Roseville Makes Smart Choices to Reduce Sprawl

By 2050 the population of the Sacramento region, including southwest Placer County, is expected to double to almost 4 million people. If traditional low-density development continues, this growth is likely to reduce the quality of life as open space and agricultural land is lost, traffic increases and air quality declines.

In 2004, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) board of directors adopted the Preferred Blueprint Scenario, an alternative vision for regional growth in the six-county area that promotes compact, mixed-use development and more transit choices. The blueprint was the product of a three-year public involvement effort, and is intended to guide land use and transportation choices over the next 50 years.

In adopting the preferred scenario for future development, local jurisdictions in the region can accommodate the projected growth while preserving more than 300 square miles of open space and over 160 square miles of agricultural land. Furthermore, by providing a balanced land use plan with jobs near housing, traffic congestion and vehicle miles traveled will be reduced as well.

A Typical Suburban Community Adopts 21st Century Planning Principles and Faces Obstacles

The City of Roseville actively participated in the Blueprint Project and supports its principles. However, until recently, Roseville has been a quintessential suburban community. While nine successful specific plans have provided a mix of quality services and amenities, they have been primarily driven by single-family residential development.

Because of the success of Roseville’s traditional approach to development, the city needs to overcome some big obstacles to move toward the blueprint’s principles of achieving higher density in infill and new growth areas, ensuring adequate infrastructure to serve higher densities, and addressing development risk in reinvestment areas.

The city council directed staff to draft implementation strategies to move development toward the blueprint objectives. The result was the adoption in 2005 of Smart Choices for Roseville’s Future: Implementation Strategies to Achieve the Blueprint Project Objectives (or Smart Choices). This document outlines a menu of development options that support a variety of housing choices, reduce sprawl and provide transportation alternatives that limit reliance on single-occupant vehicle trips. These changes would in turn preserve open space and reduce associated environmental impacts.

Blueprint Objectives

Roseville was the first jurisdiction in the region to adopt implementation strategies. City staff worked closely with SACOG to ensure that they met the intent of the Blueprint Project. Smart Choices outlines specific implementation measures in the short-term (0–5 year time frame), mid-term (6–15 year time frame) and long-term (16–30 year time frame) for city projects to achieve the blueprint objectives for each of the following categories.

  • Transportation: Provide a variety of transportation choices;
  • Mixed Land Use: Provide a variety of services in proximity to residential areas to reduce reliance on automobile travel and give residents transit options;
  • Compact Development: Create environments that use space in an efficient manner to encourage more walking, biking and public transit use;
  • Housing Choices: Create a range of housing opportunities and choices;
  • Existing Assets (Infill): Use existing assets to strengthen and direct development toward existing development areas;
  • Natural Resources: Conserve open space and agricultural land;
  • Quality Design: Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place and use land efficiently;
  • Education: Educate the public and decision-makers through a variety of mechanisms (such as presentations, workshops, handouts, news, tours); and
  • Monitoring and Evaluation: Measure the effectiveness of strategies in meeting goals and objectives.

Though adopted only two years ago, the Smart Choices strategies are already having a huge impact on city development.

Despite Strong Opposition, City Moves Forward

Strong opposition from adjacent neighborhoods often emerges as higher density projects are proposed. For example, early in 2005, the city council considered the Stonepoint project, a mixed-use development including two 10-story office towers, 225 high-density housing units, 350 medium-density housing units and a two-acre park. Compared with standard development, Stonepoint offered a blueprint-friendly mix of residential and business space, generating walkable neighborhoods and reducing automobile traffic. In the face of substantial public opposition, the blueprint objectives and the city’s Smart Choices strategies supported the decision-makers by demonstrating how the project would reduce sprawl and provide jobs and housing close to each other. Despite significant neighborhood opposition, the city council unanimously approved the Stonepoint project.

Smart Choices also informed decision-makers as they considered the city’s Riverside Specific Plan, which will revitalize an infill area with amenities and design guidelines to encourage mixed-use development, invoke a community feel and create a more pedestrian-friendly environment. A traffic circle will improve traffic flow and create an entry into the downtown. Again, the blueprint objectives, paired with the Smart Choices implementation strategy, inspired and guided the council to revitalize this traditional “auto row” into a vibrant walkable mixed-use commercial area.

In 2005, Smart Choices received the SACOG Salutes Excellence Award for this successful local model. The city continues to receive requests for the document from cities throughout the state interested in replicating its effort. In fulfilling its own commitment to changing growth patterns, the city’s Smart Choices model will help to influence smart growth in the region and throughout California.

Contact: Kathy Pease, senior planner, Planning & Redevelopment Department, City of Roseville; phone: (916) 774-5276; e-mail:

This article appears in the March 2007 issue of Western City
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