Infill Solutions for an Old District in the City of Auburn
Green Means Go funding will help streamline future development
March 27, 2023: The City of Auburn received a $180,000 grant from the Green Means Go program to help accelerate infill housing in the city’s historic Old Town and downtown area by incorporating form-based codes. It was one of many jurisdictions to receive awards from the $34.5 million in funding that the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) distributed to infill housing projects across the Sacramento region.
The focus is on an area of the city that hasn’t seen any growth for more than 30 years, and that’s a challenge, according to Jonathan Wright, community and economic development director for the City of Auburn. Wright describes the city as being in a tight spot development-wise: Positioned between the striking canyons of Auburn State Recreation Area and Placer County boundaries, “we’re like an island in the Pacific trying to do infill better,” he said.
Part of doing that infill better for Auburn means collecting an abundance of community feedback, both from residents and from visitors. The city contracted with local consultant Genevieve Marsh Design Group to collect robust input on how they envision spaces in the community. The feedback provided will inform the physical designs used in the form-based code (which is a means of regulating land development to achieve a specific urban form) and help make development easier.
A challenge Auburn grapples with is the historic status of the buildings in the district. To make updates, or to even complete repairs, projects must go through a lengthy review process. Wright says a form-based code will help streamline these slowdowns to make it easier for current residents and future developers.
Having more housing located next to shops and restaurants brings in more residents to shop and dine at those businesses, and that’s good news for the city’s economy. “People choose to live out here because of the quality of life,” said Wright, “and there is a direct economic nexus. Sometimes it’s a hard sell, especially trying to bring in new housing into the community. Residents like the way it is, but they don’t realize the economic impact.”
Infill challenges vary from city to county across the Sacramento region, and addressing these is crucial to wisely reusing and investing in the cores of our communities. Funding from Green Means Go has provided a piece to the great planning puzzles that public staff must put together. For Auburn, Green Means Go was the last portion of funding needed to complete the process and begin producing more housing for the city. Wright expects the design phase to be complete by next year, with adoption in the fall of 2024.