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City of Livermore – Land Use & Community Design Program to Address Climate Change

Case Story

Climate Action Connection: Land Use & Community Design

Updating city codes to better accommodate smart growth principles reduces overall vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions.

Community:Livermore (Alameda County)

Population: 85,000


A comprehensive update of the Livermore zoning code will better incorporate “smart code” practices, such as enhanced pedestrian and bicycle mobility, transit-oriented development, mixed-use and infill.

Program Highlights

  • Update planning and zoning codes to better accommodate infill and smart growth.
  • Code revisions focus on form and scale, rather than use, where appropriate, allowing different approaches in different areas within the community.
  • Newly adopted climate change element of the general plan builds on the code updates.

Lessons Learned

  • Take stock of measures already enacted in your city that helps reduce greenhouse gases; these are an excellent base from which to work when developing a climate action plan.

Resources to Learn More

The Rest of the Story…

Livermore adopted the South Livermore Specific Plan in 1997, followed by ballot approval of an urban growth boundary on its southern edge one year later. In 2002, local residents approved an urban growth boundary for the northern portion of the city. With the adoption of these urban boundaries that encircle the entire city, Livermore now focuses future growth inward to several smaller infill sites, as well as to the downtown area, for which a Downtown Specific Plan has been adopted.

In 2007, Livermore received a $300,000 grant from Caltrans to update its planning and zoning code to better accommodate infill and smart growth principles. In 2008, a consultant was hired to conduct public workshops and prepare the code revisions. The city directed the consultant to incorporate a wide variety of smart growth principles, including, encouraging infill and mixed-use, maximizing use of existing infrastructure; and promoting an interconnected street network that enhances pedestrian and bicycle mobility. It also incorporates a form-based code regulatory framework. Form-based codes emphasize the relationship between the physical form of the building and the scale and types of streets and blocks.

Climate Change Element Adopted

Livermore’s interest in these code revisions is an outgrowth of the climate change element of the city’s general plan, adopted in March 2009. To prepare this element, city planners compiled a list of existing programs that reduce carbon emissions, such as energy efficiency, recycling, and creating more bike paths. They also proposed new policies to further reduce locally generated greenhouse gas emissions. The city has conducted a greenhouse gas inventory and is preparing a climate action plan that will further identify actions to reduce carbon emissions over time.

The city’s greenhouse gas inventory determined that 63 percent of Livermore’s carbon emissions come from automobiles. Hence, in addition to the planning and zoning code revisions, the city is in the process of updating its bicycle master plan. Livermore already plans to double its r bike paths from 46 miles to nearly 90 miles and walking trails from 22 miles to 108 miles. In addition, it is working with the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) to plan a line extension to the city. The city’s general plan has already identified an area for transit-oriented development around a future BART station.

Compiled May 2009

This case story was prepared in partnership with the California Air Resources Board.

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