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What Are Urban Growth Boundaries and Why Do We Need Them?

Our goal at Greenbelt Alliance is to conserve the Bay Area’s natural and agricultural landscapes while promoting smart urban development that creates healthier, thriving communities. One of the most important policy tools that city planners can use to achieve this goal is the urban growth boundary.

What Is An Urban Growth Boundary?

An urban growth boundary (UGB) separates urban areas from the surrounding natural and agricultural lands, or greenbelts. It puts a limit on how far out the city can expand. UGBs are often set for a specified period of time, such as 20 years. Different cities may call these barriers by different names, such as “urban limit lines” or simply “growth boundaries,” but they serve the same purpose of stopping sprawl development and encouraging sustainable growth practices. Greenbelt Alliance led the fight to create the Bay Area’s first urban growth boundaries in 1996 and has been their champion ever since.

Why Do We Need Them?

Urban growth boundaries accomplish two goals:

  1. Safeguarding greenbelts from sprawl development.

  2. Encouraging smart growth which creates more mixed-use, walkable, affordable, and thriving neighborhoods within urban limits.

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