how dense are you about

When we talk about housing development, the D word - Density - invariably comes up. Many of us think high density means huge, overcrowded buildings, and hideous traffic, but does it? Take our density quiz to find out.

Before moving on please note that housing density is most often calculated as housing units per acre. So a single family home built on a half-acre of land would have a housing density of two units per acre. Also note that surrounding public land, like streets and parks, are excluded from density calculations.

Take the Density Quiz

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In Conclusion:
Alameda Density

When we speak of different levels of density, we're speaking of what we have now in Alameda. As you've seen, Alameda does have pockets of "high" levels of densities. It's why so much of the Main Island is walkable and why we boast one of the highest levels of AC transit usage in the Bay Area. This level of density supports the "mom and pop" type of retail we all cherish. And it's why we have so little crime.

People who live in neighborhoods near shops and public services tend to drive less frequently and own fewer cars because they have more services in walking distance and there are more transportation options. Facts:

  • People in condominiums and townhouses make 44% fewer car trips than people who live in low-density single-family homes
  • People who live/work within ½ mile of public transportation stations use transit for 42% of their work commute trips vs. 4% for those who live or work more than one mile from a transit station. (1)
  • Doubling density in an area decreases the area's vehicle miles traveled by 38%. (2)
  • In the Bay Area, 29% of households within ½ mile of rail/ferry do not own a car, compared to 9% in the rest of the region. (2)

In terms of local retail, more homes, especially when mixed with offices and stores, create more customers. This makes local shops more viable and improves the local economy. Facts:

  • Shops and public services within ½ mile of more compact developments are more economical than those far from the town center and homes.
  • A neighborhood needs a net density of more than 18 units/acre for a small grocery store. (4)

Compact neighborhoods increase community safety and quality of life. Facts:

  • Places where people know each other have 40% less crime than neighborhoods without a strong sense of community, regardless of income level. (1)
  • Mixed-use development with different types of homes and generations of people provide more "eyes on the street" at all hours of the day and have lower crime levels. (4)


  1. Haughey, Richard M. Higher-Density Development: Myth and Fact
    Washington, D.C.: ULI-the Urban Land Institute, 2005.
  2. New Places, New Choices: Transit-Oriented Development in the San Francisco Bay Area
    Report by Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Bay Conservation and Development Commission, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Association of Bay Area Governments. November 2006.
  3. Center for Transit Oriented Development,
    Preserving and Promoting Diverse Transit-Oriented Neighborhoods, 2005.
  4. Focusing Our Vision: Priority Development Area Standards. Typology. Matrix.