Enabling Strategic Growth in Cudahy, California

After decades of sprawl, state and regional governments are now focused on encouraging compact, infill and transit-oriented growth as a key strategy to reduce vehicle travel and greenhouse gas emissions. According to this logic, growth in already-developed areas that are more central and better-served by transit will result in less driving and fewer emissions. Cudahy is such a community, and has upzoned a significant portion of the City to accommodate future growth.

But Cudahy is also unprepared for growth in various ways. First, it has fundamental existing deficiencies in water and sewer infrastructure. The City needs to assess such deficiencies as well as future needs, and develop a financing mechanism to sustain these systems. Second, there has been very little permitted development in Cudahy in the past decade. This indicates that the market for new development is poor, and points toward the possible existence of regulatory barriers that affect financial feasibility of new development. Finally, when the City does grow, it lacks a financing mechanism to sustain public infrastructure; the City struggles with constrained resources. There is no local funding source for infrastructure for walking, biking, and transit access, which are crucial to support a growth strategy aimed at overall reductions in auto travel and emissions. Likewise, the City will have difficulty maintaining and expanding its park system for a growing population. 

The project thus has two primary goals: (1) we seek to identify and remove unnecessary regulatory barriers to growth in Cudahy, and (2) we seek to create financing mechanisms that will sustain multimodal transportation infrastructure and park access under future growth.

Toward the first goal, we begin with an attention to minimum parking requirements. These are the largest regulatory burden placed on developers in Cudahy, and a requirement that drives accessory dwelling unit (ADU) construction underground because it is nearly impossible to build an ADU that complies with parking minimums. They also have well-documented unintended consequences: parking minimums drive up the cost of housing, degrade urban design, and subsidize auto travel at the expense of all other modes. We conduct outreach, data collection, and policy analysis to support the removal of parking minimums; this also entails careful attention to and recommendations regarding the management of on-street parking. We also conduct focus groups with developers to understand their incentives and perspective. We aim to enable affordable growth in particular and to prevent displacement, so we particularly engage with developers and community groups who can advise on those issues.

Toward the second goal, we draft an impact fee to support walking, biking, and transit access infrastructure, as well as parks. Such a fee is viable, from the perspective of attracting development, because of the removal of parking minimums. To develop the fee, we collect data and observations on parks use and travel behavior in Cudahy, and solicit public input. We also inventory other sources of funds and other funding mechanisms, such as infrastructure financing districts and grant programs. Revenues from on-street parking would also be slated to support public infrastructure. As part of this planning process, we can also get a better picture of how infrastructure supports the needs of current residents and hear residents’ priorities and concerns around current infrastructure and future development.

Cudahy is a working-poor, primarily immigrant, medium-density community. It is probably not the community that policy-makers have in mind when they discuss compact growth. There is little development currently, and tall transit-oriented or mixed-use development makes little sense. Travel behavior is also very different, with very high rates of walking. Cudahy seeks to be a model community in revising its regulatory structure to encourage growth, particularly affordable and sustainable growth. We hope that the lessons learned from this project will demonstrate the prospects for reductions in vehicle travel and greenhouse gas emissions in such communities and provide a model for enabling growth and sustaining public infrastructure in them.

Secondary goals of this project are to collect useful data to support future grant applications by the City and to advance better data on travel behavior in low-income communities. This project is funded by a Sustainable Communities Planning Grant from the Strategic Growth Council of the State of California, with matching funds from the City of Cudahy.


  • Revised regulations that enable growth (impact fee and parking revisions)
  • Understanding of financing mechanisms for water/sewer, transportation, and parks, including grants and financing districts
  • On-street parking management guidance
  • Meaningful data and information on travel behavior and park use in Cudahy
  • Community support for and input on new parks, active transportation infrastructure, and parking management

Working on this project: Herbie Huff, Rachel Wells, Casey Stern, Madeline Brozen, Mark Garrett, Brian Taylor

Project End Date: June 2016



By | 2017-05-10T15:33:52+00:00 August 5th, 2015|Tags: , , , , |