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Thread: One-district zoning and performance zoning: Hey, planners, remember the Eighties?

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    One-district zoning and performance zoning: Hey, planners, remember the Eighties?

    Anyone read the "Practice One District Zoning" edition of Zoning Practice this month? Looking through the article, I got a flashback. A very scary flashback.



    Performance zoning. Remember it? This was considered best planning practice in the 1970s and 1980s. "One district zoning" made a few good points -- that many communities have far too many zoning districts than they need, and that classifications are often far too granular. However, the recommended solution seemed to be a revival of performance zoning, only without its associated districts (wilderness, agricultural, conservation, rural, estate, development, urban core, according to my copy of Lane Kendig's classic Performance Zoning). Four of the five references in the article were to books and reports by Kendig. For those with short memories or who are new to the profession, Lane Kendig and Ian McHarg were to planning in the 1970s what Andres Duany is today.

    Performance zoning in its purest form, as envisioned by Kendig, was a failure. It created a physically attractive built environment, at lest given the experiences of Fort Collins, but it was horrible for placemaking. It exacerbated the problems with American suburban development of the era; mainly dependence of motor vehicles and lack of connectivity, It was unpredictable and a nightmare to administer, which is why Fort Collins finally gave it up for traditional zoning with some form-based elements over a decade ago.

    So, what was good about performance zoning? How does performance zoning influence contemporary planning practice today? I can think of a few ways, but I'd like to know what other Cyburbians think first.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    So, what was good about performance zoning? ... I'd like to know what other Cyburbians think first.
    It guaranteed a need for planners...

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    Cyburbian
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    Reminds me of how a lot of the golf course communities in Metro-Atlanta developed in the early 90's to early 2000's. Nodes of different development types, never to intermingle.

    This also reminds me of a house a good friend of mine bought in Arizona. The entire development was purchased by a conglomeration of developers/builders from the state government, they put up a rather large stone and concrete wall around the perimeter and sectioned off areas within for different types of residential units, (small, jumbo, townhome and apartment) as well as a small commercial core and an elementary school. This was over a thousand or so acres. It was a novel idea but unfortunately the builders did not have an eye for design as it was all too plain and had very little, if any, differentiation in color and material between the nodes.

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    Cyburbian
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    Some relics of the most practical parts of performance zoning are quite popular to this day. The two easiest examples for me to think of are (1) uses that are allowed by right subject to specific use standards and (2) landscape buffers of varying widths and intensities. You see #1 in a ton of codes. Whether it is very efficiently set up or not. #2 is not quite as common and rarely as complex as the original model. In my very conservative community where almost any land use innovation is looked upon with extreme skepticism, "performance zoning" has a boogey man type tone to it.

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    Cyburbian Plus
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    1 - Don't subscribe RANT - why pay for it when I pay for AICP out of my own pocket
    2. - Should I be that I never read his book ?
    3. - wasn't a planner in the 80's just student in the late 80's
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    Cyburbian UrbaneSprawler's avatar
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    Performance zoning, under the administration of planner who is savvy and skilled at negotiation can result in a better built environment than traditional zoning. It at least makes you feel nostalgic for that time period, when everything today is an analysis exercise for every modification or a variance.

    I suspect what's old can be new again, marrying somehow New Urbanism design principles to the performance zoning process.

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    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    I'm actually interested in one district zoning, but not the Kenidg variety, but more of the one district per type of land use - commercial, single family, multi-family, industrial etc.

    Where I work we have 4 separate commercial districts, but the existing built form on the ground is the same kind a auto-oriented site design scaled up and down depending on the size of the site.

    Plus, as with many places, the single family district have little real distinction between each other - increments of like 5,000 SF, but it's still one house per lot, no real land use impact distinction.
    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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    Cyburbian
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    Isn't a (binding) sustainability framework and action plan, based on pre-agreed performance targets, basically performance zoning, by another name?

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    Cyburbian Tarf's avatar
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    The thing that gets me about that image is the open space ratio. Am I correct in interpreting that they're saying a higher ratio is better?

    (better for sprawl that is).

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by tarf12345678 View post
    The thing that gets me about that image is the open space ratio. Am I correct in interpreting that they're saying a higher ratio is better?

    (better for sprawl that is).
    This was '70s thinking, I'm sure. But it's not wrong.

    You can control FAR0 applications with the combination of a minimum building coverage ratio, a minimum open space (green cover) ratio or pervious surface ratio, maxmimum or disallowed setbacks, and an adequate FAR minimum and maximum. Acting together, this could be used to constrain the amount of dead space - aslphalt pavement or just unused space. Taken by itself, an OSR can result in badness, but used in conjunction with other tools they can be very helpful. IMO, a well-constructed set of zoning and performance zoning standards is designed to work together and across the standards, not dependent on any one standard by itself. It's the interactions between targets that control outcomes.

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    So, what's the answer?

    While I remember the '80's, I was not a land use planner back then ... So I'm very curious as to what was successful or what failed about performance zoning ... since I'm about to recommend such a strategy to a client. Please, Mr. Administrator, give us the answer!

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