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Zoe Siegel

Renewal of Petaluma’s Urban Growth Boundary

Update: The Petaluma City Council is moving forward on renewing the city’s Urban Growth Boundary for another 25 years with a ballot measure planned for the November 2024 General Election. 

Petaluma has been a land use leader for years with one of the first Urban Growth Boundaries (UGB). With their current UGB expiring in January, 2025, the City Council is moving forward on renewing it for another 25 years with a ballot measure planned for the November 2024 General Election.

On January 22, 2024, the Petaluma City Council held a work session where they voiced their support and gave direction Monday for a ballot measure to maintain the city’s existing urban growth boundary, which will expire on Dec. 31, 2025.

The Council and staff are supportive of the UGB, however a slight change to the boundary is possible in the future in order to build transit oriented development around the city’s new Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) station. This change would require a six-sevenths City Council vote of approval and would happen after the ballot measure.

Annexing the land near the new SMART station will be an important way to create transit oriented housing close to existing jobs, housing and community facilities.

Greenbelt Alliance met with city staff prior to the meeting to advocate for a swift renewal of the UGB. For the November 2024 ballot measure, the city staff is proposing a November 2024 ballot measure which would extend the boundary’s expiration date to 2050. They are additionally recommending to modify the General Plan to allow the expansion of approximately a half-mile radius from a transit station to support transit oriented development. The current General Plan policy limits annexation to a 1,500 foot radius for transit oriented development,

At the meeting, the councilmembers reiterated their commitment to reduce sprawl and discussed removing three other expansion areas from the plan. City staff plan to return to council in late spring or early summer with a more detailed environmental analysis on this.

Why Is This Important?

By creating a boundary around the city that contains development, the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) protects the city from sprawling onto farmland and greenbelts. It supports Cool Petaluma by preventing climate emissions from climbing due to more driving. It helps housing equity by ensuring that affordable housing is built inside the city, and not forced to the edge of town away from shops, schools and services.

Petaluma has been a land use leader for decades and was the first city in Sonoma County to put boundaries on growth in its General Plan policies in the 1970s and 1980s. As the UGB will expire in 2025 after 27 years, it is ripe for renewal with a vote of the people. So now is a good time for the Petaluma City Council to begin the public process to place a UGB renewal measure before the voters on the November 2024 ballot to extend the life of the existing Urban Growth Boundary (UGB).

The city will need to allocate staff time and funding and schedule appropriate public hearings to ensure that the UGB is renewed on time with a vote of the people. If no changes to the UGB are planned, then the city may simply update the text as needed to extend it for another 30 years; or make it permanent. It can be changed at any time with a vote of the people.

If the city wants to make changes to the UGB, it must conduct an environmental review. If the General Plan EIR is not adopted in time, then the city will need to conduct a separate environmental review to legally make any changes to the current boundary or policies.

What’s Next?

The final UGB renewal ballot measure will be developed by planning staff, and then reviewed through the public process by the Planning Commission and City Council in coming months to meet the August 2024 deadline for the November ballot.

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