Project Components

General Plan Update

Once the community establishes the vision for San Mateo in 2040, the next step will be to update the General Plan document.  The General Plan outlines the City’s goals for physical growth, conservation, and community life, and contains the policies and actions necessary to achieve those goals. City staff members use the General Plan to guide decisions about zoning, permitted development, provision of public services, and transportation improvements. The updated General Plan will provide a clear guide for making these choices by describing both long-term goals for the City’s future and the desired outcomes of day-to-day decisions.

Typically, a General Plan begins with a Vision Statement and then establishes specific goals and policies related to a range of civic issues.  These issues are organized into a series of topic-specific “Elements” or chapters of the General Plan.  The following seven Elements are required by State law: Land Use, Open Space, Transportation, Housing, Conservation, Safety, and Noise.  These Elements can be combined or presented in any order that best fits the community.

The City of San Mateo’s General Plan addresses all State requirements and organizes the General Plan in its own unique format as described below.  The General Plan Update will work from the existing General Plan to update each of these Elements. 

  • Vision. Describes the vision of San Mateo in 2040.
  • Introduction. Describes what a General Plan is, how it was developed, major proposals, how it is organized and implementation of the Plan.
  • Land Use. Establishes a comprehensive set of explicit goals, policies and implementation actions to guide the future use and development of land in San Mateo and the unincorporated area within its adjacent “sphere of influence.”.
  • Circulation. Describes existing and proposed roadways and other means of transportation such as public transit, bikeways, pedestrian routes and parking facilities. Analyzes traffic conditions and needed improvements so that existing and projected circulation needs may be adequately met.
  • Housing. Identifies significant issues associated with the provision of housing in the City of San Mateo. Provides policy direction in meeting the housing needs of the City, both in terms of preservation of existing housing stock and in establishing priorities for new construction. [NOTE: the Housing Element is updated on a separate schedule from the rest of the General Plan, with the current Housing Element valid through 2023.]
  • Urban Design. Guides the development and physical form of San Mateo from the individual neighborhood scale to the overall cityscape.
  • Conservation, Open Space, Parks and Recreation. Sets forth the City’s goals and policies regarding the development, management, and preservation of San Mateo’s natural, cultural, and recreational resources.
  • Safety. Establishes goals and policies intended to minimize risk to people and property associated with natural and human-caused
  • Noise. Seeks to control environmental noise and protect the community from excessive noise exposure.


The first step in the General Plan Update is to establish the community’s vision for San Mateo in 2040. Creating a General Plan that represents San Mateans’ shared core principles and values is the top priority of the General Plan Update. The final vision statement will establish the principles to guide City policies and decisions about future growth, housing, transportation, and public services. From September 9, 2018 to April 1, 2019, hundreds of San Mateo residents provided input on the General Plan Vision Statement. On April 1, 2019, the City Council discussed and finalized the General Plan Vision Statement. The City wishes to thank all who participated to craft a community-led, values-based vision for San Mateo in 2040. 

Housing Element Update

The update of the Housing Element 2023-2031 is just beginning!  The plan will include an overview of housing policies and programs as well as identify locations that can accommodate the future growth of housing. 

For additional details about the Housing Element update, please visit the project website: https://www.cityofsanmateo.org/4478/Housing-Element-2023-2031

Downtown Specific Plan

While the Downtown Specific Plan update is a separate process from the General Plan Update, its outcomes will be incorporated into the final General Plan. The major objectives of the Downtown Specific Plan update are:

  • Identify opportunity areas where potential change may occur;
  • Integrate recommendations from other concurrent city efforts including the update of Central Park Master Plan,
  • Implement the Downtown Parking Management Plan,
  • Explore potential uses of the City owned former Redevelopment Agency (RDA) properties at Fourth and Fifth Avenues; and
  • Provide changes to policies and standards that will help guide future development.

For additional details about the Downtown Specific Plan update, please visit the project website: www.engagedowntownsanmateo.org

Environmental Review

Environmental review will be conducted for both the General Plan Update and Downtown Specific Plan together to ensure that land use activities and policies do not negatively affect our community. This component involves the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to identify potential environmental impacts and measures we can take to reduce or avoid them.

© Copyright 2021 City of San Mateo
Planning Division
330 West 20th Avenue
San Mateo, CA 94403

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