Land Use and Environmental Planning Certificate Program | UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education

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Land Use and Environmental Planning Certificate Program

Learn How to Plan Like a Pro

Planning professionals come from a variety of backgrounds—social science, natural science, engineering and even the humanities, facilities and interior design. Regardless of your background, the UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education’s Land Use and Environmental Planning Certificate Program will give you the foundation you need to master the body of knowledge every planner should have. Through theory and practice, this program delivers—addressing practical aspects of planning in the context of larger issues, future implications of present decisions and processes for examining alternatives.

What You’ll Learn

Through comprehensive training from industry experts, you’ll:

  • Broaden your conceptual framework in planning
  • Develop ideas, strategies and skills for more effective job performance
  • Learn to work more effectively within the increasingly complex regulatory and environmental context of planning
  • Improve your ability to solve problems and work with a wide range of constituencies.
  • Network with other professionals
  • Gain comprehensive knowledge you can apply immediately

What You’ll Get

Our program offers:

  • UC-quality courses that are approved by UC Davis and count toward professional association credits through AICP and MCLE
  • One-on-one interaction with veteran planning professionals from a variety of industries
  • Unique networking opportunities with instructors and fellow students that can help advance your career
  • Class projects and case studies that provide dynamic, real-world training in emerging best practices and new planning theory
  • Practical planning knowledge and regulatory updates that can be applied immediately to your job

3-Year Certificate Agreement

Thinking about earning your Land Use and Environmental Planner Certificate? If you started the certificate by taking a core class after September 1, 2018, agree to complete the entire program in three years or less and we will cover the cost of your final course (up to a $675) and waive the $125 registration fee. Learn more.

About the Program:

Gain practical knowledge that matters

  • Broaden your conceptual framework in planning.
  • Develop ideas, strategies and skills for more effective job performance.
  • Learn to work more effectively within the increasingly complex regulatory and environmental context of planning.
  • Improve your ability to solve problems and work with a wide range of constituencies.
  • Network with other professionals.
  • Gain comprehensive knowledge you can apply immediately.

Designed for professionals like you

This program is designed for planners, resource managers, administrators and analysts who desire a broader, deeper understanding of the field. It is also ideal for planning commissioners and other decision-makers who want to add to their civic responsibilities foundation. Professionals in related fields such as real estate, engineering, landscape architecture, law, public health, facility management and those wanting to learn more about planning will also benefit.

Program Requirements:

To earn the certificate

You must complete 20 units of required core coursework and eight elective courses with grades of "C" or better.

Course content is frequently revised to ensure that the program is up-to-date with the latest industry standards. For this reason, you must complete all of the course requirements of your certificate within five years from the day you enroll in the first course. A certificate will not be awarded if the requirements are not completed and your application for candidacy is not received within this timeframe.

Required Courses

Gain an understanding of how planning decisions impact the economic feasibility of a proposed project for the public agency and developer.  Learn how money flows into a governmental agency, what they can or can’t do to increase that flow and how debt fits into the whole equation.

Topics in this course include:

  • Fiscal impact analysis and its importance
  • Local government revenues
  • Public debt and its alternatives
  • Fiscal and financial analysis and how they fit into the planning process
  • A developer's perspective of how planning decisions affect the bottom line 
  • The balance between the goals and objectives of public and private-sector participants

Approximately 20 hours of study and full attendance to all course meetings are required. A course assignment will be mailed four weeks before the course begins, which you are required to complete before the first day of class.

This course is not currently open for enrollment.

Learn the concepts, structures and processes of land use planning and development decisions. This four-day course delivers an overview of general plans, zoning ordinances, subdivision regulation, permit processes, property rights, environmental review, public finance, natural resources and urban design. The instructor and guest presenters place these topics in wider contexts, valuable for both experienced planners who need a review and others who want solid introductions.

By the end of the course, the participants will:

  • Understand the basic legal tools of land use planning and decision making
  • Be able to apply those tools to specific problems facing California communities
  • Understand the connections among land use, public finance and governance
  • Demonstrate insight into how public policies affect land uses
This course is not currently open for enrollment.

Examine the major components of physical planning and site design as they relate to achieving planning objectives. Review regional landscape analysis, physical and man-made factor analysis and watershed and program analysis. Special focus is given to analyzing site suitability and sensitivity for development, site selection and feasibility studies and conceptual design that responds to site conditions.

In this course, you will:

  • Develop an understanding of how to conduct site opportunity and constraint analysis that contribute to good land use decisions.
  • Understand the basic natural and cultural components of a site and region and how these components are interrelated.
  • Achieve basic skills necessary to evaluate and compare the value of mapped data.
  • Acquire critical thinking skills to be able to use complex data, synthesize information and select that which is most significant for decision making.
  • Learn graphic methods of compiling, recording and displaying information on environmental, cultural and economic factors. 
  • Understand the value and importance that analysis of the natural and the manmade environment have in planning, design and environmental decision-making.

As a part of this course, students will be required to participate in one out-of-classroom site visit, where they will annotate maps in the field.

This course is not currently open for enrollment.

Gain a comprehensive understanding of planning and environmental law, policy and institutions at the federal, state and local levels. Learn to read and understand a judicial opinion, work with lawyers and develop an integrated land use/environmental permitting strategy. 

Students will receive both the knowledge and practical skills to successfully navigate the legal framework in their chosen planning and environmental careers. The course first reviews the various sources of planning and environmental law, including common law, statutes and regulations, the public trust doctrine and judicial case law. It then provides students with a working understanding of:

  • Land use law requirements, including statutory and case law requirements for the General Plan, zoning and subdivisions
  • Constraints on land use regulation, including vested rights, takings and other constitutional constraints
  • The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
  • Requirements of selected environmental/natural resource programs, including water quality, wetlands regulation, air quality, and fish and wildlife regulation 
  • The latest developments in climate change law and policy and how they affect planning
  • Effective land use and environmental permitting

Approximately 20 hours of project work and regular attendance are required. 

Sections of this course open for enrollment:

Receive hands-on practice in professional urban planning and design skills in a studio/lecture format. Immerse yourself in planning and design principles, examples and case studies for today's communities. Critique land use plans and site designs, create and prepare site plans, and analyze and develop planning staff reports. Emphasis is placed on urban infill and sustainable community design, and the challenges and complexities of planning and urban design in growing communities. In-class studio work and critique, as well as guest lectures, a hands-on downtown design modeling charrette and field visits are also included. There will be a minimum of 24 hours of planning and design work conducted outside of class.

This course is not currently open for enrollment.

Learn the theoretical background and the hands-on practice of involving stakeholders in urban planning and design decisions and natural resources policies. Practice selected communication and facilitation techniques that create mutually beneficial solutions. Examine how to assess a case situation and determine what type of public process is right for each situation. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of techniques used in public involvement. Explore different approaches to communicating complex and technical planning information to community groups. Using several simulated negotiations, engage as stakeholders or facilitators to resolve complex public policy problems in urban planning. Examine case studies and analyze what went well, what went wrong and why.

This course is not currently open for enrollment.

Elective Courses

Stay up-to-date on recent developments in California law affecting land use, planning and environmental compliance. Experts from the field provide succinct and practical analysis on recent case law and significant legislative and administrative changes that took effect this year.


Topics include:

  • General Plans, Specific Plans and Zoning
  • The Subdivision Map Act
  • CEQA
  • Affordable Housing
  • Takings, Exactions and Dedications
  • Greenhouse Gas Regulation and Environmental Analysis
  • School Fees
  • Wetlands and Protected Species
  • Land Use Litigation


Participate in discussions and get answers to your questions. Take home the most recent edition of California Land Use and Planning Law, co-authored by Cecily Barclay and Matthew Gray, and a legal syllabus of cases discussed and prepared by the law firm of Perkins Coie, LLP

This course is not currently open for enrollment.

Implementation of CEQA continues to be a challenge for professionals due to annual legislative, regulatory and judicial developments. CEQA practice is constantly evolving, raising new issues and revealing new trends. Learn recent developments and emerging trends, and exchange ideas about handling key issues in the environmental review process. Examine recent CEQA legislation, as well as recent and upcoming regulatory changes. 

Review the latest CEQA court decisions and their practical implications, including:

  • "Common sense exemption"
  • Categorical exemptions and exceptions (including the recent Calif. Supreme Court decision Berkeley Hillside Preservation v. City of Berkeley)
  • Negative declarations and mitigated negative declarations, as well as the fair argument standard and when a record contains “substantial evidence”
  • Environmental impact reports and the adequacy of impact analysis (including impacts to agricultural resources) 
  • Mitigation measures, agency rule-making requirements and agency requirements to mitigate per Legislature’s directive (including recent Calif. Supreme Court decision City of San Diego v. Board of Trustees of the California State University)
  • Trigger for supplemental or subsequent CEQA documents (versus addendums)
  • Tiering from functional equivalent documents or General Plan EIR
  •  Litigation matters
Sections of this course open for enrollment:

Review current federal laws, regulations, policies and practices concerning threatened and endangered wildlife and plants. Gain practical advice for resolving endangered species conflicts with proposed projects. Examine key aspects of the federal Endangered Species Act and agency policies and guidelines on:

  • Section 4(d) rules
  • Section 7 consultation and biological assessments
  • Section 10(a) incidental take permits
  • Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs)
  • Safe Harbor policies
  • No Surprise policies

Also examine the most recent case law and policies regarding California's implementation of the Endangered Species Act, including:

  • Section 2081 incidental take permits
  • The California Native Plant Protection Act
  • Endangered species provisions of CEQA
  • The Natural Community Conservation Planning Act
This course is not currently open for enrollment.

CEQA is the state's most comprehensive environmental law. Its requirements influence virtually all prospective land use and public agency projects.

Learn how to clearly understand and comply with CEQA guidelines in this interactive seminar, designed to assist public agency staff, consultants, attorneys, developers, members of environmental organizations and others. 

The first day focuses on:

  • The background and implementation of CEQA
  • The preliminary review process
  • Determination of an environmental document
  • The negative declaration process and document content
  • The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process

The second day focuses on development of exceptional impact analysis and mitigation measures and the integration of other environmental programs. Specific topics include:

  • Impacts and mitigation
  • Integration with NEPA, water quality, wetlands and endangered species regulations, and historic preservation programs
  • Judicial review
  • EIR management issues
Sections of this course open for enrollment:

Determining the significance of environmental impacts under CEQA is one of the most difficult and important decisions agencies must make, yet many agencies have not developed a consistent approach to judging significance and agonize over this issue on a project-by-project basis. Thresholds of significance are a proven method of streamlining the CEQA process. Learn about significance thresholds, the process for developing them and success stories.

Topics include:

  • The concept of "significance" under CEQA
  • The definition of environmental thresholds
  • Advantages and disadvantages of developing thresholds
  • Criteria for determining significance
  • Reliance on other agencies' regulatory standards
  • Adopted thresholds
  • Legal problems
  • Discussing thresholds for greenhouse gases
  • Developing thresholds for any impact discipline
  • The relationship between thresholds, planning policies and standards
This course is not currently open for enrollment.

Learn about the regulation of activities affecting wetlands, permitting for activities in wetlands and wetlands mitigation planning. Gain an overview of federal and state laws and regulations protecting wetlands and other bodies of water, with a special emphasis on Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Topics include:

  • Biological and legal definitions of wetlands
  • Consistencies and differences among various federal and state agencies
  • Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act
  • Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and recent legal interpretations
  • Section 1600 of the California Fish and Game Code
  • Wetlands under the California Environmental Quality Act and the National Environmental Policy Act
  • EPA and USACE Mitigation Rule
This course is not currently open for enrollment.

This course is essential for professionals working in water resources in California. Effective groundwater management requires a combined understanding of the legal principles and physical characteristics of the resource. Acquire a working knowledge of groundwater law and hydrology, and discover new developments in case law, legislation and practice.

Receive thorough instruction on the physical characteristics of groundwater and the fundamental tenets of California groundwater law, including distinctions between percolating groundwater and surface water, the definition of basin boundaries, interrelated concepts of safe yield and overdraft, and different categories of groundwater rights. Examine alternative problem-solving approaches to address specific groundwater allocation and quality problems, such as management plans, physical solutions and court adjudication. You will also review case studies from groundwater disputes throughout California. Participants are encouraged to relate their own case studies and specific problems during the course.

This course is not currently open for enrollment.

Under the Endangered Species Act, Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) are becoming increasingly common regulatory necessities and planning tools for many, including joint-powers agencies, cities and counties, local districts and state agencies, energy companies and private developers in California. Recent listings of threatened and endangered species have resulted in conflicts with existing and planned land use and water projects.

Gain an overview of state and federal endangered species laws and recommendations for best approaches to conservation planning. Explore case studies of simple single species and complex multispecies HCPs. Topics include:

  • Endangered Species Act Section 10 requirements for HCPs and conservation planning guidelines
  • California Natural Community Conservation Planning Act process guidelines
  • Regional conservation plans and low effect HCPs
  • Integrated compliance with Section 404 of the Clean Water Act wetlands and stream regulations
  • No surprises, safe harbors and candidate conservation agreements
This course is not currently open for enrollment.

Review California water quality regulations, relevant provisions of California state law and regulations and the federal Clean Water Act. During this interactive workshop, instructors will provide case studies, strategies and recommendations for effectively meeting agency requirements. Topics include:

  • A regulatory overview of the federal Clean Water Act
  • The California Porter-Cologne Water Quality Act
  • Basin planning and waste discharge requirements
  • National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits
  • The jurisdictions of key agencies such as the California Environmental Protection Agency and state and regional water boards

This course will also cover recent updates and changes in California water quality regulations.

This course is not currently open for enrollment.

Learn key provisions of the Map Act, how it is applied in planning and development processes, recent legislative changes and new legal interpretations from court decisions and attorney general opinions. Explore both local agency and subdivider viewpoints and discuss legal and practical solutions.

Topics include:

  • Map Act scope, purpose and history
  • Relationship of the Map Act to planning, zoning and development laws, including CEQA
  • When the Map Act does and does not apply
  • Certificates of compliance and lot line adjustments
  • Map Act exemptions and exceptions
  • What type of map is required
  • Procedures and actions applicable to maps
  • The role of vested rights, including vesting maps, development agreements and common law vesting
  • Constitutional and statutory limitations on conditions of approval (exactions/dedications/fees)
  • Grounds for approval and denial of maps
  • Rules and procedures regarding final maps
  • Corrections and amendments to maps
  • Exclusions and reversions
  • Mergers and alternatives to mergers
  • Antiquated subdivisions (old maps) and troubled conveyances
  • Enforcement, local appeals and judicial review
  • Best practices for the private sector
This course is not currently open for enrollment.
Learn the concepts of natural channel form and function in streambanks, and how to determine which restoration methods are most suitable for different types of sites. Case studies and discussions will emphasize the importance of channel cross-section and landform geometry as they influence a stream's connectivity with its floodplain. Students will learn how to evaluate channel conditions and assess restoration potential. Techniques for bank stabilization using natural materials and native vegetation will be discussed, including the use of various types of low rock and log toe structures, redirective techniques (vanes and weirs) versus resistive techniques (riprap and gabions), and biotechnical/bioengineering methods.
This course is not currently open for enrollment.

Understand the complex and contentious process of allocating California’s water resources. Gain a comprehensive overview of the legal and regulatory framework for surface water and groundwater rights, as well as the environmental laws that regulate water use. Topics include:

  • Allocation of surface water through appropriative and riparian rights
  • California's system of groundwater rights
  • Authority of the State Water Resources Control Board
  • Protecting Northern California’s area of origin laws
  • Environmental protections under the public trust doctrine, the Endangered Species Act, CEQA, Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Fish and Game Code
  • California water institutions: the Bureau of Reclamation, Department of Water Resources and local water agencies
  • Federal Reclamation Law and the Central Valley Project Improvement Act
  • Legal constraints on water transfers
  • Allocating interstate rivers: Colorado River Basin and Klamath River Basin
  • California's water hub: understanding the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta and its regulatory and planning context
This course is not currently open for enrollment.

Clarify and deepen your understanding of CEQA and the implications it has for your organization, plan or project. Discuss the latest changes to the state CEQA guidelines, new case law and legislation.

Topics include:

  • CEQA's legislative history
  • An overview of CEQA requirements
  • Steps in the CEQA process and when projects are exempt
  • The threshold decision: Is an EIR required?
  • Negative declarations and mitigated NDs
  • How to determine the scope and content of an EIR
  • Public notice and review requirements
  • Agency decision-making under CEQA
  • Mitigation monitoring and reporting
  • When to prepare supplemental EIRs
  • Judicial review of CEQA decisions
Sections of this course open for enrollment:

Engineers, planners and other professionals require a high degree of technical writing skill to prepare a variety of documents including reports, proposals, formal letters and emails. However, they often lack training in the craft of effective writing. Gain the necessary skills for communicating through clear and concise language in effective documents. Discover how to increase clarity in technical documents by learning skills related to audience needs, document organization, paragraph development and using powerful sentences. Acquire practical skills that you can use immediately to prepare high-quality documents. Strengthen your skills through a series of short writing exercises, and analyze examples of good and bad writing and the effect that both can have on the success of a project.

Note: Please bring a sample of your writing to class so you can practice your new skills.

Sections of this course open for enrollment:
Learn a step-by-step approach to preparing and writing CEQA documents. Project managers will learn how to set up their projects to improve author efficiency, effectiveness and client satisfaction. CEQA authors will gain skills for writing clear, concise CEQA sections that address client needs. Editors will receive a complete overview of the document preparation process and their role in that process. In this activities-based workshop, you will discuss outlining, write sections, develop techniques for tracking references and critique project start-up packets and other materials.
Sections of this course open for enrollment:

The implications of global warming and climate change on land use planning and compliance with CEQA are evolving and becoming more important each year in California.

From controlling greenhouse gases and reducing carbon footprint to coastal erosion and pressures on the state's levee system, global warming can substantially influence the development of a community's general plan and the preparation of MNDs and EIRs for CEQA compliance. Invariably, some of the approaches to address the climate change concerns raised in CEQA documents are linked to a community's long-term plans and ways to implement those plans. 

There are still uncertainties about what the future holds. What does this mean for land use planning and CEQA review in California? How do you make the best planning decisions in light of the predictions and uncertainties of a changing climate? How are cities and counties responding in their general plans and planning implementation programs? What is truly required under CEQA? What guidance is coming from the courts? How does CEQA play into environmental decision-making about climate change issues?

Discuss the implications of our evolving understanding of climate change and its practical effects on land use planning and CEQA compliance in California. Topics include:

  • Current understanding about climate change predictions and uncertainties in California
  • How city and county general plans and other long-term plans address climate change's potential influences on water supply, sea level rise, flooding, and ecological conditions that could affect growth and development
  • Planning implementation approaches to reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions as they respond to the effects of climate change
  • Current state of CEQA approaches for addressing global warming and climate change impacts and significance determinations
  • Status of CEQA compliance guidance from the state and courts
  • Role of CEQA in advancing the dialogue about potential responses
Sections of this course open for enrollment:

There are strong connections between the built environment and public health. Land use and public health professionals are working together to develop a framework for understanding how land use decisions can improve public health and how the public health profession can support healthier community planning. Learn about the historic and present connections between planning and public health and the most recent efforts by public health to inform land use policy and practice. Delve into projects at the grassroots, local and state public health department levels and learn from practitioners at all levels. Examine new tools that local public health departments have devised to work collaboratively with land use and transportation planners including, the General Plan "Health" Element, Health Impact Assessments and health indicators. Apply your experience and knowledge using the public health lens on specific project examples.

This course is designed for land use and transportation planners, city and county staff and planning commissioners interested in improving the public health of their communities and working with their public health systems. Public health and health professionals and students interested in reducing chronic disease through community design and environmental policy will also benefit from learning these innovative approaches.

This course is not currently open for enrollment.

Examine the techniques and best practices for implementing Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs), Natural Community Conservation Plans (NCCPs) and other types of regional conservation plans for endangered species. Learn how to address the challenges of implementing a plan. Topics include:

  • Key implementation challenges
  • Program administration and reporting tools and tips
  • Land acquisition and conservation techniques, issues and solutions
  • Cost-effective habitat management and restoration planning and execution
  • Species and habitat monitoring
  • Permit compliance tools and tips
  • Compliance monitoring, tracking and reporting
  • Plan amendments
  • Implementation lessons learned that help prepare a better plan

Note: This course is distinct from the course Habitat Conservation Planning, which covers how to prepare HCPs and NCCPs.


Sections of this course open for enrollment:

Land use and transportation planning fields have been rapidly evolving due to new legislation on sustainable communities and climate change and an increased emphasis on complete streets and multi-modal analysis. Explore the inextricable link between transportation and land use in the development of general plans, community plans, site plans and environmental impact analyses. Learn best practices, examine case studies and gain practical knowledge and skills to put to use in your community.

This two-day interactive course focuses on new policies, technical approaches, models and tools for managing challenging land use and transportation issues. Key topics include:

  • Level of Service (LOS) policies and thresholds: Why vehicle LOS may be obsolete for your community and the consequences and choices to consider when selecting new performance measures and thresholds.
  • The new transportation planning paradigm: Why public agencies should shift their paradigms and the financial, transportation and land use consequences if they don’t.
  • Financial constraints and priorities: Why we pay more annually for TV, mobile phone service and mochas than gas tax, and what it means for your general plan.
  • Travel forecasting models and their blind spots: What planners need to know about travel forecasting models especially when using them to evaluate VMT, GHG emissions or smart growth plans.
  • Legal defensibility versus level of confidence: The difference between these two terms and why it makes a difference in your land use and transportation plans.
  • Completing the streets: Essential factors for creating livable streets, making modal trade-offs and examples of what to avoid.
  • Big data: How the proliferation of new data sources, such as cell phone origin-destination data, GPS speed data and satellite photos are changing land use and transportation planning.
  • CEQA and the General Plan: How to get the most out of General Plan updates and accompanying EIRs.

This course is for those interested in the consequences of SB 743, the world of GHG forecasting, the connection between general plans and CEQA, determining SCS consistency, knowing more about layered networks and the 15 new multi-modal LOS methods in practice, obtaining greater value from those expensive EIRs or just improving planning outcomes in the community.

Enjoy two intensive, interactive days with other professionals and obtain 14 hours of AICP or MCLE credit toward your professional development. 

This course is not currently open for enrollment.

Local jurisdictions are increasingly recognizing the economic, social and environmental benefits of planning, designing and building Complete Streets, streets that accommodate a wide range of community transportation needs and all users. In-class exercises will be used to define Complete Streets design policies and practices and suggest methods for shifting agency procedures so as to incorporate Complete Streets design strategies into land development, maintenance and capital improvement projects. Participants will learn:

  • What are the different types of Complete Streets and what are their benefits
  • How performance measures can help implement Complete Streets
  • Street designs that support walking and bicycling
  • Strategies for finding room on existing streets to make them more complete
  • How to change project development processes to support Complete Streets
This course is not currently open for enrollment.

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“I chose Land Use and Natural Resources at UC Davis Extension for its cutting-edge curriculum, the quality of its instructors and its reputation among professionals.”

Katie Kolitsos, Land Use and Environmental Planning Certificate Program graduate

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