A Unique Approach to a General Plan Update

By Kevin Gardiner, Principal Planner + Urban Designer at M-Group

M-Group recently worked with the City of Foster City on a unique approach to updating its General Plan. As a master-planned community, Foster City has had a strong history of City-initiated planning for future development, which has provided the means for the community to shape its future. M-Group’s goal was to provide realistic policy and strategy recommendations related to land use, circulation and climate change for incorporation into the update of the City’s General Plan.

M-Group worked with the City’s Planning Commission to identify a series of “quality of life indictors” that could be used to assess how well the community has been in achieving its objectives. Each “indicator” was something that could be measured quantitatively (such as crime rates or school scores), but could also be assessed qualitatively in terms of resident and business satisfaction. M-Group then met with a wide range of community and business groups to assess how well the City is able to achieve the quality of life objectives, and where attention would need to be given in the future.

With data and community input in hand, M-Group developed a “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT)” analysis for the City. While SWOT analyses are a familiar tool in the business community, it is relatively unusual to conduct a SWOT analysis for a community. M-Group worked with the City to develop this unique tool providing an assessment of where the City had achieved success, where it might have shortcomings, and where future opportunities might lie.

In updating a General Plan and establishing a vision for the future, it can be useful to develop an awareness of social and economic trends impacting the City and others like it. With this in mind, M-Group developed a Trends Analysis that reviewed national, regional, and local trends and issues that the General Plan should address. Trends and issues such as climate change/sustainability, economic growth/jobs production, housing production, transportation, demographics (such as increase in number of seniors) and others were put in perspective with Foster City’s physical, demographic, and geographical conditions.

The culmination of M-Group’s work was the creation of the Foster City Snapshot Workbook to serve as a resource throughout the General Plan Update. Care was taken to have the workbook synthesize a range of complex issues into a highly accessible, user-friendly document. The intention was for community members, staff, and prospective businesses and residents alike to be able to turn to the report as a valuable reference.

To download a PDF of the Snapshot Workbook visit http://www.fostercityfocus.org/FosterCitySnapshotWorkbookLowRes.pdf