This page provides answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the Countywide Plan.
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The Countywide Plan
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In 2015, San Bernardino County launched an effort to go further than any county or city has ever gone with a general plan by creating a web-based comprehensive “complete county” plan.
All cities and counties in California are required to have a general plan, which is almost always strictly a rule book for guiding development and growth. The Countywide Plan, adopted by the Board of Supervisors in 2020, encompasses Bernardino County’s General Plan. The Countywide Plan, however, goes well beyond a traditional general plan to become a comprehensive guide that complements and informs the Countywide Vision by taking into account all services—not just land-use planning—provided by County Government, and the unique values and priorities of each unincorporated community. It serves as a roadmap for County decision-making, financial planning, and communications.
Driven by the Countywide Vision, the Countywide Plan includes:
The County Policy Plan
An update and expansion of the County’s General Plan for the unincorporated areas. In a new approach to county planning, the Policy Plan also addresses supportive services for adults and children, healthcare, public safety, and other regional county services provided to both incorporated and unincorporated areas.
An Environmental Impact Report was prepared to provide environmental clearance for the County Policy Plan and facilitate streamlined CEQA review for future planning and development projects.
The County Business Plan
Contains governance goals, policies, operational metrics, and implementation actions that outline the County’s approach to providing municipal and regional services.
The Business Plan also includes the County’s tracking and feedback system, which measures progress toward long-term objectives, and monitors various indicators to inform budgets, resource allocation, and other decisions.
Community Action Guides
A series of 35 Community Action Guides constitute a new system of community planning. Each guide articulates what is important to each of the unincorporated communities served by the document, with a focus on community self-reliance, grass-roots action, and
Community- and region-specific goals, policies, land use, and infrastructure guidance is addressed in the Policy Plan.
The Countywide Plan is driven by the Countywide Vision and the County paradigm and job statements.
In 2010, the Board of Supervisors set out to establish a vision for the future of the county as a whole, and subsequently adopted a Countywide Vision in 2011 after two years of input from the community and the county’s 24 cities and towns. Following the adoption of the Countywide Vision, which calls for the creation of a “complete county”, the Board
adopted the County paradigm and job statements in 2012.
The objectives below articulate the desired outcome of implementing the Countywide Plan.
- Countywide Vision and Collective Impact. A Plan that continues the County’s commitment to the Countywide Vision and a framework for investing the County’s time and resources in ways that yield greater returns, enhanced efficiencies, and more collective impact.
- Institutional Ownership and Buy-In. A partnership with County staff so that the Plan truly belongs to the entire County organization upon adoption and benefits from staff insights during its preparation. The Countywide Plan will relate to the entire County organization and will not be solely a Land Use Services Department product.
- Expanded General Plan. An expanded role of the General Plan that goes beyond typical land use and development services to incorporate policy direction for regional services in the context of ongoing operations and maintenance requirements.
- Long and Short Term Linkages. A strong link between long-term goals and short-term decisions and implementation.
- Strategic Public Investments. A framework for making strategic public investments and a system of continuous reflection and evaluation.
- Trust. Increased trust with the public, jurisdictions, outside agencies, and those within the County organization through improved communication, transparency, and involvement.
- Building Partnerships. The identification, building, and refinement of public and private partnerships to create a more complete county.
- Integration of Community Planning Efforts. A seamlessly integrated continuum of community plans in the County Policy Plan.
- Technology. Use of technology that makes information more accessible, scalable, and adaptable.
- Opportunities and Expectations. Participation and involvement by various public and private entities that identifies many opportunities while managing expectations regarding the Countywide Plan and County commitments.
- Web-Based Framework. A web-based framework that is dynamic, flexible, and based on user needs.
- Tracking and Feedback. A tracking and feedback mechanism that can grow and expand in functionality and complexity alongside the County’s institutional capacity and needs.
- Countywide GIS Platform. A coordinated GIS platform for the entire County organization that is effective, efficient, stable, flexible, and dynamic.
- Best Practices and Continuous Improvement. The use of organizational best practices and a system of continuous improvement.
- Streamlining CEQA. A programmatic environmental impact report that facilitates tiering and streamlining for future development projects that are consistent with the Countywide Plan.
- Competing as a Collective Whole. A collective positioning of the entire county (unincorporated municipality, regional services, incorporated jurisdictions, and unincorporated communities) to compete in regional, state, western U.S., national, and international markets.
- Regional Coordination and Solutions. Regional coordination that capitalizes on a shared Countywide Vision, despite a vast diversity of geography and communities, to craft regional solutions to regional issues.
- Repository for Informed Decisions. A platform of tools and information that offer insight into the regional data and implications for use in the decisions of local jurisdictions, agencies, and organizations.
All cities and counties in California are required to have a general plan. The Policy Plan component of the Countywide Plan fulfills this requirement.
In addition to complying with state law, the Countywide Plan:
- Aligns County planning with the Countywide Vision
- Provides tools to enable community-driven action in unincorporated communities
- Increases coordination between County departments
- Enhances transparency and communication with residents, agencies, and other stakeholders
- Improves delivery of regional services
- Utilizes County resources more efficiently
- Guides decision-making for the Board of Supervisors
The Policy Plan
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The County Policy Plan contains the long-term goals and policies that will guide County decisions, investments, and improvements toward achieving the Countywide Vision. The Policy Plan represents a unique approach to county planning. It serves as the County’s General Plan for the unincorporated areas, which is mandated by state law, but it also includes policy direction for adult and child supportive services, healthcare, public safety, and other regional services the County administers in both incorporated and unincorporated areas.
The Policy Plan fulfills the all of County’s General Plan requirements as mandated by state law. The legal Policy Plan includes the Policy Plan text, Policy Maps, Policy Tables, and documents incorporated by reference, as well as the Housing Element and Renewable Energy and Conservation Element, which were adopted separately from the Countywide Plan.
- Most of the Policy Plan applies to all unincorporated areas unless a region or community is specifically noted in the text.
- Policy direction related to regional services provided by the County such as, adult and child supportive services, healthcare, and public safety, apply to those services in both incorporated and unincorporated areas.
- Policy direction related to issues that require regional coordintation such as the movement of goods, regional transportation, groundwater management, and jobs-housing balance, describe how the County will make decisions in coordination with incorporated jurisdictions and other regional agencies.
Use the Search Tool!
To better understand which goals and policies apply to specific geographic areas, go to the Search tab, scroll to the bottom of the page to search by geography, and select the area you are interested in (note to search for any town and/or city, select “Incorporated Areas”)
Countywide Plan land use designations define the general types of uses allowed on a property and establish the range of density and/or intensity at which development may occur on the site.
Zoning districts implement the Countywide Plan land use designations by providing a specific set of rules for what can and can’t be developed on a property such as set back requirements, height restrictions, and required lot sizes. Zoning districts may further limit the density or intensity that is allowed to develop on a site, but the zoning should not allow densities or intensities that are outside of the range allowed by the Countywide Plan land use designation.
The Policy Plan component of the Countywide Plan was evaluated under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), through preparation and review of a comprehensive, programmatic environmental impact report (EIR). An EIR provides the most complete analysis and maximum level of public participation available through CEQA. The purpose of an EIR is to:
- Disclose project impacts to the public and decision-makers
- Identify ways to avoid or reduce environmental impacts
- Analyze alternatives with the potential to avoid/minimize impacts
- Foster inter-agency coordination and review
The EIR was structured to provide defensible CEQA documentation, strictly comply with processing requirements, and optimize “tiering” and streamlining options for future development projects that are consistent with the Countywide Plan.
Statutes and Guidelines. CEQA is codified in the California Public Resources Code (Sections 21000 et al), with guidelines interpreting the CEQA statute, known as the CEQA Guidelines, contained in Sections 15000 and following of Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations.
Purpose of an EIR. An EIR is—first and foremost—an objective disclosure document; it does not in itself advocate for or against a project. An EIR describes the project in detail and the potential environmental impacts on the existing environmental setting. Supported by numerous technical studies (traffic, air quality/greenhouses gases, cultural and biological resources, noise, geotechnical resources, etc.), the EIR will document probable environmental impacts, feasible ways of reducing or eliminating those impacts, cumulative effects, and alternatives to the project.
Public and agency input is key to a meaningful EIR, and by law will occur throughout the process. Beginning with the EIR scoping meeting on October 2017, the public and various agencies were given the opportunity to provide their knowledge and expertise to assist the County and consultant team in further focusing the approach and analysis needed in the EIR. The County distributed a Draft EIR for a 60-day public review on June 17, 2019. Formal responses to any comments received will be presented in a Final EIR, with additional opportunities to comment on the analysis, mitigation, and alternatives at public adoption hearings.
Program EIR. This EIR is a programmatic EIR. A Program EIR is ideal to analyze large-scale projects that cover future actions that may be related geographically, as a phased series of actions, by statute or regulatory requirements, or by types of impacts and mitigation. For the proposed County Policy Plan, it allows review of broad policy issues and potential cumulative effects, and the appropriate consideration of program-wide alternatives.
The EIR was prepared in accordance with CEQA Statutes and Guidelines, and it focuses on the primary effects than can be expected to occur after the adoption of the Countywide Plan. Because of this, the Program EIR is not be as detailed as a Project EIR prepared for a specific development or construction project may be.
CEQA Streamlining and Tiering. A Program EIR also optimizes streamlining opportunities for future actions which may or may not require a subsequent or project EIR. “Tiering” refers to covering general matters in broader EIRs (such as General Plan EIRs) and narrowing the analysis for subsequent review when more “project-level” or site specific information is available. It cost-effectively avoids redundant analysis, and with the use of specific requirements for subsequent technical studies and performance standards, can limit the need for CEQA documents for future projects consistent with the Countywide Plan.
However, it is important to note the tiering process does not eliminate CEQA for future projects. Any subsequent project must still be processed in accordance with CEQA and there is no expectation that all (or even most) future projects will be streamlined by a tiering process.
Recent Legislation. The EIR also evaluates issues and conduct processes introduced by recent legislation. Examples include alternative transportation metrics (Senate Bill 743, Steinberg, 2013) and tribal cultural resources (Assembly Bill 52, Gatto, 2014).
The Business Plan
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The Business Plan provides overarching and ongoing guidance for existing County processes (i.e., budget, goals and objectives, performance measures, etc.). The Business Plan consists of a policy-based governance element and an action-oriented implementation plan, and two new implementation tools: a tracking and feedback system and fiscal analysis model. Combined, these sections and tools provide clarity and transparency to the public regarding County governance while ensuring the Countywide Plan remains meaningful and current.
The Governance Element attempts to capture and preserve the existing way in which the County provides consistent, transparent, effective, and accountable governance for future leaders and the public. The Governance Element lays the foundation for County leadership, decision-making, and operational processes.
The Tracking and Feedback system charts the County’s progress toward achieving the Policy Plan goals, providing data and analysis that enables decision makers to make strategic course corrections in response to changing circumstances and monitor ongoing operational effectiveness.
The Implementation Plan identifies the key next steps (immediate, short-term, and mid-term) the County needs to take to implement the various aspects of the Countywide Plan. The actions include initiatives by the County as well as decisions that involve public and private development projects, investments, and programs.
The Fiscal Analysis Model gives the County an ability to better evaluate the potential fiscal implications of proposed projects and changes in land use and policy, ensuring the County continues along a path of fiscal sustainability.
Expand the questions below to see answers about Community Planning
The purpose of Community Planning is to guide the future use, character and independent identity of our communities. The County is working with residents and stakeholders to identify how to maintain and improve the quality of life in unincorporated communities through updated goals, policies, mapping, and implementation guides. The resulting plans, guides, and maps will be implemented by County government, community residents, local stakeholders, and/or service providers.
The Community Planning Continuum (CPC) is an all-new system of community planning that will guide local expectations for County services and set a clear direction for the future of our unincorporated communities. The CPC will consist of updates to existing plans, goals, policies, and maps as well as the creation of new action-oriented guides and tools. The CPC will be implemented by both County government (Policy Plan and Implementation Plan) and community residents and stakeholders (Community Action Guides). The resulting plans, guides, maps, and tools will be web-based, living documents that will be updated regularly to reflect progress and change. The CPC will include a hierarchy of community planning areas (CPAs – see below) that will ensure that planning details, tools, and resources match the conditions and needs of each community:
- Detailed CAGs. Includes communities that contain, or have the potential for, a variety of housing opportunities and supporting uses, such as commercial and industrial businesses, schools, a library, parks and recreation facilities, and religious and civic organizations.
- Framework CPAs. Includes communities that are primarily characterized by single-family residential properties and a limited number of supporting uses, such as a school, post office, and commercial businesses.
- Foundation CPAs. Includes communities that are primarily characterized by single-family residential properties. Residents of these communities typically drive to nearby towns or cities for employment, shopping, entertainment, education, and recreation opportunities.
- Fundamental CPAs. Includes communities that are primarily characterized by open space or farmland with a scattering of residential homes and/or highway commercial uses, or an area where growth is constrained by adjacent land ownership, such as federal lands and state lands.
Driven by the Countywide Vision, the Countywide Plan is a comprehensive strategic plan that will guide the County’s future. One component of the Countywide Plan is the creation of a Policy Plan that updates the County’s existing General Plan for unincorporated areas and expands policy direction to address regional issues and services for the entire county.
The Community Action Guides will update and replace the existing Community Plans, with a greater focus on action and implementation. The policy direction found in the existing Community Plans will be placed into the overall County Policy Plan. Both the Policy Plan and Community Action Guides will be web-based, allowing for policy direction and implementation to be applied at multiple scales (e.g., Valley Region and Bloomington), and topics (e.g., land use compatibility, health and wellness, and trails).
The Community Action Guides provide action-oriented direction for each community to remain and become the type of community that current and future residents desire. The Guides include Action Plans that place a focus on self-reliance, grass-roots action, and implementation, allowing the community to take the lead in moving actions forward. Furthermore, the Guides frame these potential actions in a set of community-driven values and aspirations generated through three years of outreach involving thousands of residents in over 70 communities.
2007/2013 Community Plans. In 2007, in conjunction with the an overall revision to the County’s General Plan, the County adopted 13 Community Plans to guide future growth and development in select unincorporated communities while maintaining their distinct character and sense of identity. A fourteenth Community Plan was adopted in 2013 for the Oak Hills Community. These 14 Community Plans were repealed by the Board of supervisors in 2020, when the Community Action Guides were recognized.
Consolidation of Community Goals and Policies. The 2007 General Plan, including the 14 Community Plans, contained over 400 goals and 1,700 policies (over 250 goals and 1,000 policies in the Community Plans alone). This is an incredibly large number of goals and policies to review—for members of the public, County staff, and decision makers—when evaluating potential projects, improvements, and other changes. The large number of goals and policies also created potential problems with maintaining consistency between and avoiding redundancy among the General Plan and Community Plans.
Accordingly, the County updated and consolidated goals and policies from both the overall 2007 General Plan and the 2007/2013 Community Plans into the County Policy Plan.
Transition from Community Plans to Community Action Guides. As part of the Countywide Plan preparation, the County took a fresh look at the purpose, functionality, and cost implications of Community Plans. The County was able to eliminate a substantial amount of redundancy and resolve consistency issues by consolidating all goals and policies into one Policy Plan. The County was also able to expand the application of key goals and policies beyond singular communities to help guide multiple communities and regions.
However, the County determined that it did not have the financial resources to implement many of the policies in the former Community Plans without potentially compromising existing local and regional levels of service. The updated goals and policies in the Policy Plan guide and improve the county while remaining fiscally sustainable.
In addition to updated goals and policies, the County prepared draft Community Plans containing hundreds of grass-roots tools, actions, and strategies—shaped by over two years of public outreach. Public feedback led to the renaming of the documents from “Community Plans” to “Community Action Guides”, which more accurately reflects their purpose and content. The Community Action Guides also include updated information on each community’s background, character, issues, values, and aspirations provided by the community.
Use the Search Tool!
All goals and policies are searchable by topic and geography to make it easier to find content applicable to your topic or area of interest.
To better understand which goals and policies apply to specific geographic areas, go to the Search tab, scroll to the bottom of the page to search by geography, and select your community.
The primary way is to become and stay engaged with the community planning process and join others in implementing the Community Action Guides.