Zoning Reform in Urban Residential Neighborhoods
You'll learn about:
- Options for revisiting outdated zoning in urban areas
- How to evaluate the tradeoffs between comprehensive rezoning efforts and zone-specific changes
- Time-effective ways to conduct public outreach on the relationship between zoning and land use
Urban zoning is often "two sizes too small" and prevents continuation of the built form that made urban neighborhoods great. Between setback requirements, density and height limits, and parking minimums, it can be challenging to allow the existing pattern of these neighborhoods to grow and thrive. This situation has often arisen in response to out-of-context large buildings that created a backlash in these neighborhoods, and zoning that prevented any development at all. The result? A lot of nonconforming buildings that can't be modified to fit the needs of growing families and a housing shortage. This session will look at two ways to fix this problem—one tactical and one comprehensive.
Portland, Maine, set a policy goal of amending portions of its zoning ordinance to allow for greater housing opportunities. In the spring of 2014, its Planning and Urban Development Department began crafting amendments to the primary downtown residential zone (R-6). The dimensional requirements of the R-6 did not align with any of the varied neighborhoods it regulated, rendering Portland’s historic neighborhoods non-conforming. The initiative to recraft the R-6 therefore focused not only on how it could be amended to allow for greater housing production, but also on how to enact standards that make it possible for new construction, small lot infill development, and alterations of existing structures to be consistent with the historic pattern of development prevalent in these neighborhoods. The process included robust public engagement prior to a full proposal being brought forward for formal review.
Somerville, Mass., embarked on a more ambitious effort to overhaul its entire land-use code. This densely populated city near Boston had last rewritten its zoning code in 1990, at a time when the policy was to discourage additional housing by imposing artificially high minimum lot sizes and setbacks. The result was that—like in Portland's R-6 zones—almost every residential structure was nonconforming and infill development needed rezoning or to take advantage of loopholes in the code. The City of Somerville's rewritten land-use code encourages infill development and streamlines the approval process provided that certain forms are followed.
, City of Portland
Confirmed SpeakerChristine Grimando, AICP, is a Senior Planner for the City of Portland’s Department of Planning & Urban Development. In Portland she has overseen land use code reforms for Portland’s residential neighborhoods, is currently the project manager for Portland’s new Comprehensive Plan, and is involved in the adaptive reuse of two industrial sites along Portland’s waterfront, currently underway. Prior to joining the department she served as a planner elsewhere in Maine and Massachusetts, and worked in the nonprofit sector in New York. In 2012 she received an Urban and Regional Policy Fellowship from the German Marshall Fund to meet with practitioners and policymakers in the UK and Italy, with particular emphasis on the implementation of urban sustainability initiatives. She received her master’s degree in Urban Planning from Columbia University.
Confirmed SpeakerJeff Levine, AICP, has been involved with land use planning on the local and regional level for 20 years. Before coming to Portland, he was the Director of Planning & Community Development for Brookline, MA, where he managed the completion of the town's award-winning Comprehensive Plan and a public realm plan for the Route 9 corridor into Boston. Previously, he worked as the Director of Transportation & Long Range Planning for the City of Somerville, MA, and as a regional planner for the Cape Cod Commission. A New England native, he has been involved in a number of land use transformations, including the redevelopment of the Assembly Square district in Somerville; planning for the introduction of a new light rail transit line in Somerville; redevelopment of John Kennedy’s boyhood church into a mixed-income housing development in Brookline; and the redevelopment of the Bayside district in Portland. Jeff has also been involved in Metropolitan Planning Organizations in Boston, on Cape Cod, and in Portland, and currently serves on the Greater Portland METRO Board and the Greater Portland Council of Governments. Jeff is an adjunct faculty member at the Muskie School of Public Service, and was previously an adjunct at Tufts University and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Minnesota and an undergraduate degree from Wesleyan University.
Confirmed SpeakerGeorge Proakis, AICP is the Director of Planning for the City of Somerville, Massachusetts, a city of 77,000 with the highest residential density of any community in New England. He is currently working on implementing Somerville's award-winning SomerVision comprehensive plan and developing a zoning overhaul for the communuity. Earlier, as planning director for the city of Lowell, Massachusetts, George pursued the redevelopment of a 15-acre transit-oriented “Hamilton Canal District”, and coordinated the development of a form-based code for this district. He led the creation of the New England Form Based Codes Council in 2009, and has advocated for better land use planning, innovative regulatory solutions and form-based codes in many New England communities. George holds a Master of City Planning from MIT, a Masters degree in Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and a BS in Civil Engineering from Northeastern University. He serves on the board of the New England chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism and on the Resource Council for the Form Based Codes Institute.