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Draft 2035 General Plan

On January 10, 2017, the Preliminary Public Review Draft 2035 Folsom General Plan was unveiled to the public at the City Council Meeting. Updating a general plan is a multi-year endeavor, throughout which the vision and needs of the city are fleshed out and organized into goals and policies that will help guide future development. The following content provides an overview of the structure and content of a general plan, as well as the draft vision and guiding principles, trends, and key planning concepts that have informed the Draft 2035 Folsom General Plan.

Look up individual elements or download the entire Draft General Plan through our Documents page.

Structure of the General Plan

The General Plan Policy Document contains the goals and policies that will guide the future decisions within the city. It is the heart of the General Plan, as it identifies implementation programs that will ensure the goals and policies are carried out. The Policy Document also contains a land use diagram, which serves as a general guide to the distribution of land uses throughout the city. The General Plan Policy Document contains the following elements:

Draft Vision & Guiding Principles

The Draft Vision and Guiding Principles, first published in June 2013, are based on hundreds of comments from residents at the first community workshop and from several questions posted on the online Town Hall Forum. The Vision and Guiding Principles have changed slightly based on public comments, and the most recent version can be found on our Documents page.

Vision for the 2035 General Plan

A vision statement is an aspirational description of what the community would like to be in the future. It is a summary of high-level goals to be achieved by the updated General Plan. The vision provides the foundation for more specific goals, policies, and programs developed during the update process. The visioning process is valuable in identifying issues important to the community and in providing early direction for alternatives development and analysis.

The Folsom 2035 Vision

In 2035 Folsom is sought out by new residents and employers as the most desirable and prosperous city in which to live and work in the region. It has matured into a beautiful, vibrant, and sustainable city, with livable neighborhoods that are walkable, and full of amenities. At the same time, the city has maintained its close-knit, small-town feel and embraced its rich historical heritage. Folsom is a healthy, safe, happy, and cohesive community.

Folsom is a prominent and innovative technology hub that is nationally recognized for its highly-educated and creative workforce, ample employment opportunities, excellent public schools, and distinguished institutions of higher education.

Folsom is a premier recreational and tourist destination in Northern California, offering a wide range of outdoor recreation opportunities, which support both its active lifestyle and healthy community status. The city serves as the gateway to the Sierra Foothill wine country and is a tourist destination of its own, given its historical and recreational offerings.

Guiding Principles for the 2035 General Plan

At the heart of the General Plan are “Guiding Principles” that express the key values and aspirations for Folsom’s future and act as guideposts for the goals, policies, and implementation measures contained within the General Plan. These principles expand on the main ideas contained in the vision statement so that important concepts are given more weight. Guiding principles are purposefully broadly stated in order to guide the City throughout development of the updated General Plan. All general plan goals, policies, and implementation programs need to be consistent with the Vision and Guiding Principles.

The Folsom 2035 Guiding Principles

1. Maintain a close-knit, neighborly, family-friendly city with a small town feel

Preserve and enhance Folsom’s small town charm by ensuring Folsom remains a safe, attractive, family-friendly community with social gathering places where neighbors can meet and interact.

2. Focus on Historic Folsom as a center of shopping, dining, entertainment, and cultural attractions

Focus on maintaining Historic Folsom as a vibrant mixed-use entertainment district that offers high-quality housing, a dynamic nightlife, and rich cultural experiences for residents, families, and visitors. Preserve and enhance the historic area’s pedestrian orientation, architectural integrity, and collection of unique, locally-owned businesses. Embrace the city’s rich historical Gold Rush heritage and connections to the historic railroad by conserving and enhancing historical and cultural amenities and attracting visitors through cultural events and programs.

3. Promote Town Centers as Social Gathering Places

Promote mixed-use, walkable districts that serve as social gathering places for the community. Ensure that all residents have convenient access to town centers by establishing several throughout Folsom.

4. Promote the revitalization of aging commercial corridors

Encourage pedestrian-oriented infill and redevelopment of Folsom’s aging commercial corridors. Create mixed-use developments that take advantage of alternative transportation modes, where people can live, work, and shop.

5. Support the Regional Retail Base

Expand Folsom’s role as a regional retail center that provides a broad range of goods to area residents, ensures financial security for the city, and supports the high level of community services that Folsom residents enjoy.

6. Enhance gateways into Folsom

Signify arrival into Folsom by enhancing the major entryways into the community with context-appropriate solutions including landscaping, public art, and design that strengthen Folsom’s unique identity.

7. Continue to be a premier recreation destination in Northern California

Enhance and expand Folsom’s role as a premier outdoor recreation destination in Northern California by continually improving cultural revenue activities and programs, recreation opportunities and quality including new bicycle trails, parks and open space, and sports facilities.

8. Brand Folsom as the “Gateway to the Foothill Wine Region”

Capitalize on Folsom’s location near the wine country by expanding lodging and dining opportunities, and marketing Folsom as the “Gateway to the Foothill Wine Region.”

9. Provide all residents with opportunities to live an active, healthy, and green lifestyle

Promote healthy lifestyles by enhancing opportunities for physical activity, healthy eating, and sustainable living.

10. Provide for a range of attractive and viable transportation options, such as bicycle, pedestrian, rail, and transit

Support higher-density, mixed use, transit-oriented development near light rail stations and in core areas where alternative transportation modes are planned. Support transportation improvements that allow and encourage more residents, workers, and visitors to walk, bike, or use transit.

11. Provide a range of housing choices for all generations

Provide for a range of housing choices to ensure Folsom is a community for all generations, where children can grow, raise families, and age in place.

12. Preserve the High Quality of Folsom’s Neighborhoods

Preserve the high quality of Folsom’s neighborhoods by maintaining quality housing stock, convenient access to parks and trails, attractive landscaping, and functional and efficient infrastructure.

13. Foster economic growth and diversity to become recognized as one of the smartest cities in the region

Build a thriving innovation-based economy that creates new jobs and welcomes businesses and entrepreneurship. Support the incubation of new startups as well as the efforts of Folsom Cordova School District and Folsom Lake College to provide quality education to the community and beyond. Foster partnerships between educational institutions and local employers to grow a highly-educated local workforce.

14. Commit to high-quality design

Promote development that strengthens the physical form of the city, enhances livability, incorporates sustainable design practices, and fosters a unique sense of place through context-sensitive design and commitment to high-quality execution.

15. Foster a sustainable community for the next generation’s benefit

Balance resource conservation with economic growth to ensure that meeting today’s needs does not compromise the ability of the community to meet future needs. Lead by example in municipal projects and daily operations through City commitments and policies to advancing best practices in sustainability. Conserve resources and reduce operational costs without sacrificing quality of life.

16. Integrate the “old” and the “new” areas of the city

Promote an integrated, cohesive city by connecting new development areas with the existing city fabric through pedestrian and bicycle linkages, harmonious design, and shared gathering places.

17. Encourage citizen participation and good leadership

Facilitate active and meaningful community participation by maintaining a transparent and open government and actively seeking citizen input in the decision-making process. City government shall be guided by the public interest and be an active leader in maintaining and improving quality of life in Folsom.

How to read the General Plan

Each element contains the goals and policies that will be used by the City to guide future land use, development, and environmental protection decisions. A goal is a statement that describes in general terms a desired future condition or “end” state. Goals describe ideal future conditions for a particular topic and tend to be very general and broad. A policy is a clear and unambiguous statement that guides a specific course of action for decision-makers to achieve a desired goal.

Trends that inform General Plan Policies

Much has changed since Folsom last comprehensively updated its General Plan nearly 30 years ago in 1988. Since then, Folsom has evolved in terms of its land use pattern, infrastructure, and population. During this period, State planning requirements have also changed, requiring updates to key sections of the General Plan. Finally, new demographic and social trends are reshaping how communities develop, influencing the preferences and needs of the Folsom community today and in the future.

What’s Changed in Folsom since 1988?

Population Growth

When the last General Plan was adopted in 1988, Folsom had gone through a massive expansion; the city grew from a population of 5,800 in 1970 to 23,000 in 1988 – quadrupling in size in less than 20 years. Nearly 30 years later, Folsom has grown to a city of 72,000 residents, nearly tripling in size during this period.

Land Use Supply North of Highway 50

Folsom’s physical expansion has used up virtually all the available land within the city limits north of Highway 50. There are approximately 447 acres of vacant land and slightly over 5 acres of underutilized land available for development, over half of which is designated as single-family residential. This expansion has included buildout of Broadstone and Empire Ranch, and development of major uses such as the 150-acre Folsom Lake College campus in 2005 and the Palladio in 2013.

Development South of Highway 50

In 2012 the City of Folsom annexed 3,510 acres immediately south of Highway 50, increasing the city’s land area by 25 percent. The Folsom Plan Area Specific Plan, adopted by the City, provides for approximately 11,000 new residential units, a Town Center, and other commercial and public uses.

Light Rail

In 2005 Sacramento Regional Transit extended its Gold Line to Folsom, developing three station stops within Folsom at Historic Folsom, Glenn, and Iron Point. This light rail line now provides service to Downtown Sacramento and points in between and beyond as an alternative to commuting on Highway 50.

Roadway Improvements

In recent years the City has essentially completed the roadway network north of Highway 50. One of the most significant of the projects is the four-lane Folsom Lake Crossing which replaced the two-lane Folsom Dam Road. South of Highway 50, the Capital Southeast Connector is being developed as a regional link between I-5 south of Elk Grove to Highway 50 in El Dorado County, just east of El Dorado Hills. The Connector will follow White Rock Road along Folsom’s southern border with three interchanges proposed at Prairie City Road, Scott Road, and Empire Ranch Road.

Revitalization of Historic Folsom

In recent years, the City has undertaken several projects to rejuvenate Historic Folsom. The City built a new parking garage and refurbished a historic railroad turntable. In 2011, the City worked with area merchants to revitalize historic Sutter Street. Historic Folsom is also the final stop on the RT Gold Line.

New State Laws

Since the General Plan was last updated, the State has enacted new laws that require revisions to the all general plans throughout California, including the 2035 Folsom General Plan Update. Most of these laws were enacted in the last 15 years, and include:

  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions:

    SB 97 (Dutton, 2006); AB 32 (Nunez and Pavley, 2006); SB 375 (Steinberg, 2008)

  • Complete Streets:

    AB 1358 (Leno, 2008)

  • Flood-Related Risks:

    AB 162 (Wolk, 2007); SB 5 (Machado, 2006)

National Demographic and Lifestyle Trends

Since the city of Folsom last updated its General Plan in 1988, the world has changed in many ways. By identifying trends we can ensure that the goals, policies, and implementation programs are timely and flexible enough for a changing world. The trends described below cover the demographic and economic shifts occurring nationally, which may influence changes occurring in Folsom today and in the future.

Trend #1: The nuclear family has been on the decline for decades,and the ‘traditional family’ – mom, dad, and two kids – is now a minority. During the significant growth period for American suburbs – the 1970s – the nuclear family made up 40 percent of new households, whereas today it accounts for less than 20 percent of new households.

Trend #2: Today’s young people are buying and driving cars lessthan previous generations. People 16 to 24 years of age have been obtaining driver’s licenses more slowly than any generation since record keeping began. The transportation needs of this generation have been replaced by car-sharing networks, bike-sharing networks, an increased willingness to use mass transit, and residence selection based on an ability to walk to necessary services.

Trend #3: The face of employment is changing.Technologies such as email, video conferencing, and portable computing make it easier for today’s office workers to do their jobs remotely. This workplace technology revolution means less space is needed in physical offices and large office campuses. Additionally, the design of workplaces is changing, as is their location. In the past skilled employees moved to areas with jobs, but increasingly, employers are moving to where talented workers want to live.

Trend #4: There is increasing focus on health as a lifestyle choice.A variety of smaller trends and campaigns – aging baby-boomers, a national conversation on health care, growing concerns over obesity and diabetes, increased interest in healthy foods – have come together to make health a hot topic and the new face of sustainability. In response to this trend, communities are now vying to be “the healthiest place to live.”

Trend #5: There is increasing value in lifelong learning.In today’s knowledge-based economy, education cannot stop at high school or even college. The provision of diverse, multi-generational education opportunities is critical for building a well-trained workforce that will attract leading employers, create new entrepreneurs that can succeed in a fast moving economy, and continue to support a vibrant and forward-thinking citizenry.

Trend #6: Retail preferences are shifting.With the growth of online shopping, consumers have many more choices about where they spend their money. Online retailers like Amazon.com provide consumers with convenience and lower prices than brick-and-mortar retailers. Brick-and-mortar shopping centers that can create both excellent shopping and entertainment experiences will fare better. Consumers cannot stroll, window shop, meet friends for lunch, or try on clothes online.







Key Planning Concepts that inform General Plan Policies

The 2035 General Plan Update includes several big ideas, inspired by the drivers of change, that permeate the goals, policies, and implementation programs. Together, they form a framework for future development and growth for Folsom. The key planning concepts framing the 2035 General Plan Update can be viewed here.

Urban Centers

In 2015, Folsom is a city with two distinct urban centers: Historic Folsom, the long-time heart of the city; the Broadstone District, with the Palladio at its center. Additionally, a new town center is proposed south of Highway 50. While Folsom has other important centers of activity, the three identified here serve large, geographically-distinct areas and offer a wide range of amenities. With these three centers, Folsom will have gathering places near every Folsom resident. Residents can attend an event, shop, and dine within a short walk, bike ride, or drive from their homes.

East Bidwell Mixed-Use Corridor

The Draft 2035 General Plan supports the development of mixed-use districts along East Bidwell Street. Mixed-use districts consist of three or more different uses, including office, retail, entertainment, civic, and housing. They are nodes of activity that support walkable, urban lifestyles. Mixed-use districts provide a diversity of housing types, the kind that often attract young, educated workers, a demographic critical to the continued economic vitality of Folsom, as well as empty nesters who want to stay in their community but no longer want the maintenance or costs associated with a detached home. Mixed-use designations give property owners additional flexibility.

Transit-Oriented Development

Similar in character to mixed-use districts, transit-oriented development (TOD) is development designed to take advantage of nearby transit service. The 2035 General Plan includes new TOD overlay districts. Property owners with parcels within this overlay designation have the option of conforming to their existing zoning and land use designation or changing their zoning to mixed-use. Mixed-use development in this overlay will encourage high-density housing, retail, office, and service uses in a compatible configuration that makes transit usage convenient.


Traditional suburban strip retail developments line many of the commercial streets in Folsom. The plethora of retail options in Folsom are a testament to the city’s economic success, but strip retail may be left behind in the wake of new retail trends. Increasingly, suburban strips have faced strong competition from online shopping, resurgent downtowns, new mixed-use developments, and new suburban town centers. The 2035 General Plan changes the designation of land along East Bidwell Street to allow for mixed-use development, which follow new retail trends. Mixed-use development improves walkability and brings together uses such as entertainment, office, and retail in a way that helps the districts compete against the convenience of online shopping.

Healthy Communities

Folsom boasts an abundance of active open space and recreational facilities. These assets facilitate healthy lifestyles by making it easy to be physically active. Trends toward mixed-use development also promote healthy communities as the density of development allows people to visit a variety of different places and take care of a variety of different errands without needing to drive far, or drive at all. Mixed-use development also promotes active transportation such as walking and biking. Overall, the built environment of Folsom and mixed-used development patterns outlined within the 2035 Folsom General Plan, make it easier for healthy communities to thrive.

Complete Streets

The new General Plan promotes “complete streets.” Complete streets are streets designed with all users in mind. There is no one single design for a complete street; complete streets are context-sensitive and respond to the needs of users at a particular location. The Mobility Element in the 2035 General Plan includes many policies and implementation programs intended to continue the City’s efforts to make Folsom streets safer and more accommodating for everyone.
Level of Service StandardThe Circulation Element of the current General Plan provides that “The City should strive to achieve at least a traffic Level of Service (LOS) “C” throughout the City,” with some qualifications. Communities throughout California have reexamined their own LOS C standards in recent years and found them impractical and unrealistic. The 2035 General Plan proposes to change the basic level of service standard to LOS D, with the qualifications that LOS E may be acceptable due to the costs of mitigation or where there may be unacceptable impacts, or LOS F during peak commute periods at major intersections within one-quarter mile of a freeway interchange or river crossing.

Greenhouse Gas Reduction

The State of California has established ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. Achieving these targets has become an indirect mandate on local general plans. In implementing SB 97, the State updated the CEQA Guidelines to provide direction on analyzing GHG emissions in EIRs. The Guidelines also outlined an option for the preparation of qualified plans for the reduction of GHG emissions, which offer streamlining benefits to subsequent projects that are consistent with the qualified plan. Some communities have responded to these requirements by preparing a Climate Action Plan, while others have addressed these requirements through the update of their general plans. The 2035 Folsom General Plan will satisfy the criteria for a “qualified plan for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, by integrating the necessary technical analysis, GHG reduction targets, and GHG reduction strategies as policies and programs. In doing so, the City’s General Plan will enable subsequent projects that are consistent with the General Plan to forgo conducting a GHG analysis, potentially saving time and money.