Monday, June 22, 2009

Sacramento Infill Strategy

Back in 2002, the City Council adopted an Infill Strategy with the purpose to removing barriers, promote more quality infill development, and to work closer with the community, developers, and public agencies in Sacramento.

In a recent overview report filed by the cities Infill Coordinator, between the years of 2005 and 2008, infill development in Sacramento had become a much larger share of total developments in the city but it still lags behind greenfield development. The increase in infill development in the City does not appear to stem from dramatic increases in demand or the number of infill developers, but rather an increasingly constrained supply of greenfield land. This has boosted the percentage of infill from 19% in the 2001-2004 period to 43% in 2005-2008 time period.

With growing numbers of local infill developers, increasing demand and a limited land supply, the percentage of infill development is expected to continue to grow. However, infill developers face a number of significant barriers including obsolete infrastructure, high construction costs and land prices, design issues, communityresistance, and a complicated regulatory environment.

The City has made a lot of changes to improve the regulatory environment for infill developers. Changes include the new streamlined MATRIX review process; clearer design guidelines; zoning changes to allow higher density and promote flexibility; fee deferrals and waivers for infill; grant funding for amenities in infill areas; and financial assistance to projects. In addition, the City has begun proactive efforts, such as the Shovel-Ready Sites Program, to invest in infill areas in order to leverage additional private sector investment.

Efforts to promote infill development in the City and the region have increased due to the benefits of this type of development. By placing jobs, housing and services near existing businesses and residents rather than at the City’s edge, the City can help reduce vehicle trips, improve air quality and reduce the long-term cost of having to build and maintain new roads, pipes, and facilities.

Unlike the residential market where a constrained land supply drove an increase in infill activity over the last four years, industrial, office, and retail development was influenced by different factors. Such factors include proximity to consumers, market demand, and ease of access. While non-residential development increased almost 70% in infill areas compared to only 28% in greenfield areas, a breakdown by type reveals a more complex picture.

Between 2005 and 2008, the level of industrial and especially retail development was higher in greenfield areas compared to infill areas. In infill areas, only office development was higher, but that was a result of significant high-rise office projects in Downtown such as the U.S. Bank Tower rather than a widespread increase in infill areas.

Since the 2030 General Plan proposes that two-thirds of all future growth will be infill, the City will be looking at new ways to promote infill development to meet future demand. The risk that the City faces is that if it is not able to increase the supply of infill development, people and jobs may locate in greenfield areas or elsewhere in the region. If more people and employers locate away from urbanized infill areas, our region will see less open space, increased congestion and worsening air quality.

All info above was provided by the City of Sacramento Summer 2009 Infill Report


wburg said...

Interesting that the focus is on how to increase the supply of infill development, rather than ways to decrease the supply of greenfield development--such as ways to reinforce, strengthen or limit the urban growth boundary.

I also note that many of the "target infill areas" are already comparatively dense neighborhoods--few people are talking about putting dense infill projects into, say, the Pocket or Land Park.

Zwahlen Images said...

Yes, good point wburg. I like to hear the city council talk about a urban growth boundary... but I'd also like to hear about denser neighborhoods in Greenfield development areas too.

wburg said...

The city council wouldn't be talking about an urban growth boundary--such a boundary would be the jurisdiction of the county, as land within city limits is by definition within an area of urban growth. A strong urban growth boundary would limit the ability of cities to expand their boundaries into greenfield areas. This would push up the value of infill sites (no supply of greenfield makes brownfield/infill the only game in town) and promote more dense infill--ideally not just in "target" areas.