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.
Current Urban Growth Boundary Campaigns
Two Landslide Wins for Urban Growth Boundaries
With two ballot measures in November 2017, North Bay residents in Novato and Windsor resoundingly said “yes” to renewing urban growth boundaries. Both measures passed with over 70% approval to renew the boundaries for another two decades.
More 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 several UGBs that were created or renewed in 2016-2017.
Cotati’s Measure Q renewed and strengthened the City of Cotati’s Urban Growth Boundary for another 30 years. Without action, this essential voter-enacted open space protection would have expired in 2018. Read More
Called the “Garlic Capital of the World,” Gilroy’s identity is deeply rooted in agriculture. Measure H in 2016 created an Urban Growth Boundary for the City of Gilroy, protecting thousands of acres of threatened natural and agricultural lands from sprawl development. The UGB will also promote a revitalized and easily serviced downtown, and ensure that the city grows in an effective, efficient manner. Read More
Sebastopol voters were among the first in the Bay Area to adopt a 20-year UGB. But it was set to expire in 2016. Greenbelt Alliance partnered with Sebastopol’s civic leaders and local organizers to pass a new voter-approved urban growth boundary measure that will promote smart growth, affordable housing, and prevent sprawl for another 25 years. Read more.
History of Urban Development | Bay Area