What is a master plan?

Presently, a city’s planning department duties are to not just properly address professional planning projects, but also to hypothesize what is best for the city in the future. This is known as comprehensive planning and is represented as a “master plan”. A master plan is an all-encompassing document of how the city will be shaped over the next 15, 20, or even 30 years. A master plan acts as a guide of how the city wants to develop and what needs to be implemented to achieve future goals. All facets of the city will be affected by the master plan, such as economic development, housing, infrastructure, land use, urban design, historical preservation, etc.

How does this affect sustainability?

The city chooses what the best sustainable route is for the growth of the city and its citizens. Cities choose varying routes to achieve their sustainable goals. For example, some cities decide to create or revitalize a main street. Sustainable avenues to achieve the goal would be making the area more walkable and eliminating some parking to reduce the total amount of cars and thus pollution throughout the area. Other cities strive to move towards renewable energies. The State of California has mandated that new residential low-rise development projects are to install solar panels, moving the state along with its master plan of being carbon natural. The City of San Jose has an all-electric ordinance stirring the city towards being less dependent on natural gas.

How to get involved

Constructing a master plan is a very comprehensive process and moves through several stages from beginning to end. One phase is engaging the public. Unlike the public stating their opinion in an open planning department meeting, the public will engage with local officials to revise the master plan in workshops. A citizen can contact their local planning departments to get details on how to be a part of the master plan process.

Where to find it

All cities have a master plan. A master plan or general plan can be found within the municipality’s website. Businesses can review the master plan accordingly and determine future directions of the city and how to fulfill its needs.


For more information on how master plans can affect the sustainability needs of your projects, contact VCA Green below.


Contributing Writer: Michael Glincman, LEED AP Homes

Moe Fakih, Principal

714-363-4700 x501