The number of new acres of urban development in the Bay Area has decreased during each biannual period since 2002, marking a decade-plus-long trend of declining greenfield development. In the most recent period – from 2012 to 2014 – greenfield development occurred at one-fifth the rate it did during the 1990s. The slowing rate of urban expansion is no doubt influenced by the lingering effects of the Great Recession, but it also may reflect changing preferences among Bay Area homebuyers and the efficacy of cities’ and counties’ growth management strategies.
Development across the Bay Area increased the size of the region’s developed footprint to approximately 790,000 acres in 2014, making it 14 percent larger than the footprint of 1990. Since 1990, greenfield development was most rapid between 1990 and 2000, when approximately 55,000 acres were added to the region’s developed area. Nevertheless, overall densification increased in the 1990s because while the addition of the newly developed acreage boosted the size of the developed Bay Area by 8 percent, population grew by 12 percent. Since 2000, densification of developed land has been even more intense as fewer acres of greenfield developed while population continued to grow at a steady pace.