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Master's Professional Reports Abstract

Urban Infill Policies and the Role of Zoning: Austin, Texas and Oakland, California.
Scott, Anjanette
REPORT 2002 S84 Public Affairs Library.

Local and state policies are being designed to resolve the effects of sprawl, a development pattern that leaves urban cities in decline, consumes the open space surrounding them, and leads to increased commuting between the two areas on congested roads. This report discusses urban infill, one type of land development in which existing developed areas accommodate growth to minimize these negative impacts. It further examines policies that encourage infill in relation to zoning, another local land-use policy that regulates development and thus influences development patterns.

Infill and the role of zoning are explored through two case studies, Austin, Texas and Oakland, California. These cities are in high-growth regions and are experiencing many of the previously-mentioned problems. Consequently, they have recently adopted policies to promote infill to minimize sprawl and its effects. This report discusses the goals of the policies, the obvious results of policies, and the impact of zoning regulations on implementation. Chapter 1 discusses the prevailing problems closely connected to land-use development, infill as a viable option for addressing problems, and the part that zoning plays. Chapter 2 tells the story of Austin, its Smart Growth Initiative and Neighborhood Planning policies with regard to its zoning structure. Chapter 3 focuses on Oakland, exclusively its new General Plan and ensuing zoning updates. Finally, Chapter 4 concludes with the overarching themes portrayed in the two cases studies.

The conclusions mostly illustrate the similarities about the issues involved in developing and implementing infill policies. Politics was a major factor in the outcome of the development entitlement process. This is primarily driven by the active participation of neighborhoods that are very concerned about density, traffic, parking, noise, preservation, and the overall central emphasis on compatibility. However, the contrast that was the most significant and has the greatest policy implications was the two different approaches to address neighborhood and citywide issues. Austin has a very fragmented system, consisting of many policies and many more zoning changes to implement them. Conversely, Oakland has comprehensive approach founded on the General Plan that sets goals for the entire city with respect to neighborhoods. To implement the General Plan, the city is currently making the necessary comprehensive zoning changes. Oaklandıs comprehensive strategy is probably the more viable method to fully take advantage of infill opportunities and ultimately resolve land-use problems.