California law requires that each county and city in the state develop and adopt a general plan. The general plan consists of a statement of development policies and includes a map or maps and text setting forth goals and policies. It is a comprehensive long-term plan for the physical development of the county. In this sense, it is a “blueprint” for development.
The general plan must contain a minimum of seven (7) state-mandated elements. It may also contain any other elements that the legislative body of the county or city wishes to adopt. The seven (7) mandated elements are: Land Use, Open Space, Conservation, Housing, Circulation, Noise, and Safety. The general plan may be adopted in any form deemed appropriate or convenient by the legislative body of the county, including the combining of elements. The Kern County General Plan consists of the seven (7) mandated elements plus an Energy Element. The Metropolitan Bakersfield General Plan also consists of the 7 mandated elements and the Kern River Element.
By law, the legislative body of the county can amend any mandatory element of the general plan only four (4) times a year. Accordingly, the Planning and Natural Resources Department staff schedules four (4) “windows” per year at the Board of Supervisors to consider amendments to the general plan.