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In November of 2016, Opticos Principal Karen Parolek keenly identified that ‘by-right zoning’ was getting lots of buzz as a tool to help with California’s housing crisis: We need 180,000 dwellings each year by 2025 to keep up with demand.
Building types are a key component of the physical environment and have existed for millennia in all types of walkable places: from crossroads and small towns to every size of city. Building types and the public realm have made all of these places. But despite their existence before zoning, building types were left aside when zoning focused on the separation of uses while relegating physical form and character to a non-essential role. The physical realities and qualities of walkable places that existed long before zoning were now viewed through the lens of use, density and Floor Area Ratio (FAR): a lens that is not capable of recognizing physical form and character.
Sustainable development sits at the heart of President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s vision for the future of the Central African country of Gabon. In 2012, President Ondimba commissioned The Prince’s Foundation, along with Opticos and an international team of experts, to draft an Akanda Masterplan and SmartCode with the intent to establish a sustainable framework for the growth of Akanda, a 3,000-acre site at the northern edge of Gabon’s capital, Libreville, and adjacent to Akanda National Park, a lush, natural habitat of coastal mangroves, mudflats, wetlands, and patches of verdant forest.