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Vallejo Rising: Flex your planning muscles with form-based code

This area is one of the main focus of the Sonoma Boulevard Specific Plan
This area is one of the main focus of the Sonoma Boulevard Specific PlanGoogle Maps

In our previous Vallejo Rising posting we discussed the concept of form-based codes (FBC). This type of code is not being introduced in a vacuum. Its part of the Citywide Zoning Code Update, an initiative that was last addressed in 1980. As outlined in the Propel Vallejo website, overhauling the present Vallejo code should attract more business to the city by providing clear and flexible standards that support Vallejo's vision for development.

Visualizing the potential of form-based code is essential to appreciating its power. We asked Tony Perez, Opticos Design's director of form-based coding, to share his descriptive analogy.

Says Perez:

It wasn't until I had been preparing FBC’s for 12 years or so that an interesting way of explaining this dawned on me. I recalled the graphic equalizer I had in my car during high school in the 1970’s and how that simple tool let me adjust the sound to my liking. Beyond adjusting the volume (akin to F.A.R. or Density), this tool let me adjust the low tones, the mid tones and the high tones. I made an analogy for the FBC system by showing that each component (buildings, streets, open spaces, streetscapes, signage, you name it) was adjustable by the community. This is all possible because both the graphic equalizer and the FBC can ‘see’ the components that make up sound on the one hand and the community on the other. As a result, each tool can then apply dials to each component. I ask people who favor conventional zoning if they can adjust the zoning to their liking with that level of adjustment or if they’re really just adjusting the volume (F.A.R. and Density). Once people see this difference, they understand how FBC can really be adjusted for very different places with different objectives in the same community."

Stay tuned to our next form-based coding-based posting. We will share how other cities throughout the Bay Area are using FBCs to develop their visions for the future.