Tag Archives: urban design

The Basics of Land Use Planning

The Power to Plan
Local agencies derive their authority to shape their communities through planning and land use from the “police power.” The source of this power is both the federal and California constitutions. The police power is broad and elastic and entitles cities and counties to take actions to protect the public’s general health, safety, and welfare. However, in most cases local regulations may not conflict with overriding state law.
Local authority to regulate land use can expand to meet the changing conditions or priorities of society. Thus, actions that might not have been thought of as part of the general welfare a century ago (for example, curbing sprawl or promoting affordable housing) can fall within its purview today. Continue reading

Is Urban Infill a Sustainable Solution to Development?

Urban infill may be a viable solution for cities seeking to build tighter communities by utilizing space to its fullest potential. Conscious implementation of developments on underutilized land may be an effective sustainable agent that reduces daily vehicular travel time and the resulting environmental byproducts. Continue reading

Innovative Public Transportation Infrastructure

brt_1-imageDeveloping innovative solutions within an existing city layout may be one of the challenges faced by some cities when accommodating for growing populations. It can be time consuming and expensive for a city to rework its pre-existing urban infrastructure. Rather than retrofitting the city’s public transportation infrastructure, it seems to be more feasible for a city to create an innovative solution in collaboration with pre-existing developments. Continue reading

The Architecture of Affordable Housing

As affordable housing developers build in inclusionary zoning areas, cities and residents demand high quality architecture and construction comparable to market-rate housing


One of the challenges that frequently confront market-rate housing developers building in cities with inclusionary zoning ordinances is the requirement that a certain number of affordable units be built alongside market-rate housing to promote a more diverse community. The juxtaposition of affordable with market-rate housing also demands that the affordable housing features a higher level of architectural style to compete aesthetically with the market-rate housing. Continue reading

Why is the Washington Monument Not On-Center?

wamo-cross-axis-highsmith-w-redMy wife and I were fortunate to pass through Washington D.C. during last summer. That being my first visit, as an architect naturally I could not help but admire the Beaux Arts vistas, symbolism, and majesty of the Washington Mall. But something bothered me – the centerline of the White House doesn’t line up with the Washington Monument.

In a city so based on order and symmetry and strong axes, why is the Washington Monument not on axis?! It took me a bit of online sleuthing to find out why. Continue reading

What is Mixed-Use Development?

Traditional zoning was dADC-Sketch3developed during a time when factories and many commercial uses were noisy, smelly, and/or hazardous to the public. To protect public health and residential property values, early zoning focused on separating different uses and buffering them from each other to minimize nuisances.

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The Health-Benefits Case for Mixed Used Development

HS-Mbooklet-28 Pages4The term ‘mixed-use development’ refers to buildings that contain a mix of uses – such as commercial, retail or other non-residential uses, maintaining an active commercial and business environment at pedestrian (street) level often in conjunction with residential dwellings on the upper levels in a multiple dwelling configuration. Continue reading