Start Code Reform Now
MUCH HAS BEEN WRITTEN about the failure of twentieth century zoning practice, and how it has been instrumental in creating many of the current problems facing our cities, our country, and our planet (see Rule 9). Thousands of communities have taken half-measures to circumvent their deeply flawed zoning codes and subdivision ordinances, such as eliminating unit size and parking minimums, modifying height limits and setback requirements, and changing street design standards. Every change helps, but many North American cities have reached the conclusion that simple code modifications are not enough. Just as fattening a rat does not make it a cat, conventional land use codes—introduced principally to limit disease and overcrowding, and subsequently developed as a tool for enforcing neighborhood homogeneity—simply lack the DNA to make vibrant, walkable neighborhoods. Particularly as they address the design of private buildings, conventional codes are missing the tools needed to ensure that streets and public spaces end up adequately comfortable and interesting: that edges are firm, parking is hidden, facades are sticky, and repetition is limited. Achieving these objectives requires a code organized around them. Such an instrument is referred to as a form-based code.