Mapping Infill Opportunity Areas In California

Yesterday Berkeley Law and Conservation Biology Institute released a report mapping suitable lands for solar PV development in California.  On Twitter, I received a question from Tim McCormick asking if we could do the same mapping for infill development opportunities.

The answer is: yes.  As I blogged about yesterday, the solar PV mapping effort in the San Joaquin Valley involved a broad set of stakeholders to figure out where even traditional opponents of solar PV development might be comfortable seeing that development happen.  And after all was said and done, they found a significant amount of land that they would okay: 470,000 acres.

There’s no reason the same couldn’t happen for urban infill, if we gathered the usual NIMBY suspects and others to see where they might be okay with development.  California is already experimenting with this mapping approach via the state’s “geoportal,” and the Data Basin software we used for the Valley mapping exercise could also be used in this context.

Of course, the danger with mapping infill is that opponents may only be comfortable if the development is truly far away, as a recent Bay Area Council poll of San Francisco residents seemed to indicate [PDF].

But on the positive side, who knows?  Maybe if we do some advance planning for prime infill sites, we can actually find a lot of consensus land.  That advance work could potentially eliminate a lot of the litigation and policy delays with infill and help decision-makers steer more resources and permitting incentives to these areas.

Given the current stalemate on infill housing in California, it couldn’t hurt to try.


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