Planning 101

The following definitions will provide a general overview of the different components of a Community Plan’s development for those unfamiliar with planning terminologies.


A General Plan is required of all local jurisdictions by the State of California. The General Plan is mandated to be comprehensive, long term, internally consistent, coordinated with neighboring jurisdiction, consistent with State laws and statues, and accurate and current. The state requires seven mandatory elements in the General Plan.

  • a. Land Use – Designates the general distribution and intensity of all uses of the land in the County
  • b. Circulation – Identifies the general location and extent of existing and proposed major transportation facilities
  • c. Housing – Assesses current and projected housing needs, and set out policies and proposals for the improvement of housing (revised at least every 8 years)
  • d. Safety – Establishes policies and programs to protect the community from risks associated with seismic, geologic, flood, and wildfire hazards
  • e. Open Space – Guides the comprehensive and long-range preservation and conservation of “open-space” land
  • f. Conservation – Provides direction regarding the Conservation, development, and utilization of natural resources.
  • g. Noise – Identifies and appraises noise problems and includes policies to protect the County from excessive noise
  • h. Optional Elements – additional elements tailored to the particular needs of a community related to its physical development

The State of California requires all new developments to comply with the General Plan policies. The State also requires that any changes to the General Plan (General Plan Amendment) needs to go through a public review process as required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The General Plan is Riverside County’s long-term guiding document for its physical development within the unincorporated areas of the County, a blueprint for its future. The Riverside County General Plan addresses the seven mandatory elements as required by the state. However, the County’s General Plan combines the Open-Space and Conservation Elements into the Multi-Purpose Open Space Element. In addition, the Riverside County General Plan provides an optional element – the Air Quality Element. The County’s vision and goals are formulized into policies to achieve their implementation. The competing goals of this evolving jurisdiction (i.e. employment generating development, quality of life, housing, transportation, air quality, conservation, etc.) are reconciled, and accommodated for, through general policies of this document.

Area Plans- There are nineteen Area Plans in the Riverside County General Plan. Each Area Plan is comprised of a land use map, other illustrative materials relevant to the area, as well as specific policy direction unique to each area. The Area Plans incorporate a streamlined land use designation system representing a full spectrum of categories that relate to the natural or economic characteristics of the land in Riverside County.

Policy Area- Area Plan land use designations don’t always reflect the unique features found in a community, since not all communities within an area plan are the same. To preserve these distinctive characters of different communities, policies tailored towards these unique features may be required in the General Plan. Accordingly, a Policy Area is a portion of an area plan that contains special or unique characteristics that merit detailed attention and focused policies.

Citrus Vineyard Policy Area- The Citrus Vineyard Policy Area is located east of the City of Temecula within the Southwest Area Plan boundary of the Riverside County General Plan. This area has one of the most important agricultural lands of Riverside County and is characterized by vineyards, tourist related facilities and large residential and equestrian estates. The intent of this policy area is to ensure the continued rural lifestyle and wine production in this southwestern region of the county.

Valle de los Caballos Policy Area- The Valle de los Caballos Policy Area is located just south of the Citrus Vineyard Policy Area. This is an area characterized by gently rolling hills and equestrian, rural residential and agricultural activities. It requires a 10-acre minimum lot size for residential development within the policy area, regardless of the underlying land use designation. The intent of this policy area is to preserve the rural lifestyle of the area.


Zoning ordinance is required of all local jurisdictions by the State of California. Through zoning, the division of a city or county is divided into areas or zones, that specify allowable uses for real property and development standards such as front/side/rear set backs, building height limitation, building intensity, parking spaces, etc. Zoning also implements policies of the General Plan. Just like the General Plan, the state requires compliance with development standards of a zone and that any changes to the zoning ordinance need to go through a public process pursuant to CEQA.

Riverside County administers its General Plan primarily through its Zoning Ordinance. While the General Plan identifies land use designations in the long-term, zoning identifies specific, immediate uses of land. The Riverside Zoning Ordinance (Ordinance 348) provides development standards for the zoning classifications that accommodate for a range of uses from Agricultural to industrial uses and from residential to commercial uses. In addition to the zone classification, Ordinance 348 also provides standards for Water Efficient Landscape Requirement, Advertising Regulations, Temporary Outdoor Events, Mobilehomes, Recreational Vehicle Parks, Neighborhood Preservation Overlays and Congregate Care Residential Facilities.

The Citrus Vineyard (C/V) Zone and Commercial – Citrus Vineyard (C/C/V) Zones are located within the Citrus Vineyard Policy Area of the General Plan. These zones encourage agricultural cultivation, vineyards, and wineries that would preserve the rural lifestyle, wine-making atmosphere and long term viability of wine-industry where such activities are occurring and that would protect such areas from incompatible uses which could result in reduced agricultural productivity and increased urbanization within the policy area. The C/C-V Zone allows for small-scale, commercial uses that would not require a high level of public services and that would enhance the agricultural activities occurring in the policy area.


The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is a statute that requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible. A public agency must comply with CEQA when it undertakes an activity defined by CEQA as a "project."

The Environmental Assessment process will identify potential environmental impacts and feasible mitigation measures of the proposed project. If there are foreseeable significant environmental impacts identified (even with mitigation measures), an Environmental Impact Report will be prepared pursuant to the CEQA Statue and Guidelines. The preparation of which includes specific time frame for public notice and hearing process. The Environmental Impact Report is intended to:

  • a. Identify significant environmental impacts resulting from policy and program implementation
  • b. Identify the mitigation measures for the each significant impact. The mitigation measure seeks to avoid, reduce or minimize the impact to the environment.
  • c. Determine the level of significance after mitigation


Design guidelines are generalized statements, alternatives or illustrations of what is expected and encouraged for developments within a specific community or area of Riverside County. They are intended to guide those property owners and project proponents that are submitting development applications to the County Planning Department. Depending upon the site characteristics and nature of the proposal, the Planning Director may determine the degree of compliance to these guidelines.

  • a. A community’s desired vision for its urban environment in future
  • b. Maintains and enhances a community’s character
  • c. Provides guidance on architecture and urban design aspects of a community
  • d. Compliance to a provision is subject to characteristics of a site
  • e. Any change could be considered procedurally

The Citrus Vineyard Design Guidelines were specially adopted to reinforce the goals and policies of the Citrus Vineyard Policy Area. The Citrus Vineyard Design Guidelines are intended to encourage rural type of developments surrounded by large vineyards that enhance the winemaking atmosphere of the policy area.


Other General Plan implementation mechanisms that the County of Riverside utilizes to ensure community facilities and services in a community are:

  • a. Fee programs under Mitigation Fee Act for construction of community facilities and infrastructure e.g. Development Impact Fees (DIF), Road and Bridges Benefit District (RBBD), etc.
  • b. Fee assessments for operation and maintenance of community facilities and infrastructure e.g. County Service Area (CSA), Community Services District (CSD) etc.
    • i. Temecula Valley Wine Country Beautification CSA 149
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