On December 5, 2023, the town of Sebastopol in Sonoma County, California adopted Objective Design Standards (ODS). As required by State Law, permit streamlining, and ministerial approval must be provided for multi-family projects and mixed-use projects that are eligible under the Housing Affordability Act and SB 35. For these types of projects, jurisdictions can only apply zoning and design standards that are objective. State law defines objective to mean “the standard involves no personal or subjective judgement on the part of the city and is uniformly verifiable by reference to criteria that are available to the applicant at the time of application.”
The ODS were prepared and refined through a 15-month collaboration of a subcommittee of members of the Planning Commission and the Design Review Board, planning staff, and Opticos Design. This collaboration focused on customizing the 2021 Opticos Design Toolkit of Objective Standards to make new built outcomes fit Sebastopol’s small-town character and eclectic architecture.
The form-based standards work with the town’s current building setbacks and height standards to provide building form and design standards while being silent on style. The need to allow many styles and especially contemporary interpretations was key throughout the process. Of particular interest to the community was the chapter on large site standards. This chapter provides standards for someday turning superblocks (think supermarket and strip mall parking lots) into small town-sized blocks and new walkable neighborhoods.
Feel free to contact Tony Perez, Senior Associate, at Opticos if you’d like to learn more about our collaboration and the transformative impact of Objective Design Standards.