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 are urban growth boundaries.

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 limited period of time, such as 20 years, and can either be changed with a vote of the people or simply by a local governing body decision. The policies vary.

Different cities may call them 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.

Read more from us about why the Bay Area needs growth boundaries and check out our current campaigns and successes below.

History of Urban Development in the San Francisco Bay Area
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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 UGB’s for their cities and towns. Thirty-eight cities across the Bay Area have voter-approved urban growth boundaries.

Current Urban Growth Boundary Campaigns

Wins for Urban Growth Boundaries

Many Bay Area urban growth boundaries were created in the 1990’s to 2000’s and last approximately 20 years. That means today, they are up for renewal and can be modified (for better or worse), or can be removed, causing irreparable damage. Greenbelt Alliance is the Bay Area’s champion for UGBs because when done right, they promote conservation and climate-smart growth for generations to come. But it takes a lot of work to track, manage, and update boundaries all around the region! For example, here is a detailed article from the Sonoma Valley Sun chronicling the process of creating the City of Sonoma’s first UGB and the path forward for renewing these important policies.

Here’s a list of UGBs we’ve defended and/or improved in the past few years through our advocacy.

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