Objective Design Standards
The City of Concord has initiated the process for the development of Objective Design Standards (ODS) for residential development. The intent of this effort is to address recent changes in State law that seek to streamline and increase housing production. The project will result in making approval processes ministerial, rather than discretionary, and more predictable for developers. Transforming the City’s existing guidelines and subjective criteria into ODS will create new standards for qualifying housing projects citywide and requires an in-depth review of the City’s existing documents, including the 2030 General Plan (2012), the Concord Design Guidelines (1987), the Downtown Concord Specific Plan (2014), the Downtown Concord Design Guidelines (2020), and design-related portions of the City’s Development Code, i.e. Zoning Ordinance. The City’s consultant is currently undertaking this review.
- In response to California’s housing crisis, several state laws have been enacted to bolster the State’s Housing Accountability Act including Senate Bill (SB) 35, SB 330, and SB 9, as well as AB 2011 and SB6 for mixed use projects, with the intent of stimulating and streamlining housing production. These bills are intended to make it more difficult for communities to deny or reduce the density of housing projects that meet objective General Plan and zoning requirements.
- The State has limited a local jurisdiction’s ability to apply subjective design standards, whereby the City can now only rely on the application of objective design standards for qualifying housing projects for those affordable housing projects, submitted as a result of the new legislation. Objective Design Standards are those that do not involve discretion or subjective judgment and typically be referenced to an external and uniform benchmark or criterion.
- In order to respond to recent legislation, the City is focused on creating a robust set of residential objective design standards to ensure that projects achieve high quality building design that engages site planning that responds to the context of the site. The proposed approach will ensure that the City has a creative, economically feasible, and sustainable strategy toward new development.
The City’s effort over the next three months will be in engaging the City’s review bodies (Design Review Board, Planning Commission, and City Council), developers and the public in gaining their input as to the important features of ODS based on their experience in the review of projects, in order to prepare two documents:
- Objective Design Standards for incorporation into the City’s Development Code.
- Illustrative companion document to assist developers and residents understand the intent of the code modifications.
The schedule has regularly engaged the Design Review Board and the Planning Commission which have had the primary authority in guiding the process and providing input and feedback to the ODS effort. The City Council approved the project on August 22, 2023.
The past and upcoming meeting dates and documents for the Objective Design Standards project are included below:
September 12, 2023 – City Council Meeting
Considering introduction of Ordinance No. 23-6, entitled, "An Ordinance Amending the City of Concord's Development Code (Title 18) by adding Chapter 18.152 – Objective Design Standards (2023-2031 Housing Element Objective 15.3) (PL23101 – DC)." Ordinance No. 23-6 was introduced on August 22, 2023, by reading of the title only and waiving further reading.
August 22, 2023 – City Council Meeting
Considering introduction of an Ordinance amending the Concord Municipal Code (Title 18) by adding Chapter 18.152 – Objective Design Standards (2023-2031 Housing Element Objective 15.3) (PL23101 – DC) by reading of the title only and waiving further reading.
August 8, 2023 – Planning Commission Meeting
Considering the adoption of Resolution No. 23-10PC recommending the City Council approve an Ordinance Amending the City’s Development Code (Title 18) by adding Chapter 18.152 – Objective Design Standards (2023-2031 Housing Element Objective 15.3).
July 13, 2023 – Design Review Board - Correspondence Item
Considering recommendations for a Correspondence Item (PL23101 – DR) for the City’s Objective Design Standards project to amend the City’s Development Code with a new Chapter 18.152 Objective Design Standards, and incorporate by reference the 2023 Objective Design Standards.
May 2, 2023 – City Council Study Session
Study session to consider the following: 1) An update on the preparation of the City’s ODS document; 2) An overview of the draft standards and diagrams for the five sections: Citywide, Downtown, Neighborhoods, Corridors, and Special Case/Infill areas; and 3) Providing feedback on the administrative draft ODS, for incorporation into the final draft ODS.
- Staff report posted to the website.
February 23, 2023 –Design Review Board meeting
Consideration of preliminary standards to address urban lot splits and two-unit projects pursuant to Senate Bill 9 for incorporation into the Objective Design Standards document.
December 21, 2022 – Planning Commission Study Session
Overview of the progress on the City’s ODS document with a focus on the preparation of draft standards and diagrams for the four sections: Downtown, Neighborhoods, Corridors, and Special Case/Infill areas.
November 17, 2022 - Special Design Review Board Meeting
Discussion of the City’s ODS document with a focus on the preparation of draft standards and diagrams for the Corridors and Special Case/Infill areas and the different methods to achieve an objective standard.
October 20, 2022 - Special Design Review Board Meeting
Discussion of the City’s ODS document with a focus on the preparation of draft standards and diagrams for the Downtown and Neighborhood areas and the different methods to achieve an objective standard.
October 13, 2022 - Design Review Board Meeting
In preparation for the October 20, 2022 meeting, staff provided a brief outline for the ODS document, and a preview of the different methods to achieve an objective standard as preparation for a more in-depth discussion of specific architecture and site planning design standards for the Downtown and Neighborhood areas.
August 29, 2022 - Joint Special meeting with Planning Commission and DRB
Presentation on the purpose of the project, existing conditions findings and examples of other jurisdictions documents.
April 6, 2022 - Kick-off Joint Special meeting with HED, Planning Commission and DRB
A discussion took place of overall goals, initial tasks, timeline, community outreach and a summary of the City’s relevant design review documents was presented after which a discussion took place among the various Committee/Commission/Board members, staff and the consultant regarding their experiences in the review of planning projects and their implementation into built projects.