San Joaquin Valley Infill Development Analysis

Background

The eight Regional Planning Agencies (RPAs) of the San Joaquin Valley (the valley) are in the process of implementing ambitious and achievable Sustainable Community Strategies (SCS) with reference to the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint Planning Process. The Valley Blueprint process, which took place in the mid-2000s with support from Caltrans, engaged residents in articulating a vision for the long-term future of their region. The final plan was adopted April 1, 2009. The SCS process has been initiated pursuant to the requirements of SB 375, legislation passed in 2008 as a part of the State’s efforts to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions. This study is designed to inform these current planning processes and related land use policy and planning initiatives, while building upon the previous efforts associated with the Blueprint.

In 2012, the Fresno Council of Governments (Fresno COG), on behalf of the eight valley RPAs, contracted with the Concord Group to determine the need and market demand for higher density residential housing types throughout the San Joaquin Valley, as part of the Blueprint Implementation efforts. The principle objective of the study was to determine the market demand for higher density residential housing types such as small lot attached and detached single family residential, town homes, medium and high rise residential or mixed use developments, TODs, infill, multi- family residential, etc.  With the needs and market demands for higher-development types documented within the 2012 study, identification of impediments to such products that can be placed within existing communities in the valley was brought to the forefront.  In 2014, Fresno COG, again working together with the eight valley RPAs, contracted with Economic & Planning Systems, Inc. to produce a report detailing these challenges.  The result of these efforts is the San Joaquin Valley Infill Development Analysis.

 

Project Specifications and Scope

A central component of the SCS plans being prepared around the State is promoting a shift in land use patterns toward infill development and a generally more compact urban form. It is widely acknowledged that achieving infill development in the San Joaquin Valley confers to a broad range of benefits. The Higher Density Residential Housing Market Study, completed in 2012 by the Concord Group, highlighted the need and potential for such development types within the valley.  In addition to the potential for reductions in GHG emissions, compact infill development may increase the economic vitality of urban centers; decrease consumption of energy, water, and other natural resources; reduce conversion of farmland and natural habitat areas; and create new opportunities for more efficient infrastructure investment and delivery of municipal services—all ample justification for new investment and effort to achieve infill development.

At the same time, achieving a more compact urban form in the San Joaquin Valley will be complex given historical development patterns, the interplay of market demand and supply factors, financial feasibility constraints, and existing land use policies and regulations. In this context, a shift toward higher-density development has raised some concerns regarding economic viability and the potential for unintended consequences, potentially including constrained economic growth and housing development. In addition, if it turns out that compact development is not realized as anticipated by SCS efforts, the projected GHG reductions may not materialize. Recognizing and managing infill development constraints will be essential to formulating policies that can help overcome challenges and achieve desired results.  Understanding of the benefits, needs and market demands for higher-density and infill development having been previously established, the San Joaquin Valley Infill Development Analysis seeks to address the development challenges associated with the placement of such products in the valley, utilizing the Fresno area market as an example.

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SJV Infill Development Analysis_Final Report_9-11-14.pdf1.36 MB