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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Estimating the Housing Infill Capacity of the Bay Area


The nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, according to the California Department of Finance, will add nearly 1.5 million new residents between now and 2020. Depending on the density of new development, the region will need between 90,000 and 150,000 acres of developable land to accommodate this level of growth. If current trends continue, most new development will occur on previously undeveloped greenfield sites at the urban fringe. This will put substantial pressure on the region's natural environment and open space lands -- particularly in Alameda, Contra Costa, and Santa Clara counties. One way to preserve open space and sensitive environmental lands is to accommodate more growth as infill.

The term "infill," which has traditionally meant the development of vacant, cleared, or abandoned parcels, has more recently been expanded to include land reuse and recycling -- that is, the redevelopment of developed parcels that are physically or economically underutilized.

This report considers the potential for and economic viability of infill and refill development throughout the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. Its purpose is three-fold: (1) to ascertain the physical and economic infill capacity of the Bay Area, using a realistic range of densities and economic conditions; (2) to identify the locations and pattern of infill opportunities within the Bay Area, keeping in mind the economic, physical, governmental and social structure of the Bay Area; and (3) to establish and test a procedure for identifying and analyzing infill development which can be reliably used elsewhere in the state and country.

The results of this analysis lead to several conclusions regarding the potential for increased residential infill activity in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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