Land Use

The term “land use” refers to the policies and programs that determine the size, use, location, and density of buildings and development. The shape of suburbs and cities is determined by land use policies, whether in the form of zoning regulations, subdivision ordinances, fire codes, or parking minimums. Tactics range in scale and scope, from subdivision ordinance reform to policies that create temporary destinations worth walking to in formerly vacant land or buildings.

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Support Street Life with Mixed-Use, Form-Based Zoning

Definition

Form-based zoning codes are legal regulations that direct the physical form and placement of buildings within communities. Form-based codes focus on the relationship between buildings and the streetscape, generally with the goal of creating appealing, pedestrian-oriented public spaces. In contrast, traditional zoning regulations focus on separating residential, commercial, and manufacturing uses and do not determine the exact form and location a building would take. Form-based codes typically include a regulating plan or map designating where different builtform standards apply, specifications for required streetscape elements and built-form standards, an explanation of the review process for applications and developments, and a glossary of terms.

Guidance

  • Formulate an overall vision for the community through a broad-based public-input process. The vision can then be adopted into a comprehensive plan to establish local land use policies and create political momentum for code reform
  • Examine existing codes to see where they fail to guide development toward the established community vision
  • Determine whether form-based codes are the best approach to meeting the community vision, again through a broad-based public input process
  • Write the code with regular revisions and reviews through a public-participation process
  • Confirm that the code is constitutional in its language and application, especially relating to the primary legal considerations of property rights, due process, equal protection, and free speech i (relating to adult uses)iWhite, Mark. Form-Based Codes: Practical and Legal Considerations. Institute on Planning, Zoning & Eminent Domain. November 18, 2009. p. 17.
  • Revise existing regulations and incentives that contradict the goals and envisioned outcomes of the form-based code initiative
  • Train developers, government workers, and community members on how the code works
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Manage Parking to Promote Walking

Definition

A combined set of policies (often under the jurisdiction of multiple municipal agencies) to manage the supply of parking in order to reduce car use and encourage development where people can walk to their destinations. Land-use zoning, tax policies, curbside regulations, and subdivision ordinances are all means of regulating the provision and use of parking.

Guidance

  • At every step, engage, educate, and learn from the public, especially businesses, at the city and local scale to gain support for policy implementation and maintenance
  • Reduce or remove minimum-parking requirements and set parking maximums in urban centers and urban villages
  • Provide incentives for parking-reduction programs such as parking cash out, shared parking, and park-and-ride
  • Restrict the location of parking to reduce its impact on street life
    • Prohibit front-surface parking lots between buildings and the street; require parking behind or underneath buildings
    • Restrict the number and size of driveways (create alleys to consolidate driveway access to the street or consolidate parking lot entrances to fewer, signalized intersections)
  • Require bicycle parking in new developments
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Add Street-Connectivity Minimums into Subdivision Ordinances

Definition

Subdivision and zoning ordinances can establish a minimum level of street connectivity for future residential developments to create neighborhoods that are conducive to walking, bicycling, and transit use. Street connectivity consists of a road and/or path network that provides multiple routes and connections between destinations. It includes parallel routes, cross connections, many points of access, and short block lengths. Minimum standards of street connectivity can be based on maximum allowable lengths of blocks or by connectivity indexes of street links to intersections.

Guidance

  • Street-connectivity standards for new developments often take the form of maximum allowable block length or an index based on the number of street links divided by the number of street nodes
  • Maximum-block-length determinations should factor in existing block dimensions, topography, and the desired scale, character, and connectivity the community aims to achieve. For example, in Portland, OR, the maximum block length is 530’; in Austin, TX, it’s 600’; and in Ft. Collins, CO, it’s 660’iMeck, Stuart; Morris, Marya; Kelly, Eric Damian; Bishop, Kirk. Model Smart Growth Codes, Interim Planning Advisory Service Report. Chicago: American Planning Association, 2006.
  • One-way streets operate best in pairs that are no more than a quarter-mile apartiPedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, 2004.
  • Align with existing local street grid to create four-way intersections
  • Introduce policies and practices to help keep travel speeds down
  • The Charlotte, NC, subdivision ordinance specifies:
    • Preferred street spacing ranges from 400’ to 600’ by context, requiring, say, three blocks for a 1,400 ft-wide property within a transit station area
    • No individual block face should exceed 1,000’ (with certain exceptions)
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Retrofit Street, Walking, and Bicycle Connections into Existing Suburbs

Definition

The construction of new street, bicycle, and/or pedestrians connections between existing streets on municipal land or private property.

Guidance

  • Finish connecting on existing rights-of-way paired with infrastructure improvements for community cooperation
  • Investigate potential utility easements, alleyways, and planned streets that were never constructed as potential rights-of-way for connections
  • Purchase private land lots, construct the desired street, sidewalk, or multiuse path, and then resell the property
  • Line up political support
  • Be the first to frame the discussion about street/pedestrian/bicycle connectivity
  • Anticipate potential arguments and sources of resistance, and address them from the outset through a variety of ways, including:
    • Talking points in traditional and social media outreach
    • Proactive stakeholder meetings with potential opponents
    • Talking points in public-education campaign material
  • Contextualize local opposition through broad-based surveys revealing the general perspective of area residents. Work with local politicians or community partners to survey a large community base
  • Build in flexibility in the project’s scope and timeline to accommodate public concerns
  • Create and articulate specific benefits for neighborhoods both “upstream” and “downstream” of a proposed street link.
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Create Transit-Oriented Development (TOD)

Definition

TOD is a compact, high-density, mixed-use development benefiting from its proximity to transit by supporting transit use, walking, and cycling.

Guidance

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Provide LOS Exemptions for Pedestrian, Transit, and Bicycling Infrastructure Improvements

Definition

This land use policy modifies how transportation impacts are analyzed and mitigated: When a proposed development would have a significant impact on motor-vehicle levels of service (LOS) in certain areas (transit corridors, transit stations, neighborhoods, or protected intersections), the policy would allow developers to replace automobile LOS mitigation with improvements for pedestrians, transit, or cyclists.

Guidance

  • Identify specific areas where the policy would be appropriate
  • Create a reasonable and predictable process for traffic-impact analysis for developers to factor into financial and planning decisions
  • Use traditional LOS analysis methods to determine effect on traffic
  • Define the thresholds for significant impacts based on commonly agreed upon standards, such as state or federal guidelines
  • Determine and announce up front how these transportation-impact fees would be calculated and assessed through a publicized fee structure that includes an annual inflation factor.iBrazil, John. Addressing Pedestrians in Roadway Level of Service Analysis: A San José, California Case Study. 2009.
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Diversify Suburban Land Use Regulations

Definition

Land use regulation amendments, ideally based on a vision created with broad-based public input, can encourage higher density and more diverse land uses in low-density residential developments.

Guidance

  • Consider zoning amendments that encourage:
    • In-fill and row-house development
    • New and diverse housing types, such as the construction of small homes in alleyways, above garages in single-family housing developments, or in the form of secondary suites within single-family houses or multifamily apartment buildings (i.e., basement apartments or smaller suites within multifamily buildings)
    • Increased density and greater allowable bulk (higher allowable building heights and sizes) in areas close to transit
    • Low-impact commercial or manufacturing uses at specific locations, such as a convenience store, day-care facility, or studio space
  • Establish a context-sensitive approach to zoning amendments with flexibility for specific neighborhood needs, historical built form, and concerns
  • Amend associated amendments in city bylaws, policies, and development incentives to support these zoning changes
  • Address provision of the increased needs for open space and public amenities associated with anticipated higher densities
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Transform Underutilized Malls into Walkable Destinations

Definition

Underutilized strip centers, malls, and aging office parks are ideal locations to transform into dense, mixed-use, walk-friendly destinations. The effort usually requires revising funding priorities, zoning regulations, and urban design guidelines in order to implement that walkable vision.

Guidance

  • Appoint a task force to organize regular and meaningful public participation, such as a series of community workshops, outreach events, and public meetings
  • Build bridges between elected officials and land owners
  • Develop alternative long-term development scenarios to be used as the basis of public discussion
  • Use transit-oriented development principles as toolkit for a context-sensitive approach that considers other nodes and/or forms of transit, including bus rapid transit and ferries
  • Investigate and address all other jurisdictional regulations and incentives that might affect or be effected by proposed land use amendments
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Encourage Temporary Uses in Vacant Buildings and Sites

Definition

Local governments can create policies or programs to direct or fund temporary programming in privately or publicly owned vacant buildings or lots in order to create safer, more dynamic streets and sidewalks. Temporary uses can range from pop-up retail and art exhibitions to urban farms and community gardens.

Guidance

  • Create a working group with property owners; artist organizations; representatives from municipal, cultural, equity, food-security, planning, and permitting departments; and regulatory agencies to investigate barriers to temporary uses and recommend solutions for:
    • Permitting processes
    • Code variances
    • Real estate negotiation and lease templates
    • Insurance coverage
    • Connecting temporary space to tenants
  • Build an online database of available spaces for artists, studios, entrepreneurs, urbangardening groups, or farms
  • Design a selection mechanism like a request for proposal (RFP) for distributing seed funding to spur temporary uses of vacant spaces
  • Select a project manager to spearhead community collaborations and schedule programming for the temporary space
  • Determine and measure appropriate data measurements to evaluate the impact of the temporary use, whether through foot traffic, number of visitors, real estate availability or values, local perceptions of safety or vibrancy of streetscape, etc.
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Permit Park(ing) Day Every Day

Definition

Inspired by Park(ing) Day, the annual event that invites citizens to transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks, cafes, and on-street bike parking, a local jurisdiction can create a simple, standard permit process to transform parking spots into longer-term public spaces.

Guidance

  • Seek a community partner to educate and engage the public
  • Determine who is eligible to apply for the new-use-of-the-curbside permit. New York City restricts applicants to local businesses or institutions that own or operate on the ground floor of a building facing that curbside location; San Francisco permits business improvement districts as applicants
  • Create a pilot project and use its success to pave the way for changing permitting processes to extend the pilot into an ongoing program
  • Work with community partners to publicize the program and its request for applications or proposals (RFP)
  • Encourage applicants to regularly check in with city staff to clarify expectations, learn about resources, and understand design requirements early in the process
  • Focus the program on the creation of new public space and ensure its public use
  • Develop ongoing maintenance agreements obligating the maintenance partner to clean and maintain the space
  • Create a sample maintenance agreement for interested partners
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