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Form Based Codes

From Desert to Oasis: Transformative FBC Will Help Turn a “Big Blank Piece of Sand” Into a Diverse, Attractive Community

From Desert to Oasis: Transformative FBC Will Help Turn a “Big Blank Piece of Sand” Into a Diverse, Attractive Community

At the Congress for the New Urbanism’s (CNU) Charter Awards Ceremony in Seattle on May 5, the Form-Based Codes Institute (FBCI) announced that Palm Desert, Calif., and Nashville, Tenn., had received the 2017 Driehaus Form-Based Codes Award for their implementation of innovative and effective codes. The Driehaus Form-Based Codes Award is sponsored by FBCI with the generous support of the Richard H. Driehaus Charitable Lead Trust. Nominated codes were critiqued by a four-member jury of peers.

Mention Palm Desert and many attractive features come to mind: mid-century modern architecture, luxury retail businesses, resort living and world-class golf, to name just a few. Walkable neighborhoods, an interconnected network of multi-modal streets and mixed-housing neighborhoods centers are not commonly associated with this widely known desert city, yet those are just what Palm Desert’s new general plan and University Neighborhood Specific Plan call for. The city’s leaders, with the support of the community, have decided that such places are the next missing pieces to add to its attractive repertoire, to diversify its lifestyle offerings as it matures in the 21st century.

Palm Desert was founded in 1945 in Riverside County as a 1,600-acre resort destination for celebrities and politicians on “the Grapefruit Highway” (Highway 111), connecting Los Angeles to Tucson and other destinations east. Its first neighborhood was marketed as a close-knit model of desert living where residents could walk or bike to local shops. Over the next 60 years, the city grew to cover more than 27 square miles based on the prevailing suburban development models of that time, introducing a grid of high-volume, high-speed six-lane arterial streets connecting – and separating – inward oriented housing tracts, and strip shopping centers. The majority of those housing developments were focused on retirement living, featuring golf courses and one-story houses, and big yards for enjoying outdoor desert living.

Looking to the future, city leaders initiated a strategic planning process in 2012, engaging the National Civic League to structure a community-based discussion of the city’s future. The process included a number of community surveys, dozens of community meetings, and a year and a half of work by a number of resident-led committees. The result was the “Envision Palm Desert” report, which identified top community priorities: attracting and retaining younger residents, balancing housing with new local jobs, and supporting higher education. Topping the list of strategies for achieving these goals was developing a “real city center” for Palm Desert and developing new walkable, bikeable, mixed-use and mixed-income neighborhoods both as part of the city center, and in a new university district anchored by a new California State University branch campus in North Palm Desert.

To put the strategic plan into action, the city retained a consultant team led by Raimi + Associates to update its general plan, including a plan to transform the old Highway 111 strip in the center of town to “Boulevard” 111. One block south of 111 is El Paseo, Palm Desert’s very walkable high-end shopping, arts and entertainment street, which was developed, ironically, in the 1970s at a time when so many other cities were letting their main streets decline and moving retail activity to suburban shopping malls. Through a series of workshops and design studies, a new vision for Boulevard 111 was agreed upon, transforming 111 from a “rip” – a physical barrier separating El Paseo from the neighborhoods and the civic center to the north – to a “zipper” that connects them. The team prepared the city center plan as a chapter of the new general plan, and new form-based zoning and public realm standards to implement it.

Based on the success of the city center work, Palm Desert retained the same consultant team – led this time by Sargent Town Planning (STP) – to prepare specific plan and form-based code for a 168-acre city-owned property near the new university campus. In the early work on the plan, the team noted that 200 acres of adjacent, previously planned and entitled – but currently unbuilt – conventional suburban housing tracts separated the city’s land from the campus, limiting connections to trails along arterial streets and overall circulation opportunities. Those previously approved tract maps were on the verge of expiring, and the property owners agreed to be part of the new plan in return for new entitlements permitting additional housing units on the condition that those units be delivered in a form consistent with the vision of the University Neighborhood Specific Plan.

University malls, promenades and other public spaces will contribute to the UNSP’s integrated community character.

The university neighborhoods, along with the planned campus expansion to the east and other adjacent development, comprise a university district of almost 1,000 acres at the north gateway to Palm Desert. Separating the neighborhood from the campus is Cook Street, a major north-south arterial corridor connecting from Interstate 10 to the city center several miles to the south. An important element of the plan is the transformation of Cook Street, which entailed converting the outer travel lanes to on-street parking and bike lanes, thereby calming the traffic and enabling new development to front Cook directly rather than huddling behind walls and parking lots. The result is a walkable mixed-use corridor that reconnects campus to the new university neighborhoods. The STP team engaged the university’s campus planning team and obtained the university’s enthusiastic support for this change. Additionally, a future Cook Street shuttle or bus rapid transit is planned to connect the university district to the city center to the south, along with a potential future passenger rail station.

To structure this new neighborhood, the STP team prepared a conceptual neighborhood plan organized by an interconnected network of complete streets throughout the plan area and connecting to the campus to the east. The focus of the plan is a new, mixed-use neighborhood center around a town green with local retail, restaurants, boutique office space, live-work opportunities, and a range of multi-family and attached single-family housing types. The neighborhoods are planned for a flexible mix of housing types – primarily single family attached and detached – organized around a network of small neighborhood parks and greens, connected by pedestrian-scaled neighborhood streets.

The code’s regulating plan applies three form-based zones to the university neighborhood planning area. The Neighborhood Low zone is intended to create a quiet neighborhood environment with single-family detached housing types on a range of lot sizes, and may include some single-family-attached and small multi-family “house-form” types that are compatible with houses in scale and character. The Neighborhood Medium zone includes those house-form types as well as courtyard housing and multi-family apartment buildings up to three stories in height, with building-scale standards. The Neighborhood Center zone is mixed in use, including ground floor retail, office and housing, allowing bot rental and ownership options. Finally, an Open Space zone reserves key locations for neighborhood and community-serving open spaces, such as the central town green, neighborhood parks of various shapes and sizes, and a large linear natural green space that fronts major arterials along the south and west borders of the planning area.

“In writing an FBC for a large area, which will take many years to complete, a core goal is creating long –term value that will accrue both to the community and to the master developer,” said John Baucke, president and CEO of New Urban Realty Advisors, Inc., who served as theSTP team’s development advisor, contributing a developer’s perspective to the project.

Because the district will be developed in phases over time by multiple builders and probably more than one master developer, and under changing market conditions – the code starts by defining “framework streets” that provide primary internal and external access and connectivity for the plan area, and organizes the planning area into a series of sub-areas. The exact alignment and design of the framework streets is somewhat flexible, as are the final sizes and configurations of blocks and lots, but the basic connectivity and design character are fixed by the plan.

The code starts with a section called “Subdivision Standards,” which walks the user through the process of finalizing the alignment and design of the framework streets, and organizing each sub-area into a walkable neighborhood area. Prior to any development within a sub-area, the code requires that the developer prepare a precise neighborhood plan for that area, defining with precision the layout of streets and blocks, which streets will be connected to adjoining sub-areas, which specific building types are intended, and the design and landscaping of all streets, parks, greens and alleys. Block sizes and shapes are flexible within parameters, with lot sizes and alleys, or no alleys, defined by intended building types and connectivity requirements.

The code provides a system of street typologies, to be assigned based on the intended function and environment of that street (e.g., an active mixed-use center, a neighborhood edge, a neighborhood connector, or a quiet neighborhood street). To further customize each street to its buildings, the code provides a range of public frontage types that describe the design configuration and character of the streetscape elements between the vehicular travel lanes and the buildings. These are calibrated to the intended ground floor use/activity of the adjacent private development, configuring on-street parking, street trees and landscape, street lighting and furnishings, and in some cases bike lanes. The result is intended to be an interconnected, safe, comfortable and attractive, multi-modal network of public spaces that provide unique, high-value addresses for buildings that front them.

A variety of public open spaces including edge greens, attached and detached neighborhood greens, pocket parks, paseos and rosewalks (pedestrian “streets” defined by building frontages), and alleys complete the public realm network. Alleys are required for narrow-lot, single-family and multi-family housing types, and at transitions from residential to commercial ground-floor use.

The code employs simple form-based development standard techniques for all buildings, focused on their size, placement and frontage. Frontages modulate the degree of privacy for ground floor spaces, ranging from low front-yard fences and climate-calibrated landscape, dooryards, terraces, porches stoops and commercial shopfronts and arcades. The code also includes standards for building scale and massing, regulating the expression of horizontal increments to ensure that the apparent scale of buildings within each zone and within each block fall within a harmonious range. Unlike many of the earlier codes by the firm and other West Coast practitioners, the standards do not explicitly include “building types”; rather, they are provided as part of an extensive design guidelines appendix, bound in a separate volume. The guidelines cover a wide range of topics including basic material and technique guidelines, landscape guidelines, and style-specific guidelines for a number of regionally significant architectural styles including Spanish colonial revival, mid-century modern and others.

The code requires that that the Precise Neighborhood Plan assign these elements street by street and block by block, for city review and approval as a unified package.

In preparing the development standards and design guidelines, a universal consideration was the nature of outdoor spaces at all scales. The integration of interior and exterior spaces has always been a defining characteristic of the “desert lifestyle,” including expansive views of neighborhood landscapes through the heat of the day, and the occupation of those spaces on winter days and long, warm evenings. Recent trends in market-based development types in Palm Desert were shifting directly from the very large lot, sprawling one-story homes to very small lot two-story homes with virtually no yard space. The University Neighborhood Plan proposed and intermediate possibility: relatively compact forms of two- and three- story housing that defines comfortable, pleasant, shady, wind-protected yard spaces well-connected to interior living spaces.

The code’s building siting and massing standards – and the building-types in the design guidelines, define such spaces that range from small side-yard patios to modest rear yards to semi-public dooryards, to courts, gardens and rosewalks shared by households in single family and multi-family compounds and buildings. And in the neighborhood center, siting and massing standards are provided to organize buildings around shared plazas, squares, and greens.

Although Palm Desert’s city council was wholeheartedly in favor of the STP’s focus on turning the university district into a connected, walkable community, the development team faced some significant challenges to some of its proposals at first. One such example was the re-imagining of Cook Street.

“Our goal was to transform Cook Street from just another aesthetically unremarkable highway taking drivers through town as quickly as possible, into an attractive, vibrant, business corridor,” David Sargent, president of Sargent Town Planning explained. “Finding ways to slow traffic down was essential to achieving this goal but it triggered push-back from some residents and officials, as you might expect. We were able to calm those objections by including some strategic triggers in the general plan. For example, the lane reductions wouldn’t be implemented until after the student population reached a certain level and a planned interchange has been built a half mile west of Cook Street to siphon off some of the traffic.”

As expected, finding developers willing to buy in to a community of this type requires patience, and it has. While the University Neighborhood Plan was in administrative draft form, a large, well-financed master developer expressed interest in buying and developing the northerly half of the planning area, hiring a land planner to lay out the neighborhoods. That initial concept plan was prepared without regard to the code, minimizing the public realm and connectivity and relegating “pedestrian connectivity” to a trail system running behind lots. The city indicated its support for the model proposed by the plan and code, and authorized the Sargent team to prepare a plan variation that met many of the developers housing type objectives in forms consistent with the plan, which generally was well-received.

“The developer hasn’t lost interest in building on the property and has taken what we did back to the drawing board. In fact, they’re talking about acquiring and developing the other 170-acre parcel, too,” said Ryan Stendell, the city’s community development director. He praised the team’s development advisor John Baucke and economist David Bergman, for helping the team to anticipate the developer’s concerns. “The master developer is moving forward because, looking at the property and the city’s plans for it from a market and financial perspective, it offers a strong potential to generate both short-term and long-term value,” said Baucke.

The jury that awarded Driehaus Form-Based Code Awards to Palm Desert, called it “an excellent example for regulating large-scale infill development to produce a walkable place,” and for providing “’a kit of parts’ for creating the fundamental urban form — addressing both the public realm and private development and achieving the ideal balance between predictability and flexibility. It creates a regulatory framework and process within which future detailed planning and development can take place. This code is elegantly designed, with clear and attractive images throughout and an appendix of beautifully illustrated design guidelines,” the jury declared.

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Lisa Wise Will Discuss the Future Development of Cities at Prestigious Real Estate Symposium

Lisa Wise Will Discuss the Future Development of Cities at Prestigious Real Estate Symposium

Chairperson Lisa Wise will represent FBCI at the Global Cities in an Era of Change 2016 symposium, March 30-April 1, at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.

The symposium will unite thought-leaders and decision-makers to address the challenges and opportunities the real estate industry faces as the built environment adapts to meet the needs of global urban population. The broad range of topics to be discussed include defining the global city of the future, how to prepare for and confront cyber and domestic terror threats, global capital flows and how autonomous vehicles will affect cities.

Wise will join three other distinguished panelists to discuss the “Reinvention of Cities.” She will be joined by Andy Cohen, co-CEO at design and architecture firm Gensler, Colin Shepard, CEO of Investment Management in Hines’ Office of Investments and Ed Friedrichs, former Gensler president and CEO and founder of the consulting firm Friedrichs Group, LLC.

The panel will discuss the new types of cities that are emerging and how they are leveraging cutting edge technologies, infrastructure, design, and planning techniques to create urban areas that fully accommodate professional activities and social, sustainable residential neighborhoods.

“If we are going to accommodate future populations in a sustainable manner, we need a significant transition to a renewable and energy efficient economy and best practices in urban planning,” Wise explains. “The key components of successful city reinvention from an urban planning perspective require greater public awareness of the need for this transition, prioritization of infrastructure investments, more accessible and flexible financing strategies.

“We also need the creation of new ‘urban operating systems,’” she added. “Urban operating systems in turn are based on policy and regulatory framework, and innovative approaches, such as form-based codes, which will be the focus of my presentation.”

“Like the panel discussion in which Lisa will participate, many other presentations during the symposium will include a focus on sustainability and smart cities. By attending, FBCI leaders will have the opportunity to meet key influencers in disciplines who need to know about form-based codes while gaining a global understanding of multiple forces changing cities,” said Carol Wyant, who serves on the FBCI’s and the Stanford Professionals in Real Estate’s (SPIRE) boards of directors. SPIRE is co-presenting the symposium with The Counselors of Real Estate (CRE) and RICS.

“During the symposium, experts who will present new trends and planning strategies that promote global city walkability and sustainability, and help communities maintain a neighborhood identity,” explained FBCI board member Charles Nash. It offers an excellent opportunity to convey to nationally recognized conference presenters and SPIRE, CRE and RICS members the FBCI story and how form-based codes can be a part of this new era of change for global cities.”

To learn more about the symposium and to register, visit the event website.

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Misconceptions About Form-Based Codes

Misconceptions About Form-Based Codes

Originally published in Better! Cities and Towns, September-October 2014

Since 1981, approximately 400 form-based codes (FBCs) have been prepared for communities across the US, and as of 2012, 252 of them have been adopted. Eighty-two percent of the adoptions have taken place in the past 10 years. But as exciting as that may be, what’s more exciting is that these numbers are miniscule when you think about how many communities exist in the U.S. If this reform of conventional zoning is increasingly gaining acceptance and being applied to larger areas, why are there still so many misconceptions?


Source: Better! Cities & Towns

Despite a wide variety of improvements in how formbased codes are strategized, prepared, and used, many of the planners, planning commissioners, elected officials, members of the public, and code practitioners I meet continue to harbor misconceptions or misunderstandings about these codes. Here are the ones I encounter most:

FBC dictates architecture. Some of these codes do prescribe details about architecture, but most do not. Perhaps because many of the early codes were for greenfield projects where strong architectural direction was needed or desired, the perception is that a FBC always regulates architecture. Yet the majority of codes I’ve prepared and reviewed (30 authored or co-authored, 10 peer-reviewed, 9 U.S. states, 2 foreign countries) do not regulate architecture. I’ve prepared codes where regulation of architecture (style) was important for a historic area, but those requirements did not apply anywhere else. The “form” in form-based codes may mean architecture, but not necessarily. Form can refer to physical character at many different scales—the scale of a region, community, neighborhood, corridor, block, or building.

FBC must be applied citywide. To my knowledge, Miami, and Denver are the only US cities that have applied form-based coding to all parcels within their boundaries. In general, FBCs are applied in two ways: to a site to implement a development project or to several areas as part of a zoning code amendment or update. This second category sometimes involves reconfiguration of the zoning code to retain a set of conventional zones for “automobile-oriented suburban”patterns while adding form-based zones for “walkable-ur-ban” patterns. This is called a hybrid code because it merges the conventional zoning and form-based zoning provisions under one cover, in one set of procedures.

FBC is a template that you have to make your community conform to. Untrue. Conventional zoning, with its focus on separation of uses and its prohibition of ostensibly undesirable activities, often conflicted with the very places it was intended to protect. Perhaps what some refer to negatively as a form-based code’s “template” is the kit of parts that repeats from one community to another—the streets, civic spaces, buildings, frontages, signage, and so forth. But a form-based code is guided by how each of those components looks and feels in a particular community. The FBC responds to your community’s character.

FBC is too expensive. FBCs require more effort than conventional zoning—but then, conventional zoning doesn’t ask as many questions. FBCs reveal and thoroughly address topics that conventional zoning doesn’t even attempt. Some communities augment conventional zoning with design guidelines; those guidelines aren’t always included in the cost comparison, and in my experience they don’t fully resolve the issues. A FBC has the virtue of ensuring that your policy work will directly inform the zoning standards. Further, the the upfront cost of properly writing a FBC pales in comparison to the cumulative cost of policy plans that don’t really say anything, zoning changes that require the applicant to point out reality, hearings, and litigation over projects.

Image Sketch


FBC is only for historic districts. FBCs can be applied to all kinds of places. Granted, they are uniquely capable of fully addressing the needs of a historic district because of their ability to “see and calibrate” all of the components. Such a FBC works with not instead of local historic procedures and state requirements. This is in contrast to conventional zoning’s focus on process and lack of correspondence with the physical environment it is regulating. While a FBC can be precise enough to regulate a very detailed and complex historic context, that same system can be fitted with fewer dials for other areas.

FBC isn’t zoning and doesn’t address land use. If your FBC doesn’t directly address allowed land uses or clearly rely on other land use regulations, it is an incomplete FBC. Some early FBCs were prepared as CC&Rs (covenants, conditions, and restrictions) because of particular development objectives, and some well-intended early FBCs oversimplified use restrictions. Since then, FBCs have augmented or fully replaced existing zoning, including land use requirements.

FBC results in “by-right” approval and eliminates “helpful thinking by staff.” With so much emphasis on how FBCs simplify the process, it’s understandable that this perception has caused concern. Throughout the FBC  process, focus is placed on delegating the various approvals to the approval authority at the lowest level practical. I’ve seen few codes that make everything “by right” over the counter. The choice of how much process each permit requires is up to each community. Through a careful FBC process, staff knowledge and experience does go into the code content through shaping or informing actual standards and procedures.

FBC results in “high-density residential.” FBC does not mandate high-density residential.” Instead, it identifies housing of all types—from single-family houses to quadplexes, courtyards, rowhouses, and lofts over retail—and explains their performance characteristics. Density is one of many such characteristics. Through the FBC process, communities receive more information and decide which kinds of buildings they want and where. FBCs enable higher density housing—where it is desired by the community—to fit into the larger context of the community’s vision.

Source: Better! Cities & Towns

FBC requires mixed-use in every building regardless of context or viability. Conventional zoning has applied mile upon redundant mile of commercial zoning, resulting in an oversupply of such land and many marginal or vacant sites. By contrast, FBCs identify a palette of mixed-use centers to punctuate corridors and concentrate services within walking distance of residents and for those arriving by other transportation modes. FBCs identify the components; it’s up to the community to choose which components fit best and are most viable in each context.

FBC can’t work with design guidelines guidelines, and complicates staff review of projects. Because conventional zoning doesn’t ask a lot of questions, most planners have had to learn what they know about design on the job, and need design guidelines to fill in the gaps left open by the zoning. That’s how I learned. A well-prepared FBC doesn’t need design guidelines because it explicitly addresses the variety of issues through clear illustrations, language, and numerous examples. However, we are not allergic to design guidelines; the key is to make sure that the guidelines clarify what is too complex, variable, or discretionary to state in legally binding standards.

Final Thoughts

 I’m enthusiastic about FBC and regard it as a far better tool than conventional zoning for walkable urban places. However, it’s still zoning, and it needs people to set its priorities and parameters. It needs people to review plans and compare them with its regulations. Having a FBC will require internal adjustments by the planning department and other key departments, such as Public Works.

Form-based coding began in response to the aspirations of a few visionary architects and developers who wanted to build genuine, lasting places, based on the patterns of great local communities. Unresponsive zoning regulations often erected insurmountable barriers to these proposals and made proposals for sprawl the path of least resistance.

From its outset nearly 35 years ago, form-based coding exposed the inabilities of conventional zoning to efficiently address the needs of today’s communities. Today, form-based coding is a necessary zoning reform—one of several important tools that communities need to position themselves as serious candidates for reinvestment.

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FBCI Instructor Goes to School for Form-Based Codes

FBCI Instructor Goes to School for Form-Based Codes

Tony Perez, Opticos Design’s Director of Form-Based Coding, has gone back to school this spring, teaching a graduate-level studio dedicated to Form-Based Coding at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, CA. While some universities invite guest lecturers to speak about FBCs, Perez’s class, “Form-Based Codes in the Context of Integrated Urbanism,” is one of the only full courses on the subject in the country.

An illustration of the six Transect zones as applied to Flagstaff, AZ.

An illustration of the six Transect zones as applied to Flagstaff, AZ.

In one of his first classes, Perez introduced his students to the Rural-to-Urban Transect. “Some had heard of it or had seen the famous diagram by Duany Plater-Zyberk, but essentially, the idea had not been fully explained to them,” he said. “It’s really interesting to see students who have little to no training react quickly and positively to the Transect system. They can begin to see how it responds to the world outside, the particular areas that they know well, and that’s very exciting.”

Throughout the spring quarter, Perez will discuss the reasons and purposes for FBCs, where they do and don’t apply, what type of information is needed to write an effective FBC, and how to coordinate an FBC with a community’s public policy.

Students will explore the neighborhoods, districts, corridors, and centers of their individual study areas—one-square-mile of a Southern California community—and their relative status and condition. They will work with their study area for the duration of the quarter, focusing on one pedestrian-shed, and will be tasked with developing a vision, policy direction, illustrative plan, and code framework that includes a regulating plan and the implementing zones.

In addition to being an avid FBC advocate, Perez is a motivated instructor. Prior to being invited to teach the new FBC course, Perez served as a guest lecturer at Cal Poly and the Form-Based Codes Institute’s FBC 201, “Preparing a Form-Based Code: Design Considerations,” as well as co-taught a two-semester capstone project class on transit-oriented design and Form-Based Coding at UCLA. “I love to share information and am motivated by the interest I see in others when they get excited about learning,” he says. “We need to help the next wave of people who will move this forward and who can work in more areas than I.”

Andrews University teaches students how to use the SmartCode for their urban design projects while some universities address FBC as part of their urban design programs but do not offer similar courses on FBC preparation. Perez says that a discussion of the physical realities and exciting information about how towns and cities are built—the urban components that comprise each place and the subsets of components that comprise each area and its individual features—is largely missing from most urban planning programs, including when he was in school. That’s how he got started working with FBCs nearly 15 years ago. “When I realized that this tool could see those realities in ways that the current system could not, that was an exciting day,” he said.

At the end of the course, students will be expected to understand the real differences between conventional land use-based zoning and Form-Based Codes, as well as be able to describe the overall process of what one needs to consider when working to apply an FBC to different types of areas. Equally important, he says, is that the students begin looking at the world as it presents itself: as a composite of varied physical components in different combinations that we occupy at different times of the day or night.

An example of shopfront standards from a draft of the Tehachapi, CA, code.

An example of shopfront standards from a draft of the Tehachapi, CA, code.

Julianna Delgado, Interim Associate Dean of Cal Poly Pomona’s College of Environmental Design and a professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, came up with the idea of a introducing a full course on Form-Based Codes at the school. Delgado says she and Perez got to know each other while attending various FBC-related conferences. “If you want someone to teach something to your students, you ask the best person you know,” she says.

The mission of the California State University system is to train California’s workforce but there are no other formal courses on Form-Based Coding. Delgado says she wants her students to understand that the formal basis for a community is as important as land use—walkability, appropriate architecture, public space and the public realm. “So many communities in California are looking toward FBCs, that giving our students a learning system that is less theoretical and more rooted in practice, would put them at the forefront of the planning profession,” she said.

At Cal Poly Pomona, Delgado says it’s “learn by doing.” Down the road, Delgado imagines developing a studio course that would develop a Form-Based Code for a California community.

“There are many ways to develop this into design courses as well as administrative courses for implementation. There’s a lot that can be done and I’m honored to be able to help the next wave of practitioners,” Perez adds.

Originally published May 20, 2014 on Opticosdesign.com


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Joel Russell quoted in Hartford Business

Joel Russell quoted in Hartford Business

Hartford Business.com quotes Joel Russell, Executive Director of Form-Based Codes Institute and Alan Mammoser, Program Director on how the Hartford Group and the town of Simsbury, CT developed a form based codes and are using it to market the Farmington Valley office campus.

Direct quotes, may be found below:

Joel Russell, a Northampton, Mass., attorney and planning expert who has done extensive work on form-based code through Yale and his own consultancy, said The Hartford’s application of a form-based code to marketing an existing development appears to plow fresh ground.

“It’s a unique way of doing it and an extremely good model,” said Russell, executive director of the Form-Based Codes Institute based in Chicago.

According to Russell, form-based code always has been about aligning the property owner or developer’s interests with those of the community, “which is ensuring that what’s built is what the community wants.”

“They’ve essentially solved the problems of community acceptance up front,” Russell said.

Form-based coding has evolved since the early ’80s, with the code for the community of Seaside, Fla., said Alan Mammoser, program director at the Form-Based Codes Institute.

More recently, Miami, Fla. adopted form-based coding to address concerns that oversized commercial buildings were encroaching into neighborhood spaces and making streets less navigable to cyclists and foot traffic, Mammoser said.

Read the full Story: Simsbury Campus Hartford Business

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Bridgeport, CT Becomes First FBCI City Sponsor

Bridgeport, CT Becomes First FBCI City Sponsor

The City of Bridgeport, Connecticut has become the first City Sponsor of the Form-Based Codes Institute.  City Sponsorship gives city planning staff free access to FBCI webinars as well as expert guidance and education on how to reform city zoning and use form-based codes.  FBCI welcomes Bridgeport to FBCI and urges other cities to follow its example and join forces with us to transform zoning codes throughout America.  Any community wishing to become a City Sponsor should contact Joel Russell, Executive Director of FBCI at joel@formbasedcodes.org.  We offer special introductory benefits to cities that join before September 20, 2014.

city of bridgeport


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Cincinnati Form Based Code takes CNU’s Grand Prize

Cincinnati Form Based Code takes CNU’s Grand Prize

The Form Based Codes Institute is pleased to congratulate the City of Cincinnati for its Grand Prize Award at the Congress for New Urbanism’s Charter Awards  for the creation of a CityWide Form Based Code. Cincinnati is the first to receive this award under the newly created category Best Planning Tool or Process.  Opticos Design lead the effort to develop the new code.

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