comprehensive Plan Agricultural Element Circulation Element Coastal Land Use Plan Conservation Element Energy Element Environmental Resource Management Element Hazardous Waste Element Housing Element Land Use Element Noise Element Safety Element Scenic Highways Element Open Space Element

Mandated Elements of Local General Plans

All general plans must contain seven mandated sections or "elements" including: Circulation, Conservation Housing, Land Use, Noise, Open Space, and Safety. A basic overview of Santa Barbara County's Comprehensive Plan is outlined below:

Circulation Element: Identifies the general location and extent of existing and proposed major roads, transit routes, terminals, and public utilities and facilities. It must correlate with the Land Use Element.

Conservation Element: Addresses the conservation, development, and use of natural resources including water, forests, soils, rivers, and mineral deposits.

  • Groundwater Resources Section: Amends the Conservation Element Water Resources Chapter text and maps regarding groundwater which are superseded in their entirety by the text and maps of the Groundwater Resources Section.
  • Oak Tree Protection in the Inland Rural Areas of Santa Barbara County: Amends the Conservation Element Mapped Areas and Communities Section addressing Oak Tree Protection in the Inland Rural Areas of Santa Barbara County.

Housing Element: Guides the determination of housing needs and establishes policy that facilitates the development of housing for all economic segments in the County. It is the only element that must undergo mandated updates every eight years.

Land Use Element: Lays out the general patterns of development throughout the County, including the distribution of real estate, open space and agricultural land, mineral resources, recreational facilities, schools, and waste facilities. This is one of the broadest elements of the Comprehensive Plan.

  • Air Quality Supplement: Amends the Land Use Element to ensure consistency between the County's land use plan and the County's air quality plan.

Community and Specific Plans: Community and Specific Plans are adopted as amendments to the Land Use Element and/or Coastal Land Use Plan (if applicable area is within the coastal zone) and are often used by cities and counties to plan the future of a particular area at a finer level of detail. Santa Barbara County has a total of 10 Community/Area Plans. Each Community Plan contains goals, policies, and standards guiding development of the community it serves.

Noise Element: Identifies and appraises noise problems within the community and influences the distribution of land uses.

Open Space Element: Details plans and measures for preserving open space for natural resources, outdoor recreation, public health and safety, and agriculture.

Seismic Safety & Safety Element: Establishes policies to protect the community from natural and manmade hazards (e.g. seismic, geologic, flood, wildfire, and toxic materials hazards).

  • Safety Supplement: Amends the Seismic Safety & Safety Element and addresses facilities that handle acutely hazardous materials and are fixed in location to a single site; and gas pipelines which are considered to be fixed in location to a corridor.

Coastal Land Use Plan: Like the Land Use Element, the Coastal Land Use Plan lays out the general patterns of development throughout areas officially designated within the coastal zone of the County.

Optional Elements of Local General Plans

In addition to the required elements, local general plans may also include additional elements aimed at addressing other policy topics which, in the judgment of the legislative body, help frame the contextual basis for how those topics will impact or define future physical development of the county or city. Santa Barbara County has adopted a total of six optional elements to the Comprehensive Plan.

Agricultural Element: Addresses the future use of agricultural lands and resources, and includes goals and policies applicable to projects that affect agricultural resources.

Energy Element: Contains long-range planning guidelines and strategies to encourage energy efficiency and alternative energy sources in Santa Barbara County.

Environmental Resource Management Element: Summarizes the various environmental factors analyzed in the Seismic Safety and Safety, Conservation, and Open Space Elements, and identifies policies which define whether development is appropriate given the severity of constraints.

Hazardous Waste Element: Includes goals, policies and siting criteria that must be evaluated for proposed hazardous waste facilities.

Scenic Highways Element: Presents the County's scenic highway goals, evaluation standards, preservation measures and procedures for obtaining official "Scenic Highway" designation for state and county roads.