Redevelopment and Revitalization Along Urban Arterials: Case Study of San Pablo Avenue, California, from the Developers' Perspective

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - capacity, operations - traffic, policy - fares, policy - parking, place - urban, mode - mass transit


Zoning, Urban renewal, Urban areas, Transit, Traffic speed, Through highways, Thoroughfares, Thorofares, Streetscape, San Francisco Bay Area, Redevelopment, Real estate development, Public transit, Parking capacity, Parking, Mixed use development, Mass transit, Main roads, Local transit, Land use, Joint occupancy of buildings, Incentives, Impact fees, Housing, Developers, Case studies, Boulevards, Arterial streets, Arterial highways, Accessibility


Urban arterials are both promising and problematic locations for infill development and urban revitalization. San Pablo Avenue, a multilane urban arterial traversing nine cities and two counties along the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay in California, is considered here. The road developed over a long period: first as a streetcar line, then as an intercity automobile route, and most recently as a subregional traffic and transit route. Land uses from each of these transportation eras are still present along the avenue and range from neighborhood retail to automobile-oriented strip development. Recent transit service improvements and a strong housing market are leading to new developer interest in San Pablo Avenue. Findings are reported from interviews with 11 developers who recently built infill housing and mixed-use projects on or near the arterial. Developers see San Pablo Avenue’s accessibility as a major asset but view transit services as a bonus instead of a necessity; transit availability allows developers to argue for reduced transportation impact fees and reduced parking requirements. Other aspects of the arterial’s design, including high speeds and unattractive streetscapes, are problematic, as are zoning ordinances that require high parking ratios, large setbacks, and lengthy, discretionary approval processes. Small land parcels, incompatible adjacent uses, and high development costs are also drawbacks but, with creative development, are manageable. Local governments could provide incentives for private development along arterials such as San Pablo Avenue by improving street designs, reducing parking requirements, and updating zoning codes and approval processes.