General Plan


The City of Saratoga’s General Plan helps guide the growth and land development of the community, while preserving open space areas and enhancing the quality of life for residents. Saratoga’s comprehensive General Plan was prepared in 1983. Since 1983, the City has updated the General Plan Elements one or two at a time based on State requirements.

In April 2018, the City of Saratoga began a process to refresh and make minor policy updates to three elements of the City’s General Plan (Land Use, Circulation, and Open Space & Conservation) and format the elements to provide a cohesive document. The updated elements will be combined with the existing Housing, Safety, and Noise Elements to comprise the Saratoga 2040 General Plan. 

The Saratoga 2040 General Plan seeks to maintain the predominantly small-town residential character of Saratoga, while encouraging the economic viability of the City’s established commercial and office areas. The Saratoga 2040 General Plan strives to encourage healthy, active living, reduce traffic congestion and fossil fuel use, and improve the safety and quality of life of residents by providing safe, convenient, and comfortable routes for walking, bicycling, and public transportation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a General Plan?

A General Plan is a long-term policy document that provides guidance for managing a City’s physical, social, and economic resources. It provides a basis for decisions that affect future growth and development. It also identifies the community’s shared vision for the future and addresses the unique characteristics and needs. The State of California requires every City and County to have a General Plan consisting of seven required elements. These elements can be combined, but must include Land Use, Circulation, Housing, Conservation, Open Space, Noise, and Safety.

How often is a General Plan updated?

A General Plan is typically for a 20-year period, from completion of the document to full plan implementation. The State requires some elements to be updated more often. The Saratoga 2040 General Plan Update will focus on the Land Use, Circulation, and combined Open Space & Conservation elements. The Housing, Noise, and Safety elements will not be modified, except to reflect consistency with any policy changes in the updated elements. No changes to General Plan Land Use designations are proposed by this update.

Why is the City preparing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR)?

Because General Plans govern the type and location of new development, new or amended General Plans may lead to significant changes in the environment. The California Environmental Quality Act, also known as “CEQA,” requires cities and counties to study those potential environmental impacts as part of the adoption or update process. 

Even when the impacts of unchanged parts of the plan may be significant, the city or county must prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The purpose of an EIR is to inform decision-makers and the public of the potential significant environmental effects of a proposal and possible ways to reduce or avoid any significant environmental effects. 

This information enables environmental considerations to influence policy development, thereby ensuring that the plan’s policies will address potential environmental impacts and the means to avoid them.

Why are alternatives studied in the EIR?

The EIR for a General Plan must describe a reasonable range of alternatives and analyze each of their effects. Each of the alternatives should avoid or lessen one or more of the significant effects identified as a result from the proposed General Plan. A reasonable range of alternatives would typically include different levels of density and compactness, different locations and types of uses for future development, and different General Plan policies. The alternatives should not all have the same level of impacts. This discussion of alternatives will enable environmental considerations to influence the ultimate design of the general plan. 

The EIR must also evaluate the “no project” alternative. This would describe what physical changes might reasonably be expected to occur in the foreseeable future if the new or revised general plan were not adopted, based on the existing General Plan (if any) and available infrastructure and services. This “no project” alternative must also evaluate how the changing environment, such as through climate change and drought, may affect the community if a new or revised General Plan were not adopted.

What is the process for a General Plan update?

The Planning Commission previously held four Study Sessions to review the current Land Use, Circulation and Open Space & Conservation element policies and identify where updates were needed. City staff will now work with the consultant to draft updated Land Use, Circulation and Open Space & Conservation elements and to prepare the Draft EIR that discloses the potential environmental effects associated with the proposed policies of the General Plan. 

The Draft EIR will be circulated in accordance with CEQA for a public comment period of no less than 45-days. Upon completion of the Draft EIR, a notice of availability will be issued and a public hearing will occur to consider the adequacy of the Draft EIR and accept public comment. Public comments, both written and verbal, will be considered and responded to in a Final EIR.

After completion of the updated elements and Final EIR, the Planning Commission will review them and make a recommendation to the City Council.


Please join us to participate in the General Plan update process and help shape the Saratoga 2040 General Plan.

Upcoming Meetings
June 17, 2020City Council Meeting to receive an update on the status and process
Would your neighborhood welcome us to discuss the General Plan update? Please contact us to schedule a small group meeting.Contact Nicole Johnson by emailing or calling 408.868.1209
Previous Meetings
December 20, 2017City Council approved budget adjustment and consultant contracts for the General Plan Update project

February 27, 2018

Planning Commission Study Session on Land Use Element

March 13, 2018

Joint Planning Commission and Traffic Safety Commission Study Session on Circulation Element

March 27, 2018

Joint Planning Commission and Parks & Recreation Commission Study Session on Open Space and Conservation Element
May 8, 2018Joint Planning Commission and Traffic Safety Commission Study Session on Circulation Element (continued)
June 28, 2018Public Scoping Meeting to receive community input on the scope and content of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR)
April 7, 2020Planning Commission Study Session on General Plan Update Status Report, Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), and Climate Action Plan (CAP)