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History of City Planning: Finding Local Information

This is a bibliographic guide to research resources for the history of city planning and urbanism at the University of California, Berkeley libraries and on the Web, with an emphasis on American and California city planning.

Finding Public Records

Public records are important resources in researching the history of specific places. Local government agencies often maintain useful records, for example, building and water or utility permits and city block books. Note that older records may be held in preservation or public library special collections. Federal agencies also have materials related to historic buildings and places. Refer to the section Archives & Special Collections for a list of local collections and archival sources.

Finding Government Publications

Local and federal government publications can be great primary sources on the history of city planning in specific places. Use them to find records of public policy and community perspectives on diverse land use and community development issues. Many government documents are listed in The Library's catalogs; start with the Oskicat catalog for complete coverage of the UC Berkeley campus libraries.


Finding General Plans

General plans, comprehensive plans, master plans—often the only record of a community's formal physical and public policy intentions—by any name local plans are excellent primary sources for history of planning research. Technically a category of government publications, general plans are so valuable for history of 20th century city planning research that they merit their own section.

  • Finding general plans (UC Berkeley, Library) A guide to finding general plans; includes strategies and sources. A good starting place for understanding and locating general plans.

  • The Institute of Governmental Studies Library (IGSL) maintains the most comprehensive collection of California city and county planning documents on the UC Berkeley campus. Ranging from the 1940s to the present, the collection is fully cataloged and does not circulate. Since 1983 catalog records have appeared in the Melvyl catalog; earlier catalog records are in the Library's card and book catalogs.

The California Local Planning Documents Database is an index of California general plans owned by IGSL. The database may be accessed at IGSL or online. Current planning documents are the primary focus of the database. Includes addresses of planning agencies.

Finding maps

The Earth Sciences and Map Library collection and the Bancroft Library have outstanding collections of maps, especially for California and the Bay Area.

Finding images

Note that archives are often an excellent source of images. See the guide Image Sources for the Built Environment or  Image and Sound databases for more resources.