The Rules That Shape Urban Form

PAS Report 570

By Donald Elliott, FAICP, Matthew Goebel, AICP, Chad Meadows, AICP

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From the Euclidean box to the SmartCode, planners have a wide range of tools for shaping the form of cities and how they function.

This practical report looks at six ways cities have adopted "form-based" zoning tools and the results that followed. Case studies describe the pros, cons, and consequences of form-based zoning regulations in Austin, Texas; Mooresville, North Carolina; Denver; Arlington, Virginia; Livermore, California; and Miami. Interviews with planners in each community give real-world perspectives on choosing, implementing, and evaluating form controls.

Because form doesn't exist in a vacuum, the report also looks at the planning challenges of housing affordability, carbon emissions, aging populations, and preservation. Which form controls support positive change in these areas — and which work against it? Lessons learned from cities across the country offer guidance for planners facing these challenges in their own communities.

Product Details

Page Count
Date Published
Oct. 1, 2012
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction
Planned Unit Developments and Performance Zoning
Form-Based Zoning
Goals and Organization of This Report

Chapter 2: The Wide Range of Form Controls
Form Standards Inserted into Euclidean Districts: Nonresidential Design and Mixed Use Standards in Austin, Texas
Linking Building Types to Permitted Uses: The Use/Form Table in Mooresville, North Carolina
Mandatory Form-Based Zones without Regulating Plans: Main Street Zones in Denver
Optional Districts with Incentives: The Columbia Pike Form District, Arlington County, Virginia
Mandatory Form-Based Districts for Specific Areas: The Hybrid Code in Livermore, California
Mandatory Citywide Form-Based Codes: The Miami 21 Zoning Ordinance

Chapter 3: Form-Based Controls in the Broader Planning Context
Form Controls, Sustainability, and Climate Change
Form Controls and Demographic Changes
Form Controls and Housing Affordability
Form Controls and Historic Preservation

Chapter 4: Conclusion
Different Approaches Are the Norm
Form Controls Are Generally Working
Testing and Tweaking Are Often Required
Limited Effectiveness in Tackling Other Planning Challenges
A User's Guide to Selecting Form-Based Tools
The Bottom Line