Multifamily & Mixed-Use Objective Standards

Published on October 08, 2020

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The City is in the process of updating development and design standards in the Zoning Ordinance to clarify expectations for multifamily project design and to meet requirements under State law. 

Overview

California recently adopted legislation to address the housing shortage within the State. These new laws require that the City review certain multifamily and residential mixed-use development projects against objective standards rather than subjective guidelines. The City has received State planning grant funding to develop objective design and development standards that would apply to multifamily and mixed-use development projects. These standards will help provide clarity for applicants, decision-makers, and the community; streamline the review process; and maintain the City’s design preferences.
Objective standards will be drafted for review and consideration by the Architectural Review Board and the Planning and Transportation Commission, with ultimate approval by the City Council. The community is encouraged to participate throughout the process. The project is anticipated to be completed in Winter 2021.

Key Recommendations

The following recommendations are proposed:

  1. Revise Context-Based Design Criteria as Objective Standards. Most of the City’s context-based design criteria are subjective guidelines intended to provide direction to applicants, not prescriptive requirements. The ARB and staff can still use these guidelines to make suggestions for modifying a project design. However, these guidelines cannot be used to require that an applicant reduce the density of a project or otherwise make infeasible a project that is covered by the State Housing Accountability Act.
  2. Reorganize Design Standards. Currently, the context-based design criteria are repeated across multiple zoning districts. Implementing this recommendation would remove redundancies and reorganize the design criteria into a stand-alone section. While most standards would apply to all projects with multifamily units, some standards may only apply to certain use types or locations.
  3. Revise Other Development Regulations as Objective Standards. Most zoning district regulations and development standards in the City’s Zoning Ordinance are objective. Some regulations, such as performance standards, are typically not objective. Where relevant, these subjective regulations may be revised as objective standards, using measurements, percentages, and ranges.
  4. Reorganize Code Sections to Clarify Which Standards Apply to Individual Projects. The Zoning Ordinance contains areas of redundancy, inconsistency, and a lack of clarity regarding which code sections apply to individual projects. As a result, applicants and staff can find it challenging to understand what applies to development within a given zoning district. This effort would reorganize where standards are located within the code to reduce the number of places staff, applicants, and decision-makers need to refer to.
  5. Use Graphics to Illustrate Standards and Guidelines. Adding graphics into the code and/or developing handouts with photographs and simple graphics would clarify standards and illustrate expectations for the level of quality and design.
  6. Turn Legislative Actions into Objective Criteria. The Zoning Ordinance offers flexible development standards to facilitate multi-family and affordable housing, but requires legislative actions in order for projects to access these standards. The City could instead consider converting these overlay criteria into objective standards, and/or allow them “by right” for certain project types (e.g., multi-family affordable projects that meet objective standards).

Meetings

Webinar on Objective Standards Project and Council’s November 8, 2021 Motion
Tuesday, February 1, 2022, 6:00 to 8:00pm
Zoom Webinar ID: 817 3488 6322
Council Action Minutes

 

Architectural Review Board Hearings

  • December 5, 2019

Staff Report and Attachments
Meeting Minutes

  • February 6, 2020: Study session to provide an overview of the project and introduce issues and options for how to translate subjective criteria into objective standards

Staff Report and Attachments
Presentation
Meeting Minutes

  • October 15, 2020: Study Session for ARB Review of Draft Objective Standards

Staff Report and Attachments
Presentation
Minutes

  • November 19, 2020: Study Session for ARB Review of Draft Objective Standards (Continued)

Staff Report and Attachments
Presentation
Minutes

  • February 18, 2021: Study Session for ARB Review of Draft Objective Standards

Staff Reports and Attachments
Presentation(PDF, 3MB)
Minutes

  • March 18, 2021: Action to Consider Recommendation of Design Standards to City Council

Staff Report and Attachments(PDF, 5MB)
Presentation(PDF, 5MB)
Height Transition Memo(PDF, 314KB)
Minutes(PDF, 424KB)

  • April 1: 2021: Continued from March 18, 2021

Presentation(PDF, 2MB)
Minutes(PDF, 635KB)

  • April 15, 2021: Study Session for comments on Staff's Proposed Changes to the Height Transition Code Sections

Staff Report and Attachments(PDF, 429KB)
Presentation(PDF, 2MB)
Minutes(DOCX, 231KB)

Planning and Transportation Commission Hearings

  • May 13, 2020: Study session to provide an overview of the project and introduce issues and options for how to translate subjective criteria into objective standards

Staff Report and Attachments
Presentation
Minutes

  • March 10, 2021: Study session to review draft design standards and other updates to Title 18

Staff Report and Attachments
Presentation(PDF, 3MB)
Minutes

  • June 9, 2021: Action to consider recommendation of Objective Standards to City Council

Staff Report and Attachments
Presentation(PDF, 5MB)
Draft Minutes(PDF, 759KB)

City Council Hearing

  • September 27, 2021 Public Hearing. Council continued the item to October 4th, 2021.

Staff Report and Attachments
Presentation(PDF, 6MB)

  • October 4, 2021 Public Hearing

Staff Report and Attachments
Presentation(PDF, 6MB)

  • November 8, 2021 Public Hearing. Council continued the item from October 4, 2021 meeting.

Staff Report and Attachments(PDF, 10MB)
Presentation

 

 

 

 

  

Document Library

List of Guidelines to Transform 9/17/2021(PDF, 242KB) - List of existing City criteria arranged into new sub-categories
Draft Objective Standards 9/17/2021(PDF, 4MB) - List of draft objective criteria for City Council review
Height Transition Memo(PDF, 314KB)

Contact Us!

Jodie Gerhardt, AICP, Manager of Current Planning at jodie.gerhardt@cityofpaloalto.org
Amy French, AICP, Chief Planning Official at amy.french@cityofpaloalto.org
Jean Eisberg, AICP, Lexington Planning Consultant at jean@lexingtonplanning.com

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