Growing trend of U.S. cities loosening zoning regulations

Focus is shifting toward the appearance and relationship between buildings and away from building use.

August 26, 2014

Driven by New Urbanism, more than two dozen communities in the U.S. have loosened zoning restrictions in recent years. Cities are opting to use form-based codes, a concept less concerned with the use of buildings and more with their appearance and the way they relate to each other. 

The goal of city planners is to shape the streetscape according to a vision for a neighborhood. The new approach has been called “performance-based zoning.” An example is a large development in Fremont, Calif., where the city council changed its approach to zoning on a nearly 900-acre property adjacent to a light rail station. 

Planners started with several goals—a certain number of jobs, a certain number of homes including affordable homes, and strict standards for a low carbon footprint. The developers were allowed to design the project as they saw fit as long as they could achieve those goals.

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