• Project Summary:
    Objective Design Standards for 10 jurisdictions within Marin County (520 square miles) to deliver context-sensitive infill housing

    Existing Conditions Memo, Place Types and Building Types Atlas

    Customized and Adopted ODS: Belvedere, Corte Madera, County of Marin, San Anselmo

    In Progress: Toolkit (including Pattern Book), Larkspur ODS, Sausalito ODS

  • Award

    2022 FBCI Form-Based Code Award

Objective Design Standards Award Winners Missing Middle Housing Form-Based Coding Citywide/Regional Plans

Marin County Objective Design + Development Standards Toolkit

Marin County, CA

Opening Doors to New, Context-Sensitive Development


Opticos Design has been working with Marin County and 10 Marin jurisdictions to develop Objective Design Standards in response to recent California State laws seeking to streamline the delivery of multifamily and mixed-use developments.


The project provides zoning tools to deliver context-sensitive infill housing across a diverse range of communities through a Toolkit that can be customized to the needs of individual jurisdictions.


The Toolkit uses a place-based approach, addressing a wide spectrum of physical characteristics found in Marin communities. It includes standards to make buildings that reflect Marin’s scale, character, and architectural styles.

Place Types Atlas Provides Extensive Place Characteristic Analysis as Foundation for Standards

Detailed place-type analysis drives new standards to ensure compatibility. Each place type was identified and analyzed according to characteristics such as height, setbacks, mix of uses, off-street parking location, and building types. These place types were mapped across the county to specify where particular sets of Objective Design Standards would apply.

Pages Summarizing Corridor, Center, and Neighborhood Place Types Based on Existing Form

Opportunity Site/Lot Studies Inform Future Zoning/Standards: Getting Beyond Simply Increasing Density

Testing Design Alternatives, Economic Feasibility and Building Support for the Right Development on City/County-Selected Opportunity Sites (23 sites total)

What? Testing feasibility and desirability (from city’s and community’s perspective) by using best practice development and architectural design approach standards to generate three hypothetical development scenarios—typically small, medium, and large. These sites are often irregular, with many constraints that make them challenging to develop and to regulate.

Why? The desired outcome will directly inform the new objective design standards/zoning for these sites, likely reducing community pushback when projects are formally proposed.

Optional Objective Architectural Standards Ensuring Quality Results with Thoughtful but Objective Standards

Objective Architectural Standards are informed by analysis of existing buildings in Marin County, empowering local jurisdictions to enable context-sensitive new construction by right.

In-Person Engagement Translated to Virtual Public Engagement

Effectively informing the community and getting feedback on contentious issues.