• Size

    Precise Plan and Form-Based Code for 265-acre historic downtown

  • Housing

    Greater housing access and choice with Missing Middle Housing and an Affordable Housing and Anti-Displacement strategy to prevent gentrification

  • Building Types

    Focused mixed-use development and public realm improvements at nodes and gateways to strengthen downtown identity

  • Biking Facilities

    Robust public realm and street network redesign, prioritizing transit, bicycle and pedestrian access

  • Community Engagement

    In-depth public engagement with a Steering Committee, a multi-day Design Charrette, two Pop-Up Workshops and the Neighborland online platform

Missing Middle Housing Downtowns

Downtown San Rafael Precise Plan

San Rafael, CA

A historic downtown’s evolution into a transit-rich, mixed-use center


A community-driven process has guided the 20-year vision for Downtown San Rafael, to successfully evolve from a commercial and civic center into a vibrant, mixed-use destination for the city and region. It capitalizes on its transit-rich location to create new housing opportunities in a walkable setting and calibrates new development to further enrich its unique history and built heritage.

Focused Growth and Public Realm Improvements

The Plan envisions strategic public realm interventions at key nodes, supplemented by incremental, small-scale infill projects over the 20-year timeline. Built form standards are calibrated to reflect market conditions and the latest construction technology to enable new development to be economically feasible, and to incentivize the production of affordable housing. Enhanced bicycle and pedestrian connectivity and public realm standards generate a vibrant, mixed-use environment and reinforce the historic Fourth Street as San Rafael’s “Main Street.”

Sensitive Infill through a Form-Based Approach

The Precise Plan includes a Form-Based Code that establishes a visual hierarchy and reinforces the built character of Downtown’s eclectic neighborhoods. It shapes new development to be sensitive to the existing urban fabric, protects historic resources, and adjacent residential neighborhoods.