Understanding the City of Sacramento’s bodies, major projects, and plans

So you’re a resident and you want to know how to start making change in your area.

Not all change has to start from city legislation. There are plenty of ways to make change that don’t require talking to your City Council Member. However, it’s useful to understand what are the different City of Sacramento bodies and how to get civically engaged through the city so that you know what routes you need to take to get the change you want.

We’ll explain what various bodies in the City are, what their authorities are, and how you can engage with them.

Mayor & City Council

Sacramento’s City Council is comprised of the Mayor and 8 council members – one member from each of the City’s 8 districts. Council members are elected by residents of their respective districts. The mayor represents and is elected by all city residents. Learn about the current Mayor & City Council here: Mayor & City Council Information.

The City Council is Sacramento’s main law-making body – they create policies and vote on the city’s annual budget, policies, ordinances, and land uses. (‘Ordinances’ are city laws. ‘Land use’ includes rules on what kind of development projects can go where). The council also appoints certain officers. Learn more about City Council’s authorities here: CapRadio Sacramento City Council guide (December 2022).

The City Council members are also members of separate legislative bodies and may sit on one or more Standing Committees.

The Mayor and City Council are elected by all city residents who are registered voters. Both the Mayor and Council members serve four-year terms. Voters elect City Council every two years on even-numbered years. Elections are staggered such that there is not an entirely new council every two years. The next election is the 2024 Municipal Primary Election on March 5, 2024 for the offices of Council District 2, 4, 6, 8 and Mayor. After elections, new council members are sworn into office in December of the election year. Learn more about City Elections here: City of Sacramento Elections.

City Boards & Commissions

The Sacramento City Council forms a variety of boards and commissions whose purpose is to gather information and deliberate. These board & commission meetings are public, and members of the public are able to attend and make comments at these meetings.

It is important for residents to talk to board and commission members because these bodies make recommendations directly to City Council on binding policies that the council will vote on. Boards and commissions can be highly influential, so it is critical that we make our voices heard at their public meetings!

Notable Boards & Commissions:

  • Planning and Design Commission: Has authority to carry out the State Planning and Zoning Law subject to the provisions of the Sacramento City Code. This commission has significant influence on zoning, planning, and urban design in the city.
    • Has 13 members – 8 commissioners are recommended for appointment by their respective District Council member, 1 commissioner is recommended for appointment by the Mayor, and 4 commissioners are recommended for appointment by the Personnel and Public Employees Committee.
    • Commissioners are supposed to be people with expressed interest, training, or experience in master planning; land use or land policy; housing policy; large scale construction; urban planning; urban design; or mid and high-rise urban, commercial, institutional, and mixed use projects, and a few are supposed to be licensed architects, LEED architects, landscape architects, contractors, or licensed engineers with demonstrated interest in urban, landscape or architectural design, or physical development of the City.
  • Preservation Commission: Makes recommendations for the city’s preservation policies and provides oversight on the maintenance and integrity of the city’s Register of Historic and Cultural Resources.
    • Has 7 members – It is unclear how these members are appointed.
  • Active Transportation Commission: Makes recommendations on strategies related to walking and bicycling (aka “active transportation”) in the city and on implementation, criteria, and priority of such policies and projects.
    • Has 11 members – 8 commissioners are recommended for appointment by their respective District Council member, 1 commissioner is recommended for appointment by the Mayor, and 2 commissioners are recommended for appointment by the Personnel and Public Employees Committee.
    • Commissioners are supposed to be people with a demonstrated history of community involvement or interest in walking or bicycling issues, and one is supposed to be qualified by training or professional experience and demonstrated leadership in one of the following categories: a licensed civil or traffic engineer; or a professional transportation planner.

The General Plan and Climate Action & Adaptation Plan

The General Plan is the City of Sacramento’s policy guide for the future. It sets policy guidelines for everything from the physical boundaries of the city to its economic growth and physical development. Think of it as a guide for future development and preservation of resources. The “GP” is a very long 500+ page document.

Sacramento is currently governed by the 2035 General Plan, which was passed by City Council in March 2015. Right now, from May through August 2023, the City planning department is accepting comments from the public on the draft 2040 General Plan and Climate Action & Adaptation Plan. Comments will be received through the end of August. Strong SacTown’s major priority in summer 2023 is to get as many people as possible to submit comments on the shortcomings of the 2040 General Plan and Climate Action & Adaptation Plan!

Transportation Planning

The Transportation Planning team is responsible for planning the City’s future transportation needs, ensuring we support safety and mobility for our communities. This team sits within the Department of Public Works. The Active Transportation Program Specialist is Jennifer Donlon Wyant.

Note: This section of the General Plan is under the “Mobility” element.

Transit Oriented Development

Transit Oriented Development “TOD” is a term for the idea of creating dense, walkable, and mixed-use spaces near transit that support vibrant, sustainable, and equitable communities. The City of Sacramento passed a Transit-Oriented Development Ordinance in 2018 and amended the ordinance in 2020 to incentivize transit supportive uses near light rail stations, and to preserve transit areas for appropriate development opportunities.

Office of Climate Action & Sustainability

Located in the City Manager’s Office, the Office of Climate Action & Sustainability (OCAS) leads the City of Sacramento’s efforts to address climate change and accelerate City actions to achieve a resilient, carbon zero future. It was formed in 2021. The lead staff is Jennifer Venema.

Missing Middle Housing Study

“Missing Middle Housing” promotes housing choice and affordability through an incremental approach. In 2021, Sacramento City Council confirmed a strategy to allow a greater array of housing types citywide as part of the 2040 General Plan Update through the Missing Middle Housing Study.


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