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Our City. Our Future.


Frequently Asked Questions

The General Plan is the document that provides the foundation for Modesto’s growth and development. A General Plan is often described as the “constitution” that guides the development of a city, typically for a 20-year time period. It establishes a vision for the future, as well as the policies and implementation measures that will help the community achieve that vision. It addresses the nine topics required under State law: land use, housing, open space, circulation, conservation, safety, noise, environmental justice, and air quality. It is the foundation on which all land use and regulatory decisions are made.

Every city and county in California must adopt a general plan, per State law. The State Office of Planning and Research (OPR) recommends that general plans be comprehensively updated every 10 to 15 years to reflect changes in community values, economic conditions, and emerging issues and challenges. However, with the exception of the Housing Element, there is no legal requirement from the State to regularly update the General Plan.

The City last comprehensively updated the Modesto Urban Area General Plan in 1995. While there have been targeted revisions to the document since then, a lot has changed in the past 25 years. The General Plan Update will provide an opportunity for the community to review the current policies and make changes that will guide Modesto through the next 25 years. Furthermore, the City will need to incorporate new information and policy guidance to remain compliant with current State law (see next question).

The State legislature regularly modifies or creates new general plan requirements. The requirements must be included at the next update of the General Plan. The following is a list of some, but not all, of the recent State legislation that must be addressed:

  • Environmental Justice (SB 1000). Requires local governments to explore environmental justice issues and prepare an environmental justice element if certain conditions are present in the community.
  • Transportation (SB 743). Requires transition from roadway travel metrics in environmental review from level of service analysis to vehicle miles traveled analysis.
  • Sustainability (SB 375). Requires the City to consider transportation connections and how they can better create a sustainable land use pattern and jobs/housing balance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and climate change resiliency.
  • Climate Change and Resilience (SB 379). Requires that the General Plan address climate adaptation and resilience strategies in the Safety Element.
  • Fire Hazards (SB 1241). Requires that the Safety Element include the most recent version of the State’s “Fire Hazard Planning” document.
  • Groundwater Sustainability (AB 1739). Requires that the General Plan support groundwater sustainability planning efforts underway by designated groundwater sustainability agencies in the region.

The General Plan has a chapter devoted to economic development with policies designed to increase economic opportunities, provide sufficient land supply for these opportunities, and develop infrastructure (like roads, street lights, and public transit) to support economic development opportunities. The General Plan Update will revisit these existing goals, policies, and implementation actions to strengthen economic development opportunities in the city. The City seeks to provide more quality jobs and enhance economic opportunity through the General Plan Update.

The General Plan determines how and where future growth and development may occur, and how growth will be managed to protect the quality of life in the city. It also serves as the foundation for zoning requirements, which specify how you can use your property and how your neighbors and others can use their properties. Moreover, the General Plan specifies how the City will make decisions about important issues that affect all of us, like traffic, jobs, housing, environmental quality, natural hazards, and public services, including how to prioritize improvements and investments related to these issues. Other specific ways that the General Plan could affect you are:
  • How easy it is to get to your job and services
  • The number and types of jobs available in your community
  • The look and feel of your neighborhood
  • How roadways are designed and improved
  • The number and quality of parks available to you
  • The risks to you and your property from hazards
  • How cultural and natural resources around you are conserved
We encourage you to get involved so the General Plan will include your ideas and vision for Modesto’s future.

The General Plan Update is an opportunity for community members to discuss how the city will grow through 2050. There will be many opportunities to participate, including community workshops and events, online engagement, and public hearings. You can join the email list to receive updates about upcoming events.

The City wants to hear from everyone, including underrepresented communities, so that their needs are heard and their vision is incorporated. The City will conduct outreach in all parts of Modesto to ensure that all voices and perspectives have the opportunity to shape the future of the city through the General Plan Update. In addition, the City will empower community leaders that can engage participants from specific geographies, cultural or demographic groups, or other backgrounds to act as ambassadors, helping to reach community members through these trusted connections.

The General Plan will reflect the community’s vision and priorities, and your voice is crucial to produce a Plan that establishes a shared vision for the City’s future. When you participate in the process through a workshop discussion, survey, online activity, or comment at a public hearing, your comment will be documented and compiled as part of a summary from that event. City staff will look to that input for guidance when drafting components of the General Plan, and we will share that input with decision-makers, like the Planning Commission and City Council, for consideration when we ask for their direction at key milestones.

The General Plan is being led by staff from the Community and Economic Development Department. Edgar Garcia, Housing & Urban Development Supervisor, is serving as the project manager, and can be reached at or at (209) 571-5101. The City also selected a multidisciplinary consultant team that is led by PlaceWorks, and supported by Provost & Pritchard Consulting Group, Iteris, Inc., and BAE Urban Economics.

The General Plan process will be ongoing and take approximately four years to complete. The General Plan is expected to be adopted in Fall 2026. Check out the project timeline on the Project Components and Schedule page.