Zoning Form-Based Codes News

Opticos Goes Back to School on Form-Based Codes, Part 2

This winter quarter at UCLA, Tony Perez, director of Form-Based Coding at Opticos Design, is teaching UP 252, a graduate-level class on Form-Based Coding and planning on Thursday evenings in a three-hour studio format.

Working in small teams, the students are learning the differences between conventional planning and Euclidean zoning and form-based planning and coding. They are using form-based planning to understand and work on 20-year plans for their individual study areas.

The students chose the four, one-square-mile study areas in Los Angeles and identified the existing physical context including vehicular traffic, walk scores, bicycles, and transit for all streets and rights-of-way. Next, they examined the existing context to determine which transect zones applied to each of their study areas.

Assuming having worked with the residents, merchants, and other stakeholders to identify the key issues to be addressed in their study areas, the students pinpointed the various types of change they saw as relevant. This phase of work concluded with addressing the key issues through tangible policy direction and articulating the expected outcomes that result from applying the policy direction.

In the next phase of work, the students used this policy direction to clarify the necessary changes and improvements recommended for each study area. For example, some parts of a corridor were stable and needed little improvement or few changes, while other areas needed aggressive road diets to reconfigure roadways to accommodate transit and bicyclists. Some areas needed road diets, major infill, and streetscape and civic space improvements.

Form-Based Coding class UCLA graduate-level
Creativity and tangible results are not mutually exclusive, says UP 252 instructor Tony Perez.

The students’ current task is to express the actual changes to roadways, select the types of appropriate infill development for the various locations, and specify the streetscape and civic space improvements through an illustrative plan drawing. This drawing shows the changes envisioned over 20 years for existing streets, civic spaces, and buildings, and how reinvestment could be applied to respond to the identified policy direction. After finishing the illustrative plan phase of work, the students will apply a FBC framework, turning their illustrative plan and policy direction into a systematic approach for realizing change through new form-based zoning and street standards.

Unlike a project where a master developer controls all the properties and can execute the project in a certain way, plans for large areas of cities are executed by many individuals with individual schedules and priorities. What unifies those variables is zoning that implements the stated vision. That’s why the illustrative plan and policy direction package are so important for informing the FBC framework and standards.

“Someone asked me one evening ‘How real or unreal should we be about our ideas and the change we identify?’” recalled Perez. “My response was, “Totally real if you want your work to be taken seriously.” Perez says it’s unhelpful and irresponsible to expect anything less than credible ideas and plans from the students.

They’re a few months away from permanently entering the profession and it’s important that they understand that creativity and tangible results are not mutually exclusive. “There’s a huge need in our profession to be visionary and creative, while providing substance and clarity about how the ideas address the community’s issues and how those ideas can be realized.”

The students will present this work in a final class on March 12. The public is invited to hear these presentations at 5:30p.m., Room 4320 of the Luskin School of Public Affairs, UCLA.

Last spring, Perez taught a graduate-level studio dedicated to Form-Based Coding at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, CA; “Form-Based Codes in the Context of Integrated Urbanism,” was one of the only full courses on the subject in the country.

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