Community Planning

Community Planning House
1 Mixed-use development and open space
2 Cluster development
3 Reuse a brownfield or previously occupied site
4 Design for easy pedestrian, bicycle, and transit access

(above) City Center Plaza is a model mixed–use development that contains affordable housing, commercial, educational and child care uses within walking distance of downtown Redwood City's shopping center, civic functions, and multiple public transit opportunities.

Will a project contribute to sprawl or build a more equitable and efficient pattern of land uses?

Will it fill in valuable open space or seek ways to tread lightly and even restore the land around it? Planning also sets the relationships of the project to its neighbors and its neighborhood. Good planning improves the environment and, often, local property values. Sustainable planning looks at the long term effects and seeks to ensure that improvements will serve future generations as well as the present.

Goal: Create a sustainable community

A sustainable community has a lot to do with diversity. A community must have a wide variety of options in building types, public spaces, routes and paths so that members can satisfy the variety of their needs and preferences locally. This means having a variety of uses in the same area, open spaces and built-up areas of various densities in reasonable proximity, and a real variety of options for how to get around. Sustainable communities also rebuild and restore empty or damaged spaces in their midst, rather than letting vacant or contaminated sites detract from larger community goals. Most older cities and towns in San Mateo have mixed-use downtowns, and while this good habit was lost in the middle of last century, it is making a resurgence in planning all across California and the rest of the country.

area one

Build mixed-use development and provide public amenities such as open space

What is this?

Mixed-use development means buildings that include more than one use — such as apartments or offices over ground floor retail space, or a hotel integrated with a shopping complex. It is also important to add to a public realm that supports the integrated living and pedestrian-friendliness of mixed-use areas, by providing open spaces, attractive street furnishings, or other benefits.

Why do it?

Mixed-use is a major characteristic of most vibrant neighborhoods. It allows for people to mix who do different things, and puts a variety of opportunities within walking distance of each other. Saving car trips and reducing traffic congestion makes building spaces more attractive to potential tenants; addition ally, much of the most valuable real estate in the country is in mixed-use areas. The added value of mixed-use projects can typically support public amenities, which in turn often add to the long-term value of real estate adjacent to those amenities.

How to do this?

Plan mixed-use projects in the context of other projects within walking distance and with the public realm in mind.

Who does this?

Building owners, planners, architects.


area one

Cluster development to minimize paving and utilities, and to preserve open space

What is this?

Typical subdivision plans have a single building in the center of open space on each lot. Clustered developments have larger open spaces and restricted building footprint areas. Easements or joint ownership arrangements such as homeowners associations, coop corporations, or cohousing are often used to manage shared open spaces.

Why do it?

When designing subdivisions or multi–building projects, placing buildings near each other will create a more varied site plan and can significantly reduce site development costs. Access roads can be shorter and shared, as well as water, sewer, power, and gas lines and other utilities.

How to do this?

Plan for shared open spaces and clustered developments. Portola Valley requires dedicated open space or conservation easements.

Who does this?

Building owners, planners, architects.


area one

Reuse a brownfield or previously occupied site

What is this?

Brownfields are former industrial sites that have not been redeveloped but are often available close to desirable areas. Other former building sites are vacant for other reasons and can be good spots to build.

Why do it?

Rehabilitating brownfields, or finding other previously occupied areas to build on, reduces the loss of open space and preserves habitat for local plant and animal communities. Filling in the gaps left by vacated properties creates denser, more vibrant areas of activity in our already built–up cities and towns and raises local property values.

How to do this?

Brownfield remediation is a complex process, sometimes requiring environmental clean–up, for which state and federal assistance may be available. Brownfield redevelopment is a long–term commitment to a site, from which long–term benefits can be expected.

Who does this?

Building owners, government agencies, environmental engineers and consultants, planners.


area one

Design for easy pedestrian, bicycle, and transit access

What is this?

People have many options for getting around. It is important for site selection and site designs to maintain and extend the viability of walking, bicycling, and transit use.

Why do it?

Moving away from single passenger automobile trips reduces traffic congestion, and can alleviate air pollution, concern over oil supplies, and climate change. A well planned site can assist the development of alternative transportation options and becomes more attractive to a wider range of potential users, tenants, and visitors.

How to do this?

Study and prioritize the availability of transit options — train stations, bus stops, bikeways, or walkable neighborhoods — when selecting sites for a proposed new project. Provide sidewalks, bike lanes, bike parking, trees or covered walkways, a bus shelter, or other amenities for pedestrians, bicyclists, or transit riders on your site.

Who does this?

Building owners, planners, architects.


Congress for the New Urbanism
EPA Brownfields Program
CalEPA Brownfields