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, and that are focused on making approval processes ministerial, rather than discretionary, and more predictable for developers.  Transforming guidelines and subjective criteria into ODS will create new standards for housing citywide and requires an in-depth review of the City’s existing documents, including the 2030 General Plan (2012), the City’s 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 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, with the intent of stimulating housing production. These bills are intended to advance housing by streamlining permit processes and making 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.  Objective Design Standards are those that do not involve discretion or subjective judgment. Those standards can 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, and 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 3-4 months will be in engaging the City’s review bodies (Housing and Economic Development Committee, Planning Commission, Design Review Board and City Council) and the public in gaining their input as to the important features of objective design standards based on their experience in the review of projects, in order to prepare:

  1. Objective Design Standards for incorporation into the City’s Development Code.
  2. Illustrative companion document to assist developers and residents understand the intent of the code modifications.

The schedule for the project is linked here, the Design Review Board and the Planning Commission will have the primary authority in guiding the process and providing input and feedback to the ODS effort.   However, staff will also provide updates to the City Council during the schedule and the City Council will have the ultimate approval of the project. 

The past and upcoming meeting dates and documents for the Objective Design Standards project are included below:

Kick-off meeting – Joint Special meeting with HED, Planning Commission and Design Review Board

April 6, 2022

  • 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.
  • Staff report
  • Power Point
  • Annotated Agenda with Summary Comments

Joint Special meeting with Planning Commission and Design Review Board 

August 29, 2022

Design Review Board Meeting

October 13, 2022

Special Design Review Board Meeting

October 20, 2022

Special Design Review Board Meeting

November 17, 2022 - Link for staff report to be posted on November 10