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GreenStep City Best Practices Land Use

Mixed Uses
no. 8

Develop efficient and healthy land patterns that generate community wealth.
  • According to a 2006 Brookings Institute study a typical family in the central Twin Cities mixed-use neighborhoods of Seward and Longfellow spent $446/month on transportation, but that cost increases in more pure residential neighborhoods to $715 in Fridley just 6 miles north, and to $941 in Farmington about 25 miles south. In energy/GHG terms, studies find that the "most green" home (with residents driving an efficient Prius) in a low-density residential-only development uses up to 2.4 times more energy than the "least green" home in a walkable, mixed use neighborhood. See also Land Use and Driving: The Role Compact Development Can Play in Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Urban Land Institute: 2010).
  • The National Association of Realtor's 2011 Community Preference Survey reveals that most Americans would like to live in walkable communities where shops, restaurants, and local business are within an easy walk from their homes, as long as those communities can provide detached single-family homes. The survey also shows that most Americans would choose a smaller home and smaller lot if it would keep their commute time to 20 minutes or less.
  • See the business opportunities of smart growth for developers (U.S. EPA studies), Smart Growth for Conservatives (Bacon's Rebellion: 2012), and the quantification of a fiscal impact quotient that shows per-acre tax revenues substantially higher in mixed-use walkable places than in drivable suburbs.
  • The Livability Economy (AARP: 2015) report/design guide and infographic shows how livability initiatives contribute to improved economic performance and a more vibrant, desirable and competitive environment for housing and commercial investment.
  • Measuring the Health Effects of Sprawl (Smart Growth America: 2003) found that people living in sprawling developments tend to weigh more and have higher blood pressure, partly due to sorting themselves and partly due to lack of routine exercise opportunities. Active living by design, or design for health, focuses on making changes in the physical design of a city that facilitate people incorporating physical activity into their daily routines.
  • Building Better Budgets: A National Examination of the Fiscal Benefits of Smart Growth Development (Smart Growth America: 2013) finds these benefits for cities: (1) development costs one-third less for upfront infrastructure, (2) an average 10% drop for ongoing delivery of services, (3) 10 times more tax revenue per acre than conventional suburban development.
Optional for category A, B and C cities
Category B and C cities that choose to implement this best practice are recognized upon completion of at least one action.

Category A cities that choose to implement this best practice are recognized upon completion of at least two actions.
Meeting sustainable urbanism's goal of complete, compact and connected development depends on mixing land uses, which lowers infrastructure costs, increases property taxes/acre, increases walkability and decreases traffic fatalities, and minimizes environmental impacts and increases a community's health and quality of life. A city can use its land use authority and other tools to help create a vibrant community that attracts jobs, fosters economic development, and that is an appealing place in which people can live, work, and recreate without having to drive everywhere for every activity of daily living. Growth can happen in a manner where roads, transit, schools, ecologic services, and access to retail, commercial, jobs, and industrial facilities are planned for and efficiently provided through connection and coordination with existing local and regional infrastructure and services.

In cities across the nation, neighborhoods and districts of compact development with a mix of land uses, transportation options and pedestrian-friendly design have reduced driving from 20% to 40% compared to single-use zoning districts. And such areas have resulted in, to use the Urban Land Institute's phrase, "cities of convenience, conviviality, and charm."

greenstep advisor
Carissa Schively Slotterback, Urban and Regional Planning Program of the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota: 612/625-0640, cschively@umn.edu, http://www.hhh.umn.edu/people/cschively/
connection to state Policy

As of July 1, 2009 the new Minnesota Education Omnibus Law includes provisions to eliminate minimum acreage requirements for schools, and to remove the bias against renovating, rather than rebuilding, old, typically more compact schools within walking and biking distance of residential neighborhoods.