Over 20 years of innovation and placemaking

For over 2 decades, our urban design, planning, and architecture services have addressed the increasing demand for walkable urban places accessible to local communities with a unique people-first approach. We have worked with like-minded, innovative clients to improve and create places to meet resident needs with a lasting legacy.

Who We Partner With

Private Sector Services

  • Site/Master Planning

    One of our core strengths is to tackle complex sites—ranging from one lot or acre to several hundred acres, balancing placemaking and yield, while creating vibrant communities.

  • Architecture

    We have designed architecture in walkable communities across the country. Our work includes innovative residential housing types (including Missing Middle) that deliver much-needed housing choices; mixed-use buildings that repair the urban fabric; and civic/public/amenity buildings to reinforce a unique community identity. All of our architecture is rooted in the place it is designed for.

  • Missing Middle Housing

    With over 20 years of research, design, and market understanding, we provide site planning and architecture as well as access to a wide network of experts to collaborate with throughout the country. Clients utilize our expertise and reputation for speaking events, public engagement, and graphic communication to build support for projects.

  • Strategic Advising for Entitlement

    We have a national reputation with planners for form-based code and zoning expertise, design excellence, and Missing Middle Housing thought leadership. Recognizing the value of our design, planners are often excited to see that a developer has brought us on board.

  • Architectural Design Guidelines & Pattern Books

    To reinforce the unique and high-quality brand of a project and to ensure quality implementation we often create architectural standards, guidelines, and pattern books.

  • Public Engagement and Communication

    We have a toolbox of public engagement tools ranging from hands-on design charrettes and the use of 3D printed models to interactive digital platforms that enable us to create a custom and effective engagement strategy. We provide forums for community to gather and provide feedback while building support for projects.

  • New Zoning/Development Standards for Entitlement Packages/Development Agreement

    To implement our master plans effectively and predictably for our clients and the communities, we often write new zoning/form-based coding as a component of the entitlement package.

Public Sector Services

  • Area, Precise, and Specific Plans

    These targeted area plans include downtown and corridor revitalization, neighborhood plans to encourage residential infill, and Transit-Oriented Development. In addition to urban revitalization, our plans often establish a strong vision to transform a brownfield or greyfield site or a suburban setting into walkable urban places.

  • Zoning/Form-Based Coding

    Our extensive experience in zoning reform delivers walkable urbanism from sub-area to county scales with graphic and user-friendly codes. This zoning/coding work may start with a zoning code analysis and can include a complete zoning or development code replacement or targeted fixes to make the code work more effectively. Our zoning has been applied successfully from rural crossroads to thriving big cities, and includes shared, multi-jurisdictional zoning templates, and Objective Design Standards applications.

  • Comprehensive/General Plans

    Cities and counties hire us to implement comprehensive/general plan strategies based on form of the built environment, community character, and equity. Opticos also provides strategic direction on engagement and communication strategies that inform these processes, document structures and templates. We ensure usability and graphic clarity to build excitement about plans and bolster local capacity by training staff and local consultants by integrating them into the process.

  • Missing Middle Housing Scan™ and Deep Dive™

    In the MMH Scan™, we identify existing barriers in your policy documents and zoning regulations. We also make clear recommendations on where a city should prioritize Missing Middle Housing.  In the MMH Deep Dive™, we test specific lot sizes in selected zoning districts to understand and graphically illustrate the differences between what the zoning allows and what it actually yields.  Then we show which MMH type(s) would fit on each tested lot regardless of the existing zoning, showing what’s possible and what fits the neighborhood.

  • Strategic Advising

    Cities often hire us to utilize our expertise and experience to provide peer review of work they are creating, to help define a project approach, or to negotiate on project design.

  • Effective Public Engagement and Education

    We have a toolbox of effective strategies including multi-day charrettes, online engagement tools, hands-on exercises, and 3D massing model visualizations that navigate complex communities with an inclusive approach.  Our work includes a strong education component for community members, planning staff, decision makers and other stakeholders. Topics we often cover include Zoning/Form-Based Coding, Urban Design & Placemaking, Housing and Building Types, Missing Middle Housing, and Effective Design Review.

  • Strategic Housing Plans

    We offer visually compelling, design, and feasibility-focused alternatives to conventional housing needs analysis or Housing Elements.

  • Design Guidelines and Pattern Books

    We document and understand the key characteristics and nuances of your neighborhoods, individual blocks, the range of individual site types and building configurations, and architectural style to organize the findings into guidelines and standards that can be systematically deliver high-quality development proposals.

  • City-Owned Opportunity Sites: Site Design & Feasibility Testing

    We can utilize our private sector and architectural experience to generate alternatives for designated, important opportunity sites within a community to help unlock their development potential. These studies often inform and plug into a financial feasibility analysis to determine the value of a site, and directly inform needed zoning changes.

  • Design Review and Implementation Assistance

    We can serve as an extension of your staff to help you implement your goals.

Opticos facilitated a learning environment and fostered a creativity that I hadn’t seen from the Planning Directors in past project work…I don’t think this project would have been as successful without the Opticos team. Their expertise in the subject matter allowed them to adapt to the jurisdictions changing needs and create additional service products that assured each jurisdiction that the Objective Design and Development Standards could be customized for their needs. The creative analysis Opticos created helped us see the County in a different way and provided a good foundation for joint work in the future.

— Jillian Zeiger, AICP, Planner, Housing and Federal Grants Division, County of Marin

Opticos worked closely with us to design a beautiful, diverse neighborhood… It’s been a true pleasure working with them to fulfill my vision.”

— Jerry Reimer, Co-founder, Urban Village Development
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