Why look at alleys?

Every facet of planning that makes a city is often manifested in urban alleyways. An alley can be the embodiment of a city’s comprehensive plan in a nutshell.

Community and green space, housing, business, transportation. The old and the new.

Alleys are frequently overlooked spaces. Is that space to be dead-space, or livable space? Does it encourage wildlife habitat, park-like amenities, public art, urban gardening, places to play, and the preservation of trees?

questions to ask

Housing development on alleys is often infill. Is it smart infill? Does it encourage efficient green building and infrastructure standards? Does it encourage affordable housing? Does accessory housing face an alley like a scaled-down town square, encouraging community; or does it face the rear of a main house that in turn faces a car-centric road?

If an alley is commercially zoned, how does it guide good business practice? Does it encourage local independent opportunities such as small business carts? Does it spur the reduction of commercial carbon footprints?

Does an alley throughway prioritize cars – or people and nature? Does it use good design to invite pedestrians, bikes, and wheelchairs? Does it trap heat? Does it shed and flood polluted rainwater, or does it filter it?


Integrative alley policy is a boiled down exemplar of how city government is able to re-imagine and practice comprehensive urban development.

Livable alley policy often includes the following goals:

  • Increase park like places and neighborhood connectivity
  • Encourage green affordable ADU housing and community uses
  • Reduce urban dead-spaces, heat-trap, and runoff
  • Simplify and improve the citizen engagement processes for these aims

Activating alleys or other pedestrian-shared roadways may include anything from a creative event or installation to development of a public park, accessory dwelling neighborhood, or small business district.

an opportunity

Alleys are the capillaries of urban transportation, housing, and green space. They’re hidden assets with which to explore and model innovative policy in a uniquely focused setting – a humble opportunity for planning at the confluence of environmental and community stewardship with beauty and efficacy.

Please enjoy our archive of information and resources related to this movement for livable infrastructure, and let us know if there’s something you think should be added to the mix.