General Plan

On Monday, March 18, the City Council adopted San Mateo’s General Plan 2040, which lays out the community’s vision for how our city will look, feel, and change over the coming years.

This important milestone was achieved after six years of dedicated work by City staff—with the extensive input and contributions of more than 6,000 San Mateans, from civic leaders and residents to business owners and visitors. General Plan 2040 built upon the City’s prior General Plan to address new and emerging issues and to plan for a more equitable future. Big ideas in General Plan 2040 include a framework to ensure public services and infrastructure service levels are maintained/improved as the City grows; allowing additional housing and higher densities close to transit while maintaining existing development patterns in San Mateo’s lower density neighborhoods; and improving health and infrastructure disparities in San Mateo’s equity priority neighborhoods.

Visit the General Plan 2040 resources page to review General Plan 2040 and see an interactive land use map as well as other tools to help learn more about the General Plan. 

A Fiscal Analysis based on General Plan 2040’s final land use map, was prepared by Economic & Planning Systems (EPS), the General Plan’s economic consultant, to confirm that future growth will be fiscally sustainable and public services can be maintained. The fiscal analysis is based on the City’s budget documents, interviews with key City service providers (e.g., Police, Fire, Public Works), and well-accepted budget forecasting techniques to evaluate the impact of the assumed buildout of General Plan 2040 on General Fund revenues and General Fund expenditures. 

Use the links below to view the previous draft iterations of General Plan 2040: 

Community feedback helped develop the draft goals and policies for San Mateo’s General Plan Update. The draft goals, policies, and actions outline future policy direction for: Land Use; Circulation; Community Design and Historic Preservation; Conservation, Open Space and Parks and Recreation; Public Services and Facilities; Safety; and NoiseThere are three other priority topics that are addressed throughout the draft goals, policies, and actions. These topics – Environmental Justice, Sustainability and Resilience, and Community Engagement – are interwoven and support many of the goals, polices and actions outlined in the General Plan, so they have been integrated into all applicable elements rather than addressed as stand-alone topics. After the City Council provides final direction on the draft goals, policies and actions, the General Plan team will incorporate them into the Draft General Plan. The City anticipates publishing the Draft General Plan in spring 2023.

Para obtener más información sobre la Justicia Ambiental en español, haga clic aquí.


The draft goals, polices, and actions were reviewed at a series of community events and at public meetings with the General Plan Subcommittee, Planning Commission and City Council over the summer and into the fall 2022. On October 3rd, the City Council provided direction for the Circulation, Public Services and Facilities, Noise, and Conservation, Open Space and Recreation Elements. On November 7th, the City Council will review the draft goals and policies for the Land Use, Community Design and Historic Preservation, and Safety Elements. More information about these events and meetings can be found here

What is a goal, policy and action?

The following provides a description of goals, policies, and actions, and explains the relationship between them:

  • A goal is a description of the general desired result that the City seeks to create through the implementation of its General Plan.
  • A policy is a specific statement that regulates activities in the City, guides decision-making and directs ongoing efforts as the City works to achieve a goal. General Plan policies establish standards that will be used by City staff, Planning Commission, and City Council in their review of development projects and in related City decision-making.
  • An action is a measure, procedure, or technique intended to help reach a specified goal. The actions in the General Plan will serve as a to-do list for City staff and officials to implement the goals and policies of the General Plan.

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The Alternatives Evaluation Workbook provides information to help you give meaningful input about choosing a preferred land use and circulation scenario. The workbook evaluates the land use and transportation alternatives on a wide variety of criteria, which are intended to help community members and decision-makers understand the impacts and benefits of each alternative.

The Study Areas Map displays the range of areas that were considered for further study with potential land use alternatives. This map was taken to the community through various outreach events to determine which areas are preferred for further study. It was published on November 18, 2019.

The San Mateo: An Analysis of Local Land Use Planning and Regional Growth paper examines some key information to help the community better understand San Mateo’s current situation as well as the correlation between land use and traffic. It also evaluates planning efforts within the City’s control that strive to focus growth in areas with better access to alternative modes of transportation. It was published on June 7, 2019.

The final vision statement establishes the principles to guide City policies and decisions about future growth, housing, transportation, and public services based on input from San Mateo residents provided by September 9, 2018 to April 1, 2019. On April 1, 2019, the City Council discussed and finalized the final General Plan Vision Statement.

The draft vision statement shares the first pass at capturing the community’s vision for San Mateo in 2040. This document was published on April 2, 2019.

The following chapters of the Existing Conditions Report describe and analyze the existing conditions of economics, circulation, land use, parks, recreation, and cultural resources, and utilities in San Mateo. 

  • Economics: This report describes demographic, socio-economic, and real estate conditions and trends to inform the General Plan Update process. It was published in May 2019.
  • Circulation: This report provides an overview of the City of San Mateo’s existing plans, policies, and regulations that affect circulation patterns in San Mateo. It describes the City’s travel characteristics, roadway system, parking standards and management, pedestrian and bicycle networks, transportation demand management (TDM) programs, Safe Routes to School program, and public transit services. Also included is a description of how shared and emerging autonomous vehicle technologies are changing and could change travel behaviors, with immediate and long-term implications for the transportation system and its connection to land use. It was published in March 2019.
  • Land Use: This report discusses existing conditions for land use in San Mateo. It was published in October 2018.
  • Parks, Recreation, & Cultural Resources: This report discusses existing conditions for parks and recreation and cultural resources in San Mateo. It was published in October 2018.
  • Utilities: This report describes the existing utilities in the City of San Mateo and evaluates the potential impacts for the
    potential future buildout of the City and the facilities that serve it. Water supply, wastewater conveyance and
    treatment, storm drainage systems, natural gas and electric facilities, and solid waste disposal are addressed in
    this report. It was published in October 2018.

This briefing book offers a snapshot of current land uses in San Mateo, as well as economic and development trends, mobility networks, park and recreation options, and cultural resources. This information highlights community assets, as well as challenges, to help the public and decision-makers understand the City’s most pressing issues. It was published in late 2018.

The Downtown Area Plan, adopted in 2003 and updated in 2009, covers about 70 blocks traditionally known as Downtown, plus the area known as the Gateway and portions of adjacent neighborhoods. This plan pertains to new Downtown development and focuses on preserving existing Downtown resources and enhancing its vitality and activity while also maintaining a sense of place. A comprehensive update to the Downtown Area Plan is anticipated once the General Plan Update effort is completed. 

The 2020 San Mateo Bicycle Master Plan is the culmination of over a year of robust community engagement, existing conditions and data analysis, and planning and design work. The 2020 Plan was adopted by City Council on April 6, 2020 and serves as a blueprint for expanding and improving the San Mateo bicycle and mobility network in the coming years. 

In 2010, the City of San Mateo updated its General Plan – “Vision 2030”. The General Plan provides the framework for all zoning and land use decisions within a community. State planning law requires that the General Plan include a comprehensive, long-term plan for a city’s physical development. City policy requires periodic review and updating of the General Plan. This update provides for an extension of the General Plan to the year 2030, and includes revisions to existing goals, policies and associated text.

The City Council adopted the Housing Element 2015-2023 on January 5, 2015. It was subsequently amended on April 6, 2015 and April 6, 2020 when the City Council adopted amendments to include references to the city’s Climate Action Plan (CAP).

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

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