General Plan Update Overview

The City of Ferndale periodically updates its General Plan to set goals and policies that guide local land use decisions for both the current period and the future (20+ years). Most importantly the General Plan is the City’s comprehensive long-term community vision that defines the type, amount, and location of future growth and development. The General Plan address a variety of issues, including: health, public safety, land use, circulation, provision of services and facilities, environmental protection, and open space preservation. The City follows State guidelines to ensure statutory compliance. The General Plan guides zoning and other implementing ordinances.

To make the most efficient use of limited City resources, the City will prepare a complete review and revision of all General Plan elements as a multi-year process. The 2012 Housing Element and Cultural & Historical Resources Element were the first two elements updated. The Safety Element is complete and ready for environmental review. The Noise & Air Quality Element is underway and is expected to be finished in 2014. The 2014 Housing Element Update has been drafted and is being reviewed by the Planning Commission and City Council at upcoming meetings.

Noise & Air Quality Element

The existing City of Ferndale General Plan Noise Element is included with the Public Safety and Scenic Highway Elements from 1975. The City currently has no Air Quality Element. The Noise Element is one of the seven mandated general plan elements per the State Office of Planning and Research (OPR) Guidelines. Air Quality is considered an optional element in the OPR Guidelines. These two topics address quality of life issues for the community. The Noise & Air Quality Element will address ways to improve air quality and reduce noise, especially for sensitive receptors such as: schools, medical facilities, and certain residential uses.

During Element preparation, the city will collaborate with agencies, districts, and organizations including but not limited to the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District, Caltrans and the Redwood Coast Energy Authority. The Element will be reviewed for consistency with other relevant plans such as the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District’s Particulate Matter Attainment Plan and Humboldt County Noise Element Update and Air Quality Element Update. The City will rely on existing studies and available data for the Element. The element will make extensive use of web links and internet source references to maximize the utility of the element while keeping the text version as concise as possible.

Public involvement is an integral part of the General Plan update process. The City will be inviting residents to help update its General Plan Noise & Air Quality Element at study sessions in the coming months. Sessions will be held immediately prior to Planning Commission meetings at Ferndale City Hall, 834 Main Street. The information presented at the sessions will provided the basis for later development of goals, policies, and implementation programs.
For more information call (707) 786-4224 or email

Safety Element

The Safety Element update defines the different types of potential public safety hazards, including known faults, steep slopes, areas subject to erosion, flood zones, high fire hazard areas, and locations of known hazardous materials. The Safety Element contents are:

  • Introduction;
  • Setting and Context;
  • Geologic & Seismic Hazards;
  • Flooding & Drainage Hazards;
  • Fire Hazards;
  • Hazardous Materials;
  • Risk Assessment;
  • Emergency Preparedness; and
  • Goals, Policies and Implementation Programs.

This provided an opportunity to update seismic and emergency preparedness policy and review and revise as necessary flood control and management policy. Implementation programs were devised to show how the city will carry out these policies.

The City invited residents to help update its General Plan Safety Element at study sessions held immediately prior to Planning Commission meetings over several months in 2012-2013.

Historical & Cultural Resources Element

The Historical and Cultural Resources Element of the City General Plan sets goals, policies and implementation strategies for the City’s role in planning for the unique historical aspects of Ferndale and its regional cultural setting in the Eel River Valley. This Element is part of the City General Plan because preserving community character, history, and architectural features is important to Ferndale. While not specifically mandated under state planning law, 126 California counties/cities have historic preservation general plan elements. Many of Ferndale’s most defining features are its buildings and public spaces. Historical resources include individual structures, the Main Street Historic District, and the architectural themes found throughout the City.

Ferndale’s historical and cultural resources are prominently featured in this Element. The Element’s purpose is to preserve and enhance these resources for heritage tourism, economic development and a continued source of community identity and pride. Also, the Element strives to guide new development to be compatible with existing historical resources and encourages both public and private stewardship

The Historical and Cultural Resources Element was adopted by the City in 2012.

Housing Element

The Housing Element identifies and analyzes existing and projected housing needs. It also provides goals, policies, quantified objectives, and scheduled programs for the preservation, improvement, and development of housing for all economic groups.

The primary purpose of the Housing Element is to:

  • Preserve and improve housing and neighborhoods,
  • Provide adequate housing sites,
  • Assist in the provision of affordable housing,
  • Remove governmental constraints to housing investment, and
  • Promote fair and equal housing opportunities.

The updated Housing Element was adopted by the City in 2019.