Zoning Objective Design Standards Missing Middle Housing Small Towns Updates

Opticos’ Top Public Missing Middle Applications Nationwide

While many communities, from small rural towns and counties to medium and large sized cities, share the same goal of delivering much-needed, attainably-priced housing choices, there is no one size fits all recommendation.


As cities and counties across the country take inventory of their local populations and current housing needs, they’re reaching out to Opticos for our wide-ranging expertise in providing Missing Middle Housing based solutions.

Here we highlight some of our recent Missing Middle Housing work:


For communities that are grappling with how and where to apply Missing Middle Housing, Opticos offers two service packages, the Missing Middle Scan™ and the Missing Middle Deep Dive™. The scan helps broaden understanding of the need for change and then locates and prioritizes the areas that are appropriate for enabling Missing Middle Housing. The Deep Dive™ takes the process a step further by providing a detailed analysis of what the current zoning allows on specific sites, proposes detailed solutions and identifies next steps with a graphically-rich, user-friendly roadmap to success.

Opticos is currently working on Missing Middle Scans™ in Knoxville, TN, Athens, GA and Santa Rosa, CA. We have recently completed scans in Greenville, SC, the City and County of Greensboro, NC, and Idaho Falls, ID and are providing Strategic Missing Middle Advising to Kenmore, WA.


Creating focused, small area plans is a great strategy to either test Missing Middle application in a specific area of a community, to enable applications that address local conditions, or to implement larger citywide strategies and policies in a Comprehensive or General Plan.

Completing Seven Small Area Plans for Memphis, TN

The City of Memphis is rapidly implementing their award-winning Memphis 3.0 Comprehensive Plan—developed with Opticos—through the Accelerate Memphis 3.0 program. As part of this effort, the City hired Opticos to create seven Small Area Plans for priority neighborhoods, including Hollywood-Hyde Park, Highland Heights, Klondike, and South City. Each of these plans had a strong Missing Middle component that studied and proposed a range of Missing Middle types on typical existing lot sizes.


Cities and counties across the country are identifying priority growth areas within their Comprehensive Plans to deliver much-needed Missing Middle Housing. Here are two examples of a county and city that did this and then hired Opticos to effectively implement this policy for those areas with a plan and new zoning.

Growth Area Plan + Form-Based Code for the South District Area for Iowa City, Iowa

Iowa City has a long history of limiting sprawling development at its edges. In a recent comprehensive plan, the City identified a 900-acre at the southern edge of the City, called the South District, as an area of targeted growth that is intended to deliver a broad range of Missing Middle Housing choices, in a compact walkable neighborhood. Opticos refined the plan and wrote a Form-Based code, which was adopted in November 2019 , to effectively implement the City’s vision.

Northern South Park Neighborhood Plan, Town of Jackson and Teton County, Wyoming

Identified in their latest Comprehensive Plan, a 225-acre site that abuts the town provides a unique, once-in-a-generation opportunity to add more housing to the area, more specifically much-needed attainable housing in a market that has housing prices far out of reach for low and moderate income households. Opticos was brought in to engage the community, create a detailed vision and write a set of development standards to help implement the vision. This vision aims to provide over 1,200 new units of housing in a new walkable neighborhood, utilizing a broad range of Missing Middle types, that will deliver for sale and rental affordable and attainable housing options for people living and working in the immediate area.


Citywide feasibility studies allow for the team to perform a larger and more in-depth physical analysis and factor in the underlying inherent financial feasibility of bringing in Missing Middle Housing. In California, this tackles the added challenge of high land values that make Missing Middle housing a challenge to be economically feasible, and meet state legislation requirements. The end product is a full roadmap of zoning recommendations and policy changes that will help successfully enable Missing Middle Housing in a new area and inform the next round of Housing Element and General Plan updates.

San Jose Citywide Opportunity Housing (Missing Middle Housing) Study

The analysis, which was driven by the City Council in an effort to deliver more attainably priced housing and done in collaboration with Strategic Economics, identified the range and location of lots citywide that could physically accommodate fourplexes, and produced 3D test fits to demonstrate the build out. These 3D test fits were then assessed for feasibility, livability and attainability and utilized qualitative and quantitative analysis to inform policy recommendations to stimulate housing production.

Modesto Citywide Housing Study

Modesto decided to think outside the box before jumping right into the creation of a General Plan and Housing Element. The Housing Plan helps position Modesto to deliver 21st century housing choices while still reinforcing its small-town character. The Housing Study provides strategies for different context types throughout the city and provides land use, policy, and zoning recommendations that will inform the General Plan and Housing Element updates.

Sacramento Missing Middle Housing Study

Currently underway, Opticos is collaborating with City staff to implement the Missing Middle policy that was established in their recently adopted General Plan and Housing Element. The project includes a strong equity component, a displacement analysis, community education, 3D Test Fits with pro forma analysis on existing lots throughout various neighborhoods, scenario modeling, and targeted zoning recommendations.

This more robust and researched set of recommendations is an evolution of how we’re thinking about housing plans and Missing Middle Scans. This specific, custom study will examine different parts of the city and use the existing city’s Comprehensive Plan as the foundation for focusing on getting Missing Middle Housing actually built.

Other Planning Projects with a Strong Missing Middle Component as Part of a Larger Planning Project

A large majority of our public sector projects have a strong Missing Middle component, even if it’s not the primary or only focus. Here is a sample of some of our in-progress and recently completed projects. 

  1. Kaua’i County, HI: Community Plans and Form-Based Codes
  2. Davis, CA: Downtown Specific Plan
  3. Memphis, TN: Small Area Plans
  4. Mountain View, CA: R3 Zoning District Study
  5. Kenmore, WA: MMH Design Consulting Services

In the past, the focus of Housing Studies, Scans and Deep Dives™ has been on areas that left out single-family neighborhoods. However, Opticos has begun adapting a different approach, expanding the centers of walkable neighborhoods to include schools and other less robust centers that typically exist in suburban residential areas. By exploring new and different ways to incorporate local gathering centers as the anchors of a walkable community, we’re able to find success in bringing Missing Middle types to different contexts and zones.

Bring the Missing Middle to your Community with our Missing Middle Services. Download to learn more!