General, Master & Specific Plans

Press Enter to show all options, press Tab go to next option

General Plan

Every city and county in California is required by State law to have a General Plan.  The General Plan establishes conservation and development goals, as well as the location and intensity of different land uses.  Master plans, specific plans, zoning ordinances, and guidelines must be in conformance with the General Plan.  The General Plan has the following functions:

  • Identify the community's land use, circulation, and environmental goals and policies.
  • Enable the City Council, the Planning Commission, and other commissions to establish long-range conservation and development policies.
  • Provide a basis for judging whether or not specific private development proposals and public projects are in harmony with these goals and policies.
  • Inform citizens, developers, decision-makers, and other jurisdictions of the rules that guide development and conservation within the Lafayette Planning Area.

The General Plan is a statement of the community's vision of the future.  It is a long-range and comprehensive plan that coordinates all major components of the community's physical development.  Because the Plan is long-range and comprehensive, it is general in nature.  It establishes requirements for additional planning studies where greater specificity is needed.  In addition, this Plan is internally consistent.  The goals, policies, and programs relate to one another within each chapter and to the whole document.  For the General Plan, please click here.
The City of Lafayette's 1974 General Plan may be viewed by clicking here.

Master Plans

A master plan is a road map for the future. It is a comprehensive long range document that guides development and future growth of a community’s facilities for 20 or more years. A plan helps decision makers maintain a balance between protection and conservation and growth and development. The information contained in the plan is intended to guide decisions related to public and private use of land and public facilities in a manner compatible with the land’s character and adaptability, thus promoting good stewardship of resources. Importantly, a plan is a policy-based document. It does not regulate land use, zoning, or properties. The plan itself has no authority, but instead, provides guidance to authorities and land users to help accomplish the vision set forth.

Lafayette has the following master plans:

Specific Plans

A specific plan is a tool for the systematic implementation of the general plan. It effectively establishes a link between implementing policies of the general plan and the individual development proposals in a defined area.  A specific plan may be as general as setting forth broad policy concepts, or as detailed as providing direction to every facet of development from the type, location, and intensity of uses to the design and capacity of infrastructure; from the resources used to finance public improvements to the design guidelines of a subdivision.

Lafayette has one specific plan - the Downtown Specific Plan.


Guidelines are a set of design tools that guide downtown development. In general they are intended to provide ideas, stimulate thinking, and promote quality design among the many participants. They are not empirical standards, but rather reflect how the community envisions development in the downtown. These tools allow for flexibility to maintain and enhance the informal character of the downtown and encourage variety in style, height, setbacks, and spacing. While not all aspects of the guidelines can be implemented in any one design, a project must satisfy all of the applicable goals. A project will be evaluated on how it fits with the fabric of the downtown, relating to its immediate and greater context.

Lafayette has the following guidelines:

Zoning (Districts / Handouts / Maps)

The Zoning Code (also referred to as Title 6 - Planning & Land Use) is the primary implementation tool of the General Plan. It translates General Plan policies into action by dividing the City into zoning districts and applying different regulations to each district. Each parcel in Lafayette is regulated by the Zoning Code. The Zoning Code establishes permitted uses and uses that require a land use permit, height limits, setbacks, parking requirements, and other development standards for each district. Additionally, the Zoning Code established overarching regulations for topics ranging from recreation courts to second units to wireless communications facilities. For the Zoning Code, please click here.  For zoning district regulations, please click here.  For other planning handouts, please click here.