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County of Sacramento – Land Use & Community Design Program to Address Climate Change

Case Story

Climate Action Connection: Land Use & Community Design

Sacramento County plans to reduce vehicle miles traveled and thus reduce greenhouse gas emissions, by encouraging higher density residential infill along older, commercial corridors.

Community:Sacramento County

Population: 1.4 million


Sacramento County encourages greater infill development with a three-pronged approach that includes 14 corridor plans with updated designs and densities for older, under-utilized commercial corridors; a general plan update focused on infill; and staff assigned to facilitate infill in the county unincorporated area.

Program Highlights

  • Corridor plans for 14 older, commercial corridors increase residential capacity from 2,000 up to 20,000.
  • The general plan update incorporates strategies to encourage infill, including a revised housing element that rezones 205 acres for affordable and multi-family housing near public transit.
  • A fulltime infill coordinator, with responsibility reaching across multiple departments, helps develop infill policies and works with developers undertaking infill projects.

Lessons Learned

  • It’s important to review zoning codes and development policies to determine which must be amended to accommodate desired infill development.
  • In difficult fiscal times, funding may no longer be available before large-scale planning is complete.

Resources to Learn More

The Rest of the Story…

Sacramento County has undergone significant outward suburban expansion over the last two decades. With the most recent General Plan update, the county wanted to steer future development toward infill sites along older commercial corridors, while at the same time taking advantage of opportunities to mix uses and increase density around existing and planned transit stations.

The county identified 14 older commercial corridors, some spanning city and county boundaries, that were ripe for compact development and revitalization. The 14 coordinated corridor plans are the underpinning of Sacramento County’s contribution to higher development intensities as part of the award-winning and nationally recognized Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) Blueprint, a regional plan to consolidate development and reduce auto dependency and vehicle miles traveled.

Higher Densities, Closer In

The new focus on infill development will be achieved along the 14 older commercial corridors. Each will have its own specific plan, known as a corridor plan, which includes specifications for financial assistance, infrastructure, land uses, and connections with public transit. They are intended to maximize opportunities for living and working near transit stations.

To date, four of the 14 corridor plans have been completed, including plans for development around four light rail stations. The corridor plans are intended to make it easier for developers to build to the specified densities without requiring special approval, general plan amendments or conditional use permits. The corridor plans reflect an underlying general plan policy that specifies development intensity, depending on whether a site is one-eighth, one-quarter or one-half mile from a bus or light rail station. The county recently approved plans along these corridors for mixed-use developments with densities as high as 80 units to the acre. The projects will be implemented when the economy turns around.

The county also re-zoned 205 acres of land with good proximity to public transit for affordable and multi-family housing. This was done to increase total future housing capacity from 2,000 units, under the older zoning designation, to as many as 20,000 units under the new, mixed-use designations.

Staff Support Important

Sacramento County recognized that creating the corridor plans, and their accompanying specifications, would not be enough to facilitate future infill development. It has hired a full-time infill coordinator to act as the primary ombudsman for infill in the unincorporated area of the county. The infill coordinator is responsible for working across departments to facilitate changes to the existing zoning code and development policies, as well as assisting developers wishing to build on a designated infill site.

Read the Sacramento County climate leadership case story on Commercial Recycling.

Compiled May 2009

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


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