The General Plan provides the fundamental basis for the City’s land use, development and conservation policy, and represents the basic community values, ideals and aspirations that govern the City. The City's General Plan addresses all aspects of development, including land use; community character; economic development; circulation and transportation; open space, natural resources and conservation; public facilities and services; safety; and noise.
California Government Code Section 65300 requires the General Plan to be comprehensive and internally consistent, and to provide long-term guidance for the community. Although the General Plan is required to address the issues specified by State law, it may be organized in a way that best suits the City of Oroville.
The overall role of the Oroville 2030 General Plan is to:
- Define a realistic vision of what the City desires to become in 25 years.
- Express the policy direction of the City of Oroville in regard to the physical, social, economic, cultural and environmental character of the City.
- Serve as a comprehensive guide for making decisions about land use, community character, economic development, circulation, open space, the environment, and public health and safety.
- Serve as the City’s “constitution” for land use and community development. According to State law, the General Plan accomplishes this by providing the legal foundation for all zoning, subdivision and public facilities ordinances, decisions and projects, all of which must be consistent with the General Plan.
- Provide clear and easy-to-understand guidance that encourages public involvement and understanding.
The General Plan is not the same as zoning. Although both designate how land may be developed, they do so in different ways. The General Plan and its diagrams have a long-term outlook, identifying the types of development that will be allowed, the spatial relationships among land uses, and the general pattern of future development. Zoning regulates present development through specific development standards such as lot size, building setbacks, maximum sight coverage, maximum heights, and identifies allowable uses and the required permitting process. Developments must not only meet the specific requirements of the Zoning Ordinance, but also the broader policies set forth in the local general plan.
General Plan Contents
The City's General Plan includes this introduction, the Guiding Principles and eight separate “elements” that set goals, policies and actions for each given area. These elements cover the seven topics required by California State Government Code Section 65302. As previously mentioned, the Housing Element, one of the required elements, was adopted under a separate process and is available as a separate document. A brief explanation of the topics included in the Oroville General Plan is provided here.
State Required Elements
Land Use Element
The Land Use Element designates all lands within the City for specific uses such as housing, commercial, industrial, open space and recreational, public facilities and agricultural uses. The Land Use Element also provides development regulations for each land use category and overall land use policies for the City.
Transportation and Circulation Element
The Transportation and Circulation Element specifies the general location and extent of existing and proposed major streets and other transportation facilities. The Element must correlate with the Land Use Element to ensure that adequate pedestrian, bicycle, motor vehicle and emergency access is provided to serve both new and existing land uses.
Open Space, Natural Resources and Conservation Element
This Element combines two elements required under State law: the Open Space Element and the Conservation Element. It addresses the six State-categorized types of open space: open space for the preservation of natural resources, open space used for the managed production of resources, open space for outdoor recreation, open space for public health and safety, open space in support of the mission of military installations and open space for the protection of Native American sacred sites. This Element also addresses biological resources, water quality, mineral resources, agricultural resources, cultural resources, air quality (including climate change), and energy conservation.
The Safety Element is intended to protect the community from risks associated with the effects of seismic and other geologic hazards, flooding and dam inundation, and hazardous materials, and to ensure adequate emergency preparedness. The Safety Element includes goals, objectives, policies and actions to address current and foreseeable safety issues.
The Noise Element addresses noise problems in the community and analyzes and quantifies current and projected noise levels from a variety of sources. The Noise Element includes goals, objectives, policies and actions to address current and foreseeable noise problems.
As previously stated, the City’s Housing Element was adopted in 2009 pursuant to State law. Government Code Section 65588 requires the Housing Element be updated every five years and include specific components such as analysis of existing housing stock, analysis of existing and projected housing needs, and quantification of the number of housing units that will be developed, preserved and improved through its policies and actions. The Housing Element is available as a separate document.
Community Design Element
This optional Element discusses urban design principles that are intended to guide both public and private development and protect and enhance the positive characteristics of Oroville’s built environment, including characteristics that contribute to its sense of place and contribute to a high quality of life for its residents
Economic Development Element
This optional Element describes the baseline economic conditions in Oroville, reviews the extensive set of economic development programs and initiatives already underway in the city, and establishes goals, policies, and actions to guide a long-term vision for Oroville’s economy.
Public Facilities and Services
This optional Element assesses the current state of public services and facilities within the City, including law enforcement, fire services, schools, libraries, government facilities, water, wastewater, storm water drainage, solid waste and utilities. Goals and policies in this Element focus on ensuring minimum service levels within Oroville.
The purpose of the City's Zoning Ordinance is to provide specific guidelines for the development of the City in such a manner as to achieve progressively the general arrangement of land uses and implement the policies depicted in the General Plan. More specifically, this chapter is intended to achieve the following objectives:
- To regulate and limit the height, number of stories and size of buildings and other
structures hereafter designed, erected or altered.
- To regulate and determine the size of building setbacks and other open spaces.
- To regulate and limit the density of the City’s residential population.
- To divide the City into zoning districts of whatever number, shape and area are deemed best suited to carry out these regulations and provide for their enforcement.
- To protect, conserve, stabilize and enhance real property values and the City’s natural assets.
- To provide adequate open space for light and air, and to minimize the risk of fires and other hazards to public safety.
- To promote a safe, effective traffic circulation system and provide for appropriate off-street parking and loading facilities.
- To promote, protect and preserve the general public health, safety and welfare, and to implement the goals and objectives of the General Plan for the City of Oroville.
In order to carry out the purpose and provisions of the City's Zoning Ordinance, the City is divided into the following districts:
In addition to the zoning applied to each parcel of land, the City uses "overlay zones" to further regulate development in areas of special concern. Lands in historic districts, planned development developments, airport influence areas, are near the municipal airport, or on steep slopes are subject to having additional regulations "overlain" upon the basic zoning requirements. All of the requirements for the underlying zoning district shall apply in an overlay district, unless otherwise specified in the provisions for the overlay district. If there is a conflict between the provisions for the overlay district and the provisions for the underlying zoning district, the provisions for the overlay district shall prevail.
HD-O: Hillside Development Overlay
The intent of the Hillside Development Overlay is to provide for orderly, harmonious development of the City’s foothills with a minimum amount of disturbance of natural terrain by relating residential density to natural topography, and to encourage and provide incentives for excellence of design and engineering techniques. Limitations are imposed upon development and disturbance of natural terrain in order to minimize grading, erosion, runoff, fire hazards, geologic hazards and removal of vegetation, and to help ensure utilization of land in balance with its natural capabilities to support development.
PD-O: Planned Development Overlay
The intent of the Planned Development Overlay is to promote and encourage maximum flexibility in site planning and property development, relating to design, cluster development and protection of environmental resources, while achieving all of the following goals:
- Encouraging innovation and the development of affordable housing, particularly on properties with environmental constraints, natural resources or other topographical, geographical, or public improvement and service-related constraints that require unique site planning and design.
- Protecting the public health, safety and general welfare of the residential, commercial and manufacturing areas of the City.
- Ensuring consistency with the General Plan, any applicable specific plan and any design guidelines adopted by resolution of the City Council.
DH-O: Downtown Historic Overlay
The purpose of the Downtown Historic Overlay is to promote the public health, safety and general welfare by providing for the identification, protection, enhancement, perpetuation and use of historic resources within Downtown Oroville that reflect special elements of the City’s architectural, artistic, cultural, political and social heritage, for the following reasons:
- To safeguard the City’s heritage by encouraging the protection of significant elements of its history.
- To foster civic pride and a sense of identity based on an appreciation of the City’s past and the recognition and use of historic resources.
- To enhance the visual character of the City by preserving diverse architectural styles reflecting various phases of the City’s history, and by encouraging complementary design and construction for contemporary buildings.
- To allow for a diversity of housing types that reflect the traditional scale and character of residential neighborhoods in Downtown Oroville.
- To strengthen the economy of the City by protecting and enhancing the City’s historic attractions for residents and visitors.
- To stabilize and improve property values within the City by protecting areas of historic buildings from encroachment by incompatible designs.
- To promote the enjoyment and use of historic resources appropriate for the education and recreation of the people of the City.
- To integrate the preservation of historic resources, and the consideration of relevant information about these resources, into public and private land management and development processes.
- To conserve valuable building materials and energy resources by ongoing use and maintenance of the existing built environment.
AIA-O: Airport Influence Area Overlay
The Airport Influence Area Overlay identifies limitations on the density, intensity, height, and other aspects of the use of property within the Oroville Municipal Airport overflight area that are necessary to protect persons on the ground and in the air from adverse impacts that may result from operation of an airport, in the manner described in the 1990 Master Plan for the Oroville Municipal Airport. The limitations established in this section are consistent with Airport Compatibility Criteria described in the Butte County Airport Land Use Commission’s 2000 Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan.
F-O: Foothill Overlay
The purpose of the Foothill Overlay district is to preserve and enhance the special character of foothill areas in Oroville. Properties within the F-O district are subject to land use and infrastructure standards that reflect the low-density and rural character of these areas.
UA-O: Unique Agriculture Overlay
The purpose of the Unique Agriculture Overlay district is to protect and promote small-scale agriculture, family farms, unique crops and historic ways of farming by allowing agricultural support and specialty agriculture uses in areas where the underlying designation may not allow them. The UA-O district accommodates uses that are complementary and accessory to unique agricultural pursuits, including education and tourism. The district also includes provisions to protect adjacent residential and agricultural uses.
PO-O: Professional Office Overlay
The purpose of the Professional Office Overlay district is to allow professional office uses in addition to the uses allowed by the underlying district to support a vibrant downtown with a diversity of commercial, residential, and office uses.
ACE-O: Arts, Culture, and Entertainment Overlay
The purpose of the Arts, Culture, and Entertainment Overlay district is to revitalize the historic Downtown as a recreational, community and tourist destination by establishing an Arts, Culture, and Entertainment District (AC&E District) that will capitalize upon existing cultural, historic, and natural resources of the area.
Cities and counties weigh a variety of factors when deciding whether to approve a proposed land use or other project. One such factor is what kind of effect a project would have on the environment.
The California Environmental Quality Act guides the process of gathering such information. A nickname for this law is “CEQA” (pronounced “See-Kwa”). The process is quite complex and technical.
The following provides an overview of some basic concepts though. The term “environment” includes natural and man-made elements of our surroundings. This includes land, air, water, minerals, plants, animals and noise. It also includes things like historic buildings.
Evaluating Information in the CEQA Process
Decision-makers receive lots of information through the CEQA process. Some of this information can also be technical. Reasonable people can disagree about how much weight to give to pieces of information. Indeed even experts can disagree.
What if it is not clear whether a project will have an effect on the environment? If there is a “fair argument” that is supported by evidence, not just conjecture or hearsay, then a project may have a significant effect and decision-makers will usually direct that an environmental impact report be prepared.
There can be other points in the environmental review process when reasonable people can disagree about how information should be evaluated. Recognizing this, the law gives decision-makers a fair amount of latitude in determining what information is the most persuasive.
Determining the Level of Environmental Review
In some cases, state-level decision-makers have decided that no environmental review is necessary. Some kinds of projects are exempt from the environmental review process. There are two types of exemptions. These include "statutory exemptions" exempted by the CEQA statute as determined by the Legislature, and "categorical exemptions" as determined by the State’s Resources Agency and as found in the CEQA Guidelines.
The “Initial Study”
If a project is not exempt, the next step is to prepare an initial study. Such a study asks the question “are there facts that indicate that a project could have a significant effect on the environment?”
If the answer is “no,” then a “negative declaration” occurs. When an agency uses a negative declaration, it is saying two things. It is reaching a conclusion (or making a “declaration”) that an environmental impact report is not necessary (the “negative”). An environmental impact report is a more detailed analysis of a project’s effects on the environment.
There are two situations in which a “negative declaration” is used. One is when decision-makers conclude that a project will not have a significant effect on the environment. The other is when the project has potentially significant effects, but they can be reduced or avoided by imposing certain conditions on the project. This type of negative declaration is known as a “mitigated negative declaration.”
“Environmental Impact Reports”
Thinking Ahead When It Comes to Environmental Review
The process of evaluating environmental effects on a project-by-project basis can be both time-consuming and expensive. The California Environmental Quality Act gives decision-makers a number of options to address this.
For example, “master” and “program” environmental impact reports can consider the environmental impacts major policy decisions (for example, the decision to adopt a general plan). When projects come along that are consistent with these policies, the need for further environmental review and analysis is reduced or eliminated.
CEQA also allows agencies to build upon prior environmental reviews. This avoids unnecessarily repeating analysis, which has already occurred and is still current. This is called “tiering” off of earlier reviews. It enables the agency to focus the current environmental review on issues that were not analyzed in the earlier review.
If the initial study shows that the project may have a significant effect on the environment, the next step is to prepare the more extensive environmental impact report. Such reports are often referred to by the initials “EIR.”
Such reports contain a number of items. It describes the proposed project. It identifies and analyzes each significant environmental impact expected to result from the proposed project. The report also recommends steps to avoid or minimize those impacts. These actions are called “mitigation measures.” Possible alternative projects are considered too, including the option of no project.
Impact on the Decision Making Process
The information from the environmental review process helps decision-makers decide whether to approve a project. The report also helps them decide whether putting conditions on a project’s approval helps. But the ultimate decision on whether to approve a project is up to decision-makers (after complying with CEQA).
If the project approval includes mitigation measures, the agency must adopt a reporting or monitoring program to assure those measures occur.