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What is “infill development?”

On Behalf of | Sep 11, 2021 | Local Ordinances

If there’s one word that describes the Los Angeles area (and of course, there are many), it’s “sprawling.” Commercial and residential development has moved further away from downtown Los Angeles and the primary areas where people lived and worked throughout at least the first half of the 20th century.

Rather than continue to build further outward, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research has been working to support what’s known as “infill development” or sometimes “compact development.” That means building within existing developments, often in urban areas, on unused or underused land.

The advantages of infill development

Infill development has a number of advantages for the people and the environment of Los Angeles (and other cities where it’s used). For example, it reduces the need for people to drive their cars to and from work and other activities. They’re more likely to use public transportation or “active” transportation like bicycles. Both of these options reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It also means that less agricultural land, including sensitive habitats, has to be converted to commercial and residential development. It also lowers the costs of building and maintaining infrastructure.

Infill development also helps people create a neighborhood feel that’s often lacking – particularly in more urban areas. When people live, work and socialize in a more compact area, they’re more likely to develop a sense of community.

What qualifies as an “infill site” in California?

Under state law, the site needs to meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • Be in an area “previously developed for qualified urban uses” 
  • Be adjacent to land developed with qualified urban uses
  • Have at least 75% of the land surrounding it developed with qualified urban uses 

Under the California Environmental Quality Act, qualified urban uses include “any residential, commercial, public institutional, transit or transportation passenger facility, or retail use, or any combination of those uses.” The law now includes industrial use in that definition as well.

If you’re interested in infill development and making sure that your development meets the state and local requirements to qualify, then you’ll likely want guidance. This will ensure that you don’t unnecessarily expose yourself to legal liability.