Speak now, or hold your peace for 20 years.

Santa Barbara’s effort to update its General Plan, which shapes development for upcoming decades, will go to the public once again during an open house Thursday, the start of a 60-day public comment period. Draft documents — including the environmental impact report, land-use element, housing element and associated maps — and planning department staff will be available from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Public Library’s Faulkner Gallery.

While Plan Santa Barbara has seven components, only the housing element is required by law to be updated, and the rest are generally reviewed every 20 years. The land-use element and EIR must be done concurrently in order to adopt it, principal planner John Ledbetter said.

Updating the housing element was due to be completed last August, but including the land use and growth management element caused the process to take a bit longer, he said.

The update process — which started in 2005, with a year off in 2006 for an Upper State Street planning project — still requires many people to sign off on it.

The Planning Commission and City Council, with different members than those who commented the last time around, have a “tremendous amount of discretion” in the policies, Ledbetter said.

Growth management is an essential part of the land use element and EIR, which outlines four growth alternatives. Each scenario has associated impacts, and there’s quite a bit of leeway the council and Planning Commission can take in deciding which option to choose.

From here, the public is encouraged to comment via phone, e-mail, public hearings, city offices or however else they feel comfortable. The city wants feedback on the policy documents in addition to the EIR, as it will have to make a final recommendation that everyone can get behind.

After public hearings, reviews by the City Council and the Planning Commission will lead to final drafts, which are set to be voted on in fall. To be adopted, the drafts need five votes from the council.

Hours of staff time during the past four years or so have gone into in-house development of policy and maps, and outside consultants have been hired to work on public outreach and the EIR.

Public hearings will be held in the Council Chambers, at 735 Anacapa St., in April and early May.

The EIR concerns citywide and regional impacts for environmental topics and identifies measure to reduce significant effects.

Policy categories for the General Plan include land use and growth management; economy and fiscal health; environmental resources; historic resources and community design; housing; circulation; and public services and safety.

The plan has been significantly amended, but never fully updated since 1964.

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Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at gmagnoli@noozhawk.com.