General Plan Update
The Town is updating the General Plan in two phases. Phase One, which was completed in early 2023, included adoption of the State-mandated 2023-2031 Housing Element and related amendments to keep the Plan internally consistent. Phase Two, which is underway now, will update the remaining elements of the Plan. Community engagement is an essential part of the process and will be solicited throughout the coming year.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a General Plan?
A General Plan is a state-mandated document that establishes a city, county, or town’s policies for growth and development. It includes background data, discussions of local planning issues, maps, policies, and implementation measures for future action. The Plan covers topics such as land use, transportation, housing, open space, natural resources, and public services. Local General Plans have been mandatory in California since the 1950s. The General Plan provides the basis for local zoning regulations and each jurisdiction’s zoning map.
What geographic area is covered by the Plan?
The General Plan is required to cover all property within the Town boundaries plus unincorporated land outside the boundaries that may impact Moraga’s future. The unincorporated area is referred to as Moraga’s “sphere of influence” and includes a small number of properties just beyond the southern Town limits. More than 95 percent of the Planning Area is within the Town limits.
Why is the Town updating its Plan?
Moraga’s existing General Plan was prepared through a community-driven process that occurred between 1999 and 2001. The Plan was adopted in June 2002 and looked ahead to the Year 2010. In other words, the “future” envisioned by that Plan is already history. Recent amendments to the General Plan have focused on specific topics (housing) or locations (Bollinger Valley) but a comprehensive update is needed so that the Plan reflects a “big picture” view of the Town’s future. The Bay Area is a different place today than it was in 2002. There are new issues to be addressed, such as wildfire safety, evacuation, and sustainability. There are also new General Plan requirements in place. The new Plan will provide guidance for Moraga through 2040 and ensure that the Town has a legally adequate, forward-looking plan for its future.
How the new Plan change Moraga?
Adoption of the General Plan, by itself, does not change Moraga. The Plan does not authorize any particular development or infrastructure project—but it does establish the policies and maps that will be used to evaluate future applications and guide future capital improvements. Many of these policies and maps have already been adopted and are not expected to change dramatically as a result of the Plan Update. For example, the current General Plan already directs most future development to the Moraga Center and Rheem Center areas. This could include new commercial development, new multi-family residential development and town homes, and mixed use projects that combine commercial and residential uses. Future development in the commercial districts will likely be denser than existing development, creating more housing opportunities for young adults, seniors, and the Moraga’s workforce to live locally and enabling more vibrant, walkable Town centers.
Will the new Plan change Moraga’s semi-rural character?
Conservation of the Town’s semi-rural character will remain an important value and guiding principle of the new General Plan. Policies throughout the Plan will ensure that open space areas are carefully managed, and that views to hillsides and ridgelines are protected. By focusing growth in the two existing commercial districts, the Plan will help sustain the look and feel of Moraga’s neighborhoods. This does not mean existing neighborhoods will be frozen in time. Some degree of change is necessary to encourage reinvestment, comply with State laws, and meet the changing housing needs of families and others in our community. There are also a number of previously approved projects and opportunities provided by the previous General Plan that remain. However, the vision of the Plan is to ensure that growth is harmonious with existing development and respects the qualities that make Moraga a special place.
How will the community be involved?
Public input is an essential part of the Plan Update. In addition to providing information on the project via this website, the Town will provide opportunities for Moraga residents to speak out on long-range planning issues throughout the process. During the Housing Element Update, more than 20 hearings or study sessions were convened by Town Council and the Planning Commission, and several rounds of on-line and in-person workshops were held. Similar meetings will be held throughout the General Plan Update. In addition, Town staff is available to meet with organizations and HOAs and will prepare a mobile exhibit for future Town events where the public can weigh in on key issues. We will also be providing online surveys and web-based comment cards for additional feedback. Check the Community Engagement link on this website for updates and add your name to the email notification list!
How does this relate to the Housing Element?
All cities, towns, and counties in the Bay Area were required to update their Housing Elements by January 31, 2023. The Housing Element is the Town’s plan for meeting the housing needs of Moraga residents for the next eight years. State law required the Town to create opportunities for more than 1,100 new homes over this time period, including more than 500 units for lower-income households. To achieve this target, the Town rezoned portions of Moraga Center and Rheem Center and adopted new policies and programs that incentivize affordable housing. The Housing Element was adopted on January 25, 2023 and has been certified by the State. In some ways, the Housing Element is the “driver” behind the General Plan Update since it defines where new residential development may occur and at what densities. The General Plan Update will address other land uses in the Town, such as retail, office, public land, and open space.
Will there be an Environmental Impact Report (EIR)?
A General Plan Update is considered a “project” under State law, meaning it is subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Town will determine the necessary level of environmental review once the project is underway. However, Moraga certified an EIR for the Housing Element, Bollinger Canyon rezoning, and related General Plan Amendments in January 2023. It is expected that the updated General Plan will not result in significant physical changes beyond those that were analyzed in that EIR. As such, the Town’s expectation is that an “Addendum” to the January 2023 EIR will be prepared rather than an entirely new EIR. The Addendum would evaluate the extent to which the proposed General Plan policy and map changes could affect the environment differently than what was previously evaluated in the Housing Element EIR.
What is the schedule for the Plan Update?
The total duration of the Comprehensive Advanced Planning Initiative is about 3-1/2 years. The project started in Fall 2021. Phase One (2021-2023) included the Housing Element, Bollinger Canyon Rezone, and rezoning and General Plan Amendments for Rheem Center and Moraga Center, as well as an EIR. Phase Two includes the update of the remainder of the General Plan, and an evacuation study. Fall 2023 will focus on data collection and analysis to underpin the new Plan. Policies and actions will be drafted in early 2024 and a Draft General Plan should be ready for publication by the late Summer 2024. Public hearings before the Planning Commission and Town Council will occur in Fall 2024. For a complete schedule of Phase Two, click here.
What about wildfire hazards and evacuation constraints?
Moraga residents have identified wildfire hazards and evacuation constraints as a top concern related to future growth. Recent events in other parts of California have highlighted the importance of being prepared, and planning ahead for fires and other natural disasters.
Concurrently with the General Plan Update, the Town will be conducting a townwide evacuation study. The study will estimate the time required to evacuate parts of the town under different wildfire scenarios, and provide recommendations
How will this affect me?
The General Plan is critically important to all Moraga residents and businesses. It determines how and where future growth and development may occur, and how growth will be managed to protect the quality of life in the city. It underpins local zoning and guides the use of property throughout the city. Moreover, the Plan addresses issues that impact all of us—traffic, jobs, housing, economic development, environmental quality, resilience, disaster preparedness, and public services. We encourage you to check this website frequently for updates on plan proposals and ideas.