Research Project: Analyzing the Economic Benefits and Costs of Smart Growth Strategies 2012-2014

dan chatmanIURD Faculty Affiliate and Assistant Professor of City and Regional Planning Daniel G. Chatman


This project is a study of how smart growth strategies likely to be adopted under SB 375 will influence economic costs and benefits among different groups in California, with a focus on municipalities and households. Smart growth strategies aim to reduce sprawl and counter the effects of population growth on global climate change. They include imposing urban growth boundaries, reforming zoning codes to allow denser development, reducing off-street parking requirements, re-zoning underused industrial land for residential uses, deregulating in-law units, subsidizing dense housing near transit stops, and improving public transit.san diego smart growth project

In California regional planning, “smart growth” also refers to long-range plans that are intended to modify how growth would happen under the “status quo.” The sustainable community strategy followed by the San Diego Association of Governments, for example, aims for both a higher share of multi-family housing, and a higher share of new housing near transit and infill areas, to achieve greater density, consume less land, and reduce vehicle miles traveled.

Implementation of these strategies or plans will depend on numerous factors. Incentives have been introduced to influence these decisions, and more are planned, but their effectiveness is unproven. This project addresses one major set of issues: the economic costs and benefits of smart growth strategies, both from a global perspective and from the perspectives of local agencies and other interest groups. Four to six cases of smart growth strategies implemented in California will be used to demonstrate different economic benefit-cost scenarios.

The final document will describe where smart growth strategies are most likely to have benefits, and the obstacles to adopting smart growth strategies there. Crucially, the analysis may also yield examples of smart growth policies that will not have net economic benefits in all places. (Photo courtesy City of San Diego)

(Funded by the California Air Resources Board, with Randall Crane of UCLA, Karen Chapple of UC Berkeley, and J.R. DeShazo of UCLA

ANALYZING THE ECONOMIC BENEFITS AND COSTS OF SMART GROWTH STRATEGIES, 2012-2014 (Air Resources Board Project Summary)