Practical Guidebook Encourages Good Infill Development

October 1, 2008

Elizabeth Stampe, Communications Dir.,, (415) 543-6771 x307
Jennifer Gennari, Communications Associate,, (415) 543-6771 x318

Practical Guidebook Encourages Good Infill Development

Greenbelt Alliance releases Smart Infill;
Climate change and population growth call for changing the way cities and towns grow

SAN FRANCISCO – Global warming, skyrocketing fuel costs, and an unstable housing market are making it imperative to find better ways to build. Greenbelt Alliance’s new Smart Infill guidebook provides the essential tools to guide growth away from the urban edge into central, walkable communities. Focused on the San Francisco Bay Area, the guidebook offers a model for leaders in other large metropolitan regions as well.

“Infill offers a greener way to grow,” said Jeremy Madsen, Executive Director of Greenbelt Alliance. “For too long, sprawl development has forced us to drive everywhere. That model won’t work anymore. We need homes and jobs that are close to services and public transit.”

“With infill, we can invest in our communities and reduce greenhouse gases at the same time.”

The time is ripe. Even the current economic downturn offers an opportunity, providing time for city leaders to plan ahead and get ready for the next market upswing—and for demographic shifts that will keep in-town living in high demand.

Local leaders welcomed the new tool.

San Jose’s Mayor Chuck Reed said, “Greenbelt Alliance’s new guidebook will help cities throughout the Bay Area and beyond see how to make ‘smart infill’ a reality in their communities.” San Jose, the region’s largest city, is one of 12 cities featured in the guidebook, which offers strategies from big cities and small towns alike.

Climate change is turning up the heat on cities, too. Three forces—California’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), recent legislation tying regional growth planning to climate change (SB 375), and the state Attorney General’s focus on reducing climate impacts of land use—are all putting more pressure on local governments to reduce greenhouse gases. Infill development that is walkable and close to public transit will help meet those goals.

Infill also makes sense for local business. The report quotes the Bay Area Council’s Housing Director Matt Regan, who says, “Infill development is a tool to make our region and country more competitive, economically. It focuses investment and supports local entrepreneurs.”

The guidebook is dotted with quotes from a broad range of leaders: the state Attorney General, local mayors, city councilmembers, planning commissioners, planners, developers, health professionals, transportation planners, social justice advocates, and more. This array of perspectives gets across a clear message: It’s time to use these tools to meet the demand.

Smart Infill‘s thorough, accessible approach lays out the steps involved in new development: creating plans, incorporating good design, providing affordable homes, meeting community needs, and keeping the process moving. Each step includes examples from Bay Area cities.

In addition to San Jose, the guidebook’s case studies feature San Francisco, San Mateo, Redwood City, Morgan Hill, Walnut Creek, Oakland, Berkeley, Emeryville, San Rafael, Petaluma, and Windsor. Smart Infill also makes recommendations for regional and state actions to encourage infill.

“Creating walkable urban development is the biggest challenge of our time,” said Christopher Leinberger, a Brookings Institution fellow and author of The Option of Urbanism. ” Smart Infill is an impressive resource; every metro area in the country should have—and use—a guide like this.”


For 50 years, Greenbelt Alliance has been the San Francisco Bay Area’s advocate for open spaces and vibrant places, with offices in San Francisco, San Jose, Walnut Creek, San Rafael, and Santa Rosa.

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