Chapter 22 - Land Use

What Does This Topic Include?

This chapter is an overview of the potential land use impacts that may be associated with a transportation project. Also included in this chapter are guidance on required discussion points and analysis on land use issues that are to be included in the environmental document. Potential impacts and discussion topics include:

  • Local land use plans (General Plans, comprehensive plans, etc.)
  • Existing and planned land uses and zoning (parks, recreational facilities, community facilities, transportation/circulation plans, agricultural, housing, etc.)
  • Current development trends
  • Past development trends
  • State and local government plans and policies on land use

Land Use Decision & Tree

Laws, Regulations and Guidance

See also Chapter 1 - Federal Requirements and Chapter 2 - State Requirements

Also check local General Plans, Specific Plans, Zoning Ordinances, and Development Regulations at appropriate planning department.

Policy Memos

Interagency Coordination

For land use in general:

  • Local County Government Planning Department
  • Local City Government Planning Department
  • State Government
    • California Department of Parks and Recreation
    • California Department of Fish and Wildlife
    • Coastal Commission
    • Other
    For farmlands:
  • California Department of Conservation, Office of Land Conservation
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

For Section 4(f), Public Lands:

  • Under 23 USC 326 and 23 USC 327, FHWA assigns approval of Section 4(f) evaluations and determinations to the Department. For further guidance, see SER Volume 1, Chapter 38, NEPA Assignment.
  • Public Official with Jurisdictional Responsibility
  • State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) or Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), as appropriate
  • Department of the Interior (DOI), Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as appropriate

For Section 6(f), Recreational Lands:

  • U.S. Department of the Interior
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
  • Park Officials

Early Coordination Meeting

Local Agencies - Prior to commencing with required technical studies, the local agency requests the DLAE to schedule an early coordination meeting to discuss the scope of the required technical study, the format and content of the technical report, and the procedures for processing the report for review and approval. Please refer to Local Assistance Procedures Manual, Chapter 6.

Discussion Points

  • Identify the local and/or regional plans that pertain to the affected area and the associated city, county, or region.
  • Any specific local land use policies that relate to the proposal should be identified and reviewed. Review maps of the adopted land use and circulation plans.
  • Discuss any inconsistencies between the proposed project and applicable general plans and regional plans.
  • Can the project be modified to conform with the adopted general, regional, and local plans?
  • Would the local agency(ies) with jurisdiction over the project area be willing to amend the general and/or regional plans?
  • Will the project induce growth?

For further information, please refer to the Caltrans Environmental Handbook, Volume 4: Community Impact Assessment.


No technical reports are mandated by state or federal law. If inconsistencies exist between the project and the local adopted plans or policies, they must be identified and discussed within the body of the Environmental Document (See Land Use section of the annotated outline). However, it may be appropriate to prepare a separate Community Impact Assessment report or background study if concerns regarding one or more community issues are voiced by the affected community, or can be reasonably anticipated by the project development team. Refer to the Caltrans Environmental Handbook, Volume 4, for the following information regarding Land Use issues:

  • Chapter 2: Assessing Community Impacts
  • Chapter 4: Land Use, Farmland, and Growth

Preparer Qualifications

Most data collection and analysis can be carried out by persons without specialized training, although prior experience and an educational background in geography, social ecology, economics, sociology, or regional planning may be very helpful, particularly in complex situations.

Processing and Approval

The Community Impact Assessment should be reviewed by the Department's District Environmental coordinator, summarized in the Draft Environmental Document, included with all other technical reports for the project, and a copy retained in project files.

Local Agencies: Processing of technical reports for CEs is covered in the Local Assistance Procedures Manual, Chapter 6, Section 6.6. For further guidance on CEs, see SER Volume 1, Chapter 30.

When technical studies indicate that the project does not support a CE, the local agency should refer to SER Volume 1, Chapter 31 or Chapter 32 for detailed instructions on preparing and processing an EA or an EIS.

Sample Language for Inclusion in the Technical Report

There is no specific required language for the land use section of an environmental document; however, an example of format and text can be viewed from the link below.

Click here for example text from a project.

Cumulative Impacts (Growth Inducement)

Growth inducement is the primary secondary impact of Land Use issues. Please refer to the Caltrans Environmental Handbook, Volume 4.

Guidance for conducting a growth inducement analysis is available in the Guidance for growth related indirect impact analysis section of the SER.

Information Needed for Project Delivery

Land Use analysis should be conducted at two intervals during the planning stage of a project:

  • prior to the draft environmental document and
  • prior to any route selection or acquisition activities.

Regional Transportation Plan

This information should be documented in the environmental impact report (EIR) prepared for the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and serve as a building block in subsequent decision making.

An RTP requires the preparation of a CEQA environmental document, normally a program or master EIR. The Department encourages the MPO/RTPAs to include the following information, as appropriate, in the environmental document for the plan:

  • Existing land uses and development trends in study area or corridor.
  • Consistency of proposed projects with local land use plans.

Department environmental planners also should be familiar with the federally-required transportation planning process. The transportation planning process is discussed in the Caltrans Environmental Handbook, Volume 4Volume 1, Chapter 4 of the SER; and the RTP Guidelines.

Project Initiation Document

This information should be included in the Preliminary Environmental Analysis Report (PEAR) prepared as part of the Project Initiation Document (PID).

The "Guidelines for the Preparation of Project Study Reports" dated November 3, 1999 stipulate that PSRs and project study report equivalents contain an "inventory of environmental resources, identification of potential environmental issues and anticipated environmental processing type. Potential mitigation requirements and associated costs should also be identified."

For projects off the State Highway System (SHS), complete the Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PES) form. The information required for the PES satisfies the environmental requirement for the PSR equivalent.

For projects on the SHS, the following level of information is recommended to fulfill the requirements of the guidelines:

  • Verification of all information at RTP stage and:
  • Existing land uses and development trends in project area.
  • Discussion of consistency/inconsistency withes adopted plan and policies.
  • For more information, please refer to Caltrans Environmental Handbook, Volume 4.

Draft Project Report

This information should be presented in the draft environmental document or used as supporting documentation for a categorical exemption/exclusion, as appropriate.

  • Verification of all information from RTP stage & PID stage.
  • Confirmation of consistency with general plan.
  • Possible project effects on land uses, current development trends, land values, and growth inducement.
  • Possible mitigation measures of significant impacts as appropriate.

Project Report

Significant impacts and mitigation measures for preferred alternative should be presented in the final environmental document.

(Last content update: 8/12/14: JH)