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The General Plan

What is the General Plan?

Every city, town, and county in California must have a general plan, which is the local government’s long-term framework or “constitution” for future growth and development.  The general plan represents the community’s aspiration for its future growth and development.  The general plan contains the goals and policies upon which the City Council and Planning Commission will base their land use decisions. California State law requires that each town, city, or county must adopt a general plan for the physical development within the jurisdiction and any land outside its boundaries that bears relation to its planning.  Typically, a general plan is designed to address the issues facing the city for the next 20 years.

The general plan is made up of a collection of “elements,” or topic categories.  There are currently eight mandatory elements: land use, circulation, housing, conservation, open space, noise, safety, and environmental justice (in addition, air quality elements are required for cities and counties in the San Joaquin Valley). Communities may include other elements that address issues of local concern, such as economic development, community character, or urban design.  Communities can also organize their general plan any way they choose, as long as they address each of the required topical categories.

A general plan has three defining features.

General.  A general plan provides general policy guidance that will be used to direct future land use and resource decisions.

Comprehensive.  A general plan is comprehensive in nature, covering a range of topics, such as land use, housing, economic development, infrastructure, public safety, recreation, natural resources, and much more.

Long-Range.  A general plan provides guidance on reaching a future envisioned 20 or more years in the future.  To achieve the vision, a comprehensive plan includes goals, policies, and actions that address both immediate and long-term needs.

What is included in the Existing General Plan?

The City’s existing General Plan contains the following elements:

  • Land Use (1998)
  • Circulation (update 2009)
  • Housing (2015)
  • Parks, Open Space and Conservation (1998)
  • Noise (1998)
  • Safety (1998)

As a part of updating the General Plan, the City may reorganize or add to existing elements and/or may add new elements to emphasize new planning issues that have arisen since the current General Plan was adopted.

Why Update the General Plan?

Millbrae adopted its current General Plan in 1998.  The City is preparing the update to refine the Plan, address emerging trends and recent State laws, consider new issues, and remove completed implementation measures.  This effort is intended to be a comprehensive overhaul of the existing General Plan. This planning effort will also allow the General Plan Team to implement best practices in planning to ensure Millbrae is resilient to future risks while also improving quality of life.

When will the New General Plan be completed?

The General Plan is anticipated to be completed by November 2022.

What is the difference between the General Plan and the Zoning Code?

Although both the general plan and the zoning code designate how land may be developed, they do so in different ways.  A general plan has a broad, long-term outlook that identifies the types of development that will be allowed, the spatial relationships among land uses, and the general pattern of future development. A zoning code regulates development through specific development standards such as lot size, building setbacks, height, and allowable uses. While the land uses shown on the general plan diagram are typically similar to the zoning map, upon adoption of the updated General Plan, the City must amend the zoning code to ensure consistency with the adopted General Plan.

Downtown and El Camino Real Specific Plan

The City is preparing the Downtown and El Camino Real Specific Plan (DT&ECR Specific Plan). The General Plan Update, which is also underway, will provide the organizing framework for the DT&ECR Specific Plan, building on the Millbrae Station Area Specific Plan. The DT&ECR Specific Plan, which also includes the Grand Boulevard Initiative and the Downtown area, will be the central focus for change in Millbrae.

The overall objective of the DT&ECR Specific Plan will be to capitalize on the El Camino Real transit corridor and the Millbrae multi-modal transit station to enhance the quality of life in Millbrae through sustainable development and create an exciting place for people to live, work, shop, and play. The Plan will emphasize transit-oriented, mixed-use developments that may include housing, restaurants, retail, hotels, offices, and entertainment.

Active Transportation Plan

The City has received a grant from C/CAG to prepare an Active Transportation Plan for Millbrae. The purpose of the plan is to:

  • Assess the needs of pedestrians and cyclists in Millbrae;
  • Identify improvements to infrastructure and programs;
  • Ensure eligibility to certain transportation funding sources; and
  • Coordinate pedestrian and bicycle local actions and regional projects.

As a result of City Council direction at the City Council Strategic Initiatives, Objectives, and Goals meeting on March 4, 2021, the Active Transportation Plan (ATP) will be separated from the General Plan, Specific Plan, Housing Element, and Zoning Code work and expedited as a separate project. The Consultants will prepare the Public Review Draft ATP and hold four public meetings on the ATP in 2021, including a Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee Meeting, Community Open House, Planning Commission Public Hearing, and City Council Public Hearing. The anticipated schedule anticipates ATP approval by Fall 2021. 

Environmental Impact Report

Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the potential environmental impacts of all major development projects must be assessed, disclosed, and appropriately mitigated. The results of this environmental review process are conveyed in the form of an environmental impact report (EIR).

As required by CEQA Guidelines, the Millbrae General Plan EIR will identify the potential environmental impacts associated with implementation of the General Plan. This analysis will assess and, if necessary, include measures to mitigate potential impacts related to CEQA-required topics. These topics include: air quality; greenhouse gases; hazards and hazardous materials; hydrology; land use; noise; population and housing; public services; recreation; traffic and transportation; utilities; agricultural and forest resources; biological resources; cultural resources; geology, soils, and mineral resources; and aesthetics.

Consultant Team

The General Plan Consultant Team consists of a core group of highly-experienced planners, designers, and technical specialists:

  • Mintier Harnish (lead consultant)
  • Rincon Consultants
  • WRT
  • Applied Development Economics
  • Kittelson and Associates, Inc.
  • West Yost
  • Bottomley Associates

Millbrae 2040 

City of Millbrae
Community Development Department
621 Magnolia Avenue
Millbrae, CA 94030
Phone (650) 259-2341