Urban Growth Boundaries

One of the most important policy tools that city planners can use to promote smart growth and protect farms, ranches, and natural lands outside of the urban footprint is the urban growth boundary.

What Are Urban Growth Boundaries?

An urban growth boundary (UGB) separates urban areas from the surrounding natural and agricultural lands, or greenbelts. It puts a limit on how far out the city can expand. UGBs are often set for a specified period of time, such as 20 years. Different cities may call these barriers by different names, such as “urban limit lines” or simply “growth boundaries,” but they serve the same purpose of stopping sprawl development and encouraging sustainable growth practices.

Greenbelt Alliance led the fight to create the Bay Area’s first urban growth boundaries in 1996 and has been their champion ever since.

We work with residents around the Bay Area to help them create, renew, and strengthen urban growth boundaries for their cities and towns. Thirty-eight cities across the Bay Area have voter-approved urban growth boundaries.

Help Us Renew The Novato Urban Growth Boundary

Protect Open Space and Halt Sprawl in Novato—Vote Yes on Measure D!

Take Action: Vote to Renew Novato’s UGB in November 2017

Given the strong voter support for the Novato UGB and continued development pressure in Marin County and the North Bay, Greenbelt Alliance has convinced the current Novato City Council to review its position and renew the UGB with a vote of the people in November 2017.

Renewing via a vote of the people:

  1. Results in a UGB supported by a majority of the residents of the City.
  2. Takes the City Council out of the position of adopting the measure who would later be subject to receiving pressure to amend the policy.


Recent Urban Growth Boundary Wins

Here is a detailed article from the Sonoma Valley Sun chronicling the process of creating the City of Sonoma’s first urban growth boundary and the path forward for renewing these important policies. You can also read more from us about why the Bay Area needs urban growth boundaries. Below are three UGBs that were created or renewed in 2016.


History of Urban Development | Bay Area

History of Urban Development in the San Francisco Bay Area


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