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New EBHO Report: Public Benefit Zoning

Click for the executive summary or full report.

How can we ensure that development brings shared prosperity? How do we make the case to cities that community benefits should go hand-in-hand with investment?  And how do we ensure community needs are met while also creating a predictable and feasible environment for development? Find answers in EBHO’s new white paper, "Theory, Economics and Practice of Public Benefits Zoning” authored by EBHO members Nico Calavita (Professor Emeritus, San Diego State University) and Marian Wolfe, PhD (Vernazza Wolfe Associates).

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In this San Francisco loft development, twenty percent of the homes are affordable to very low income households. This was made possible through public benefit zoning policies in the city's Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, one of the case studies in the report.
Photo courtesy of Nico Calavita.

Many cities are developing neighborhood plans to encourage higher-density development. Through rezoning, infrastructure and transportation investment, and other tools they are reshaping land values and the development landscape.  In this context, EBHO’s white paper provides an introduction to Public Benefits Zoning or Land Value Recapture - the concept that when public action such as rezoning increases land values, the public should receive a share of that increased value in the form of community benefits such as affordable housing. Calavita and Wolfe explain the concept through accessible arguments and rigorous economic analysis, and provide case studies from four California cities. Public Benefits Zoning grounds EBHO’s campaigns in Oakland, Walnut Creek, Concord, and Fremont, and is gaining traction from Santa Monica to Redwood City. We are proud to share this report as a resource to advocates, local jurisdictions and developers looking for solutions in an era of super-charged markets but limited public resources.

Click for the executive summary or full report.

EBHO expresses deep appreciation to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for its support of this report through the Regional Prosperity Plan, and to Jennifer Pechacek and PYATOK architecture + urban design for document design.

To get involved in EBHO's policy research and advocacy campaigns, contact us to learn about our East Bay Regional Policy Committee at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


About the authors:

Nico Calavita recently retired after 30 years of teaching in the Graduate Program in City Planning at San Diego State University. Calavita’s areas of interest include affordable housing and community development, growth management, the politics of growth and comparative planning. In his work, research and community service – based on equity planning principles - are inextricably linked. For example, his research and publications on housing policies, such as Housing Trust Funds, Housing Linkage Fees and Inclusionary Housing are based on his direct involvement in the attempts to implement those programs in the City of San Diego, including being Chair of the City of San Diego Housing Trust Fund Board of Trustees during the 1990s. Over the years he has published many Op-Ed pieces in the San Diego Union and LA Times, on affordable housing, equity planning and smart growth. He is the author with Alan Mallach of “Inclusionary Housing in International Perspective: Affordable Housing, Social Inclusion, and Land Value Recapture” published in 2010 by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.  Contact Nico at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Marian Wolfe, PhD is a Principal at Vernazza Wolfe Associates Inc., an East Bay Planning and Economics Consulting firm founded in 1990.  She is currently one of the lead consultants on the Grand Nexus Study in San Mateo County and is working on nexus studies for other cities and counties in northern California.   In addition to her consulting work, Marian is an occasional Lecturer at UC Berkeley, and is a former Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), School of Real Estate.   For the last five years, Marian has served as a Housing Commissioner for the City of Berkeley and is now Chair of the Commission.  She also serves on the Board of Directors at Resources for Community Development.  Marian has a BA in History (UC Berkeley), a MA in History (UCLA) and a MCP and PhD in City and Regional Planning (UC Berkeley).   Contact Marian at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .