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Thread: Form-based codes vs. development standards

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Form-based codes vs. development standards

    I just had a fairly-lengthy discussion with a planning consultant who is working on a Transit-Oriented Development Overlay District and who was telling me yesterday that her firm does not like form-based codes, principally because, in her words, "all developers hate them."

    She specifically cited a new T.O.D. plan around a proposed L.A. Metro Gold Line station in Montclair, California where a developer who wanted to take a carbon copy of a three-story development he built elsewhere and plop it into that station decided against doing so because the form-based codes wouldn't allow him to exploit the economies of scale of such cloning.

    I was nonplused, myself, because I am really not comfortable with only instituting development standards. The city has some visionary and progressive public officials who really do want to see good design. So, which one of us is right, and how should the city proceed?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Get another consultant. While this may become a great armchair discussion, if your community wants form based codes the consultant should provide. If you want excuses for not doing something there is always: "I know a developer who tried that and it didn't work...."

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    She also mentioned that the City would need to hire a town architect to interpret the code and that there are no comparables in the region.

    The station areas, incidentally, would line both B.R.T. and light-rail corridors.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    She also mentioned that the City would need to hire a town architect to interpret the code and that there are no comparables in the region.
    I think that is true. We have brand new FMC for an area of town, written by a developer. I have told my boss that in the future an architect would be needed to review submissions. Big cities have architects on staff, its not that out of the ordinary. A smaller city could do it on a retainer-basis.
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    I just had a fairly-lengthy discussion with a planning consultant who is working on a Transit-Oriented Development Overlay District and who was telling me yesterday that her firm does not like form-based codes, principally because, in her words, "all developers hate them."
    A firm hating form-based codes probably means they a) haven't tried and b) don't have the staff to do it.

    Most developers in my experience do not like FBC simply because there is too much ambiguity and appearance of over regulation of the code itself. Developers want certainty, unfortunately FBC does not provide that.

    There is nothing wrong with just development standards (depending on the context of course) and there is nothing wrong with FBC. Both have their merits, again, depending on the type of projects each one would be applied to.

    Development standards, coupled with a good set of architectural guidelines, street standards and other cogs in the machine of a good specific/area/neighborhood plan can work just as well as the FBC.

    It all boils down to how well staff can interpret either code, and the political will to upheld what was formulated.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    A firm hating form-based codes probably means they a) haven't tried and b) don't have the staff to do it.

    Most developers in my experience do not like FBC simply because there is too much ambiguity and appearance of over regulation of the code itself. Developers want certainty, unfortunately FBC does not provide that.

    There is nothing wrong with just development standards (depending on the context of course) and there is nothing wrong with FBC. Both have their merits, again, depending on the type of projects each one would be applied to.

    Development standards, coupled with a good set of architectural guidelines, street standards and other cogs in the machine of a good specific/area/neighborhood plan can work just as well as the FBC.

    It all boils down to how well staff can interpret either code, and the political will to upheld what was formulated.
    This is an approach that makes the most amount of sense. Developers. largely, don't like FBC because it is hard to cost out their development w/o set standards. FBC/NU, from a staffing stand point is hard to implement because of the learning curve and devoting a staff member to the review.

    While I'm not a fan of Ecludian zoning, it is the easiest to administer. What CPSU said is true and is an easier alternative to FBC. Again, I don't have a problem with FBC in theory. Implementing is tough.
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  7. #7
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    I'll also echo Raf's points. Typical Euclidian zoning coupled with design and site orientation standards can go a long way to getting to more "urban" form if so desired.

    Strictly form-based codes still have to deal with use rather than just form. To modify an old Modernist maxim - Form does not always follow use and conversly use does not always follow form.

    There are many possible regulatory paths to a given built form outcome.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

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