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San Francisco is a special place. Foremost is its dramatic
physical beauty, created by bay and ocean surrounding a cluster of hills
that are often illuminated by brilliant sun or shrouded in silvery fog.
The views from these hilltops were given to us inadvertently. The early
settlers, in their scramble to forge a new life, imposed a simple grid
system on the land. So instead of streets winding themselves around the
hills we have streets that can scale the hilltops to reveal extraordinary
vistas. These vistas give us a city that appeals from any perspective
and sparks our imagination.
Secondly, San Francisco is compact. Its density creates
a rich variety of experiences and encounters on every street. The city
is cosmopolitan and affable, easily traversed by foot or by bus, and offers
an intriguing balance of urban architecture.
Thirdly, San Francisco is the center, the soul of the
region and cooperative efforts to maintain the area's quality of life
are imperative. The City has long been a magnet for business, culture,
retailing, tourism and education. Its rich 150 year history reflects the
cultures of the world and gives energetic diversity to its neighborhoods.
The residents strive to maintain this tradition, welcoming people from
around the world to participate in the promise of a healthy city.
There are many issues we must face as we look to the
future of our economy, work force, housing stock, transportation systems,
open spaces, and vacant lands. San Francisco is a dynamic entity within
which there are constant pressures for change and renewal. It remains
the finance capital for the West and is an emerging gateway to the Pacific
Rim. However as we enter the 21st century, new technologies, medical research
and design are providing additional economic opportunity.
The City's General Plan serves to guide these changes
to ensure that the qualities that make San Francisco unique are preserved
and enhanced. The General Plan is based on a creative consensus concerning
social, economic, and environmental issues. Adopted by the Planning Commission
and approved by the Board of Supervisors, the General Plan serves as a
basis for decisions that affect all aspects of our everyday lives from
where we live and work to how we move about. It is both a strategic and
long term document, broad in scope and specific in nature. It is implemented
by decisions that direct the allocation of public resources and that shape
private development. In short, the General Plan is the embodiment of the
community's vision for the future of San Francisco.
State law requires that the General Plan address seven
issues: land use, circulation, housing, conservation, open space, noise
The Charter approved by the voters in November 1995
requires that the Planning Commission recommend amendments to the General
Plan to the Board of Supervisors for approval. This approval changes the
Plan's status from an advisory to a mandatory document and underscores
the importance of Referrals establishing consistency with the General
Plan prior to actions by the Board of Supervisors on a variety of actions.
The San Francisco General Plan is designed as a guide
to the attainment of the following general goals:
- Protection, preservation, and enhancement of the
economic, social, cultural, and esthetic values that establish the desirable
quality and unique character of the city.
- Improvement of the city as a place for living, by
aiding in making it more healthful, safe, pleasant, and satisfying,
with housing representing good standards for all residents and by providing
adequate open spaces and appropriate community facilities.
- Improvement of the city as a place for commerce
and industry by making it more efficient, orderly, and satisfactory
for the production, exchange and distribution of goods and services,
with adequate space for each type of economic activity and improved
facilities for the loading and movement of goods.
- Coordination of the varied pattern of land use with
public and semi-public service facilities required for efficient functioning
of the city, and for the convenience and well-being of its residents,
workers, and visitors.
- Coordination of the varied pattern of land use with
circulation routes and facilities required for the efficient movement
of people and goods within the city, and to and from the city.
- Coordination of the growth and development of the
city with the growth and development of adjoining cities and counties
and of the San Francisco Bay Region.
The Plan is intended to be an integrated, internally
consistent and compatible statement of objectives and policies and its
objectives, and policies are to be construed in a manner which achieves
that intent. Sec. 101.1(b) of the Planning Code, which was added by Proposition
M, November 4, 1986, provides as follows:
The following Priority Policies are hereby established.
They shall be included in the preamble to the General Plan and shall be
the basis upon which inconsistencies in the General Plan are resolved:
- That existing neighborhood-serving retail uses
be preserved and enhanced and future opportunities for resident employment
in and ownership of such businesses enhanced;
- That existing housing and neighborhood character
be conserved and protected in order to preserve the cultural and economic
diversity of our neighborhoods;
- That the City's supply of affordable housing
be preserved and enhanced;
- That commuter traffic not impede Muni transit
services or overburden our streets or neighborhood parking;
- That a diverse economic base be maintained by
protecting our industrial and service sectors from displacement due
to commercial office development, and that future opportunities for
resident employment and ownership in these sectors be enhanced;
- That the City achieve the greatest possible preparedness
to protect against injury and the loss of life in an earthquake.
- That landmarks and historic buildings be preserved;
- That our parks and open space and their access
to sunlight and vistas be protected from development.
The manner in which the general goals are to be attained
is set forth through a statement of objectives and policies in a series
of elements, each one dealing with a particular topic, which applies citywide.
The General Plan currently contains the following elements: Residence,
Commerce and Industry, Recreation and Open Space, Community Facilities,
Transportation, Community Safety, Environmental Protection, Urban Design
and Arts. In addition, a Land Use Index cross-references the policies
related to land use located throughout the General Plan. Additional elements
may be added from time to time.
The Plan also contains several area plans which
cover their respective geographic areas of the city.
Here the more general policies in the General Plan elements are made more
precise as they relate to specific parts of the city.
In addition to the elements, area plans and the
land use index comprising the complete General Plan, there are several
documents which support the plan. These include background papers, technical
reports, proposals for citizen review, environmental impact reports or
negative declarations, program documents, and design guidelines. Program
documents provide schedules and programs for the short range implementation
of the General Plan.