General Plan Safety Element Updates
The Safety Element is one of the state’s required seven General Plan elements. While the same resources that can help craft a successful hazard mitigation plan or climate mitigation plan can be used to develop an effective Safety Element, the resources on this page provide specific guidance on meeting state General Plan requirements.
Resources: General Plan Safety Element Updates
Regions implement a variety of local plans and policies to reduce their hazard and climate risk. These include local hazard mitigation plans, which are approved by FEMA, and the Housing and Safety elements which are part of a community’s General Plan. In California, the Safety Element is one of the seven required General Plan elements. Recent state legislation (SB 379, SB 1035, SB1241) has placed new requirements on how and when local jurisdictions need to update the safety element, which must be updated to coincide with Housing Element updates. (ABAG offers resources to help with Housing Element Updates.)
Efforts to streamline state and local planning include allowing a jurisdiction to incorporate by reference the local hazard mitigation plan and or other climate adaptation and resilience planning documents in the General Plan. While the same curated resources that can help a jurisdiction craft a successful hazard mitigation or climate adaptation plan can be used to develop an effective Safety Element, the resources on this page provide specific guidance on meeting state General Plan requirements and compliance with recent state laws. Our goal here is to streamline hazard mitigation planning into a single process that satisfies all requirements at once, through a single effort producing both FEMA- and state-approved plans.
This comprehensive resource illustrates the known status of Local Hazard Mitigation Plans in the nine-county Bay Area, indicating when the plan needs to be updated for each jurisdiction. It is helpful for considering how LHMP updates coordinate with other planning efforts. Communities updating local hazard mitigation plans may also find it helpful to know which local communities are also doing this work at the same time.
This map also shows which towns and cities are subject to SB 1241, which applies to communities with very high fire hazard severity and unincorporated communities in state responsibility areas. (For more information about communities affected by SB 1241, see CalFire’s Fire Hazard Severity Zone Maps.)
General Plan Guidelines
The General Plan is more than the legal underpinning for land use decisions; it represents a vision about how a community will grow, reflecting community priorities and values and shaping the future.
This 2017 edition of the General Plan Guidelines (GPG) contains significant changes to the 2003 General Plan Guidelines. It includes guidance for all mandatory plan elements, including the Safety Element, with supplemental documents focusing on issues including climate change and CEQA.
For mandatory and common optional elements of the general plan, the GPG sets out each statutory requirement in detail, provides OPR recommended policy language, and includes online links to city and county General Plans that have adopted similar policies. Each chapter contains a sample selection of policies. Documents focusing on implementation will provide value to planners working on General Plan Safety Element updates.
As of 2015, more than half of local jurisdictions have general plans that are over 15 years old. Planning tools help expedite the process of updating General Plans and Safety Elements, including the resource(s) offered here.
An update to this planning guide is expected to be released in 2020 or 2021. The goal of the current planning guide is to help provide a robust fire hazard mitigation program to California communities. It is designed to assist city and county planners in discussions with fire mitigation, preparedness and response professionals for the purpose of developing effective fire hazard policies for the General Plan. Because communities throughout California are varied, the voluntary recommendations in this technical advisory are designed for a wide spectrum of uses and applications. The guide includes:
- A summary of federal and state requirements that directly address fire hazard planning and mitigation, including Senate Bill 1241;
- An overview of how policies related to fire safety may be developed to meet local needs and conditions;
- An extensive list of specific issues related to fire hazard planning that local governments should consider when developing fire hazard policies to include in the General Plan;
- Appendices including potential funding mechanisms, an inventory of informational resources related to fire hazard planning and a list of fire hazard planning examples from communities throughout California.