San Diego

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About Planning

Welcome to the Planning Department!  We are proud to be carrying on the long and distinguished history of city planning here in San Diego, dating back to John Nolen's path-breaking plans for the City in 1908 and the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park. As a mature city with a dwindling amount of raw land, San Diego must use its remaining land resources wisely and focus on infill development to maintain our prosperity and our quality of life, and to achieve the goals of the City's Climate Action Plan.

The Planning Department is responsible for the long-term growth of the City. The department performs this planning effort primarily by implementing the General Plan, creating and refining land use policies, amending community plans and implementing the plans through enabling documents such as the Land Development Code.  Updates take into account community values and priorities, state laws, development pressure and changing regional and citywide needs over time. Given the complex nature of these documents, the Department has been structured into three divisions, each having focused specialties and staff with varied technical disciplines: Community Planning & Implementation, Environment & Mobility Analysis, and Financial & Administrative Services.

We have become a leader among cities for our visionary approach to planning. The innovative strategies we have created have received local, state and national awards, and made us a model for other cities to follow.

Statement on Equity

The Planning Department is working towards including greater emphasis on social equity and justice as a foundational principle in the way we plan our City and its many diverse neighborhoods.  We are planning professionals with a variety of backgrounds, histories, and experiences who share a desire and passion to serve the public interest.

Recognizing that our city is comprised of many diverse aspects of identity including race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status, the Planning Department is in the pursuit of ways to better allow everyone in our city to thrive.  We acknowledge the effect of planning decisions on historically marginalized and underserved communities, and we are dedicated to developing equitable policies to remedy systemic inequities. 

It is our vision that every San Diegan have access to quality housing, parks, public spaces, and mobility options, which create a strong and sustainable city.  To ensure that the public input we receive is representative of the city we serve, we are committed to providing opportunities for meaningful input from all communities of people in our city.

Our work towards greater equity in city planning is an ongoing process.  We welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with others to achieve the common goal of improving social equity in our city.

Our Programs and Sections

The Community Planning & Implementation Division is responsible for maintaining a comprehensive, citywide General Plan, Community Plans and other long-range plans. The Division also updates and amends the Land Development Code to implement the policy goals of these plans. The Division recently created a Housing Policy Section which tracks our annual housing data to be reported to Housing & Community Development (HCD); tracks state bills; and prepares the department’s Annual Housing Inventory Report. The Division also recently created a Historic Preservation Planning & Urban Design section which is responsible for the City’s long-range historic preservation efforts, including developing historic preservation policies and regulations in support of the General Plan and Community Plans; preparation of historic context statements and surveys; and preparation and processing of new historic district nominations; along with Urban Design support for our comprehensive community plan updates.

The Environment & Mobility Planning Division is responsible for creating and implementing General Plan policies related to mobility and circulation, recreation, land use, conservation, resource management and environmental protection.  The Division establishes citywide CEQA-specific policies and thresholds, and conducts reviews of all City projects and other actions under CEQA. Mobility Planning includes long-range planning for all modes of transportation, including cars, transit-supportive connections, bicycle facilities, and pedestrian improvements.

The Public Facilities Planning & Administration serves as the center for all financial, technical, and administrative activities for the Department. This Division is responsible for developing, updating and administering programs and plans that provide funding sources to assist in the department’s operations as well as the financing of community serving infrastructure, such as roads, parks, recreation facilities, libraries, and fire and police stations.  The Division also administers the Development Impact Fee (DIF) program for the City.