Multifamily & Mixed-Use Objective Standards

Published on October 08, 2020

Objective Standards.png  

Following a 2.5-year public process, the City updated 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 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 were reviewed and considered by the Architectural Review Board and the Planning and Transportation Commission, and ultimately approved by the City Council. Community members participated throughout the process. The new standards are effective as of July 2022.

Final & Adopted Objective Standards

New Ordinance: Chapter 18.24 - Objective Design Standards

New Ordinance: Other Updates to Title 18 Comparison of Existing and New Standards

New Ordinance: Title 18 Transitional Height Standards and RM-40 Setbacks

Objective Standards Checklist (still to come)

Materials List

Key Changes

  1. Revised 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. The new Chapter 18.24 transforms existing context-based design criteria into objective design standards. These standards will be used for Housing Development Projects going through streamlined review.
  2. 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. Several subjective regulations, including standards for zero waste, screening, landscaping, stormwater management, and parking design, were revised as objective standards, using measurements, percentages, and ranges.
  3. 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 reorganized where standards are located within the code to reduce the number of places staff, applicants, and decision-makers need to refer to.
  4. New Graphics to Illustrate Standards and Guidelines. Adding graphics into the code and/or developing handouts with photographs and simple graphics clarifies standards and illustrate expectations for the level of quality and design.
  5. 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 converted the Affordable Housing (AH) overlay criteria into objective standards, allowing them “by right” for multi-family affordable projects that meet objective standards.

Community Meetings

Webinar #3 Objective Standards
Tuesday, March 22 6:00pm-8:00pm
Webinar Recording
Webinar Presentation

Webinar #2 on Objective Standards
Tuesday, February 1, 2022, 6:00 to 8:00pm
Council Action Minutes
Webinar Presentation
Webinar Recording

Webinar #1 on Height Transitions in the Zoning Ordinance
Monday, July 19, 2021, 6:30pm
Webinar Audio
Webinar Presentation

City Council Hearings

  • June 1, 2022: Public Hearing - First Reading on Objective Design Standards and Other Updates to Title 18. Council continued item from May, 16, 2022

Staff Report and Attachments
Presentation
Minutes

  • May 16, 2022: Public Hearing - First Reading on Objective Design Standards and Other Updates to Title 18

Staff Report and Attachments
Minutes

  • April 11, 2022: Public Hearing - Clarifying Ambiguities in Height Transitions and Amending the Setback for the RM-40 Zone District
       
        Staff Report and Attachments 
        Presentation
        Action Minutes   

  • January 24, 2022 Public Hearing - Clarifying Ambiguities in Height Transitions and Amending the Setback for the RM-40 Zone District

Staff Report and Attachments
Presentation
Action Minutes

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

Staff Report and Attachments
Presentation
Action Minutes

  • October 4, 2021 Public Hearing

Staff Report and Attachments
Presentation
Action Minutes

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

Staff Report and Attachments
Presentation
Action Minutes

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
Minutes

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

Staff Report and Attachments
Presentation
Draft Minutes

Architectural Review Board Hearings

  • March 10, 2022 (continued from March 3, 2022 without discussion): Study Session on response to 11/8/21 City Council Motion on Objective Standards

         Staff Report & Attachments 
         Presentation 
         Minutes            

  • March 3, 2022: Study Session on response to 11/8/21 City Council Motion on Objective Standards

Staff Report & Attachments
Presentation
Minutes

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

Staff Report and Attachments
Presentation
Minutes

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

Presentation
Minutes

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

Staff Report and Attachments
Presentation
Height Transition Memo
Minutes

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

Staff Reports and Attachments
Presentation
Minutes

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

Staff Report and Attachments
Presentation
Minutes

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

Staff Report and Attachments
Presentation
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
Minutes

  • December 5, 2019

Staff Report and Attachments
Minutes

 

  

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

Tagged as: