Local Coastal Programs (LCPs) are basic planning tools used by local governments to guide development in the coastal zone, in partnership with the Coastal Commission. LCPs contain the ground rules for future development and protection of coastal resources in the 76 coastal cities and counties. The LCPs specify appropriate location, type, and scale of new or changed uses of land and water. Each LCP includes a land use plan and measures to implement the plan (such as zoning ordinances). Prepared by local government, these programs govern decisions that determine the short- and long-term conservation and use of coastal resources. While each LCP reflects unique characteristics of individual local coastal communities, regional and statewide interests and concerns must also be addressed in conformity with Coastal Act goals and policies. Following adoption by a city council or county board of supervisors, an LCP is submitted to the Coastal Commission for review for consistency with Coastal Act requirements.

Many of the 76 coastal counties and cities have elected to divide their coastal zone jurisdictions into separate geographic segments, resulting in some 126 separate LCP segments. As of 2016, approximately 73% of the LCP segments have been effectively certified, representing about 87% of the geographic area of the coastal zone, and local governments are issuing coastal permits in these areas. To determine the status of the LCP in any given geographic area, contact the appropriate district office of the Coastal Commission.

After an LCP has been finally approved, the Commission’s coastal permitting authority over most new development is transferred to the local government, which applies the requirements of the LCP in reviewing proposed new developments. The Commission retains permanent coastal permit jurisdiction over development proposed on tidelands, submerged lands, and public trust lands, and the Commission also acts on appeals from certain local government coastal permit decisions. The Commission reviews and approves any amendments to previously certified Local Coastal Programs.