If You Want Safe Streets, Buy a Better Fire Engine

That lesson was brought home, once again, by the Opticos team’s work on a recent downtown plan. Our team had encountered a typical American conflict. Many community members wanted walkable streets, with wide sidewalks, protected bicycle lanes, slow-moving traffic, and ample room for trees, flowers, and sidewalk cafés. The fire department wanted wide, unobstructed swathes of asphalt. This conflict between community members’ desire for low-speed streets, with a high level of traffic safety, and a fire department’s desire for wide, high-speed roads is frequent in the United States. But in Europe, it is rare.

How a Form-Based Code Generated over $500 Million in Downtown Infill Projects and Transformed a Sleepy Downtown

In 2014, Opticos Design worked with the City of Mesa, Arizona to create a Master Plan and Form-Based Code (FBC) that would provide incentives for redevelopment in their downtown core and along a five-mile stretch of Main Street. The Plan and Code focused development around three new transit stations to allow for a network of new walkable, public spaces. Prior to the adoption of the plan and FBC, there had been no private-sector investment in downtown Mesa in over three decades.

Opening Doors to New, Context-Sensitive Development

Recent California state legislation (eg., SB 35, SB 330 and the Housing Accountability Act) stipulates that in certain situations, projects that qualify for streamlined review and processing must be designed and reviewed only through objective design standards. Marin County retained Opticos Design in 2019 to develop Objective Design and Development Standards (ODDS) for multifamily and mixed-use residential development in coordination with 11 separate jurisdictions within the County, the largest objective design standards application to date.