Land-use impacts health. Control is local. In California, a collaboratively created planning document, called a “general plan” sets forth zoning and planning goals for each city and county that determine how much development will occur, what type of development (eg. single family homes, mixed-use commercial) and where. Plans are collaboratively created by communities over many years and many public meetings. Resulting plan documents are often hundreds of pages in length.
This research project created the first public-facing and searchable database of general plans – enabling citizen scientists to comprehensively assess plan contents. Our landmark database covers 471 (of 485) California city-level and all 58 county general plans. Working with California state agencies (the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, Housing and Community Development and Air Resources Board) and non-profits (California Environmental Justice Alliance and Communities for a Better Environment), we have developed a portal (https://critical-data-analysis.org/general-plan-map/) where plans can be queried. This website allows community members, state agencies and planners to rapidly compare across plans, helping to foster transfer of policy and a ‘keeping up with the Jones” attitude in pushing the boundaries of planning.
This landmark state-level database of general plans is the first for California- and nationally.
Please reach out if you would like collaborate and add your state to the database. We provide our model in open source code for others that wish to build similar planning data infrastructure.
For more, please visit: Hack for California, a community of civically-minded data scientists, social scientists, and researchers at UC Davis exploring how open government data can be both leveraged and critiqued towards understanding issues around social justice and equity in California. While our website is under development, see https://datalab.ucdavis.edu/hack-for-california/ for more information.
- Brinkley, C., & Stahmer, C. (2021). What Is in a Plan? Using Natural Language Processing to Read 461 California City General Plans. Journal of Planning Education and Research.
- We extracted the text of all plans and explored the topical focus of plans using natural language processing techniques. California cities address 60 different topics and a quarter of those topics are regionally specific. We identify a rift in how plans address housing and how they address all other topics.
- Coming Soon!: We review Environmental Justice policies across all of California’s city plans
- Coming Soon!: We describe how to build a search engine for general plans