Zoning and Development Code Updates

We prepare comprehensive zoning and development code updates for cities and counties. Many times, after completion of a General Plan update, communities discover that their zoning and development codes do not reflect the vision and ideas embodied in the plan. Other times, communities simply get to the point that current planning and development practice has made their zoning and development regulations antiquated and ineffective.

We prepare zoning ordinances and development codes that are technically sound, legally defensible, and easy to use by staff, stakeholders, decision-makers, and community members. We help our client cities and counties to identify the inadequacies of their ordinances and codes and develop effective solutions to those problems. We prepare ordinances and codes through extensive consultation with staff and stakeholders. Our zoning ordinances and development codes have several distinctive characteristics:

  • Logical organization. The table of contents and the internal structure of chapters are organized to reflect the sequence in which code users most commonly need to find specific information.
  • Clear language and readability. Our zoning documents are clearly written, avoid ambiguity, jargon, legalese, and lengthy narrative. Regulations are consolidated into easy-to-understand tables whenever possible.
  • Informative chapter and section titles. Chapter and section titles are descriptive, as in “Standards for Specific Land Uses” rather than ambiguous “General Provisions.”
  • Cross-references. Cross-references are made to other relevant provisions, as well as to potentially applicable regulations in other Municipal Code documents.
  • Extensive use of graphics. We use graphics extensively to assist in illustrating the applicability and/or effect of regulations wherever illustration can improve understanding.
  • Formal procedure for interpretations. We always clearly define the authority for making ordinance interpretations.
  • Simplified permitting procedures. Permitting procedures are as streamlined as possible, but still ensure effective project review and proper implementation.
  • Organization to accommodate change. Our initial drafting of the code anticipates the need to add regulatory provisions as land uses and development patterns change over the years by providing space in the numbering system for these later additions.


Recent Projects

City of Santa Rosa Zoning Code Update

In association with Crawford, Multari, & Clark and Jacobson & Wack, we undertook a comprehensive update of the City of Santa Rosa Zoning Ordinance. The revision included an extensive outreach program early on to get input from zoning code users and community groups. After working with City staff to update the new Zoning Ordinance, zoning code users and community groups participated in a process to test draft revised sections of the ordinance prior to public hearings and adoption.

City of Lodi Zoning Code Update

We worked with the City of Lodi on an update the Zoning Ordinance. The project incorporated a review of General Plan designations and standards and existing zoning districts; a comparison of the General Plan Land Use Diagram and existing Zoning Map; and a review of notes from discussions with city Staff, stakeholders, the Planning Commission, and the City Council. The updated ordinance included objective threshold standards directed at minimizing specific nuisances and improving the quality of development. The updated ordinance also focused on a comprehensive list of definitions and development standards.

El Dorado County Mixed Use Design Manual

Mintier Harnish is currently preparing a Mixed Use Design Manual for El Dorado County.  El Dorado County is comprehensively updating its Zoning Ordinance, preparing an environmental impact report, and developing Targeted General Plan Amendments.  The new Zoning Ordinance allows mixed uses in several commercial and residential districts by approval of a Development Plan Permit.  In conjunction with the Targeted General Plan Amendments and Zoning Ordinance Update, the Mixed Use Design Manual will provide clarity concerning the County’s expectations for mixed use development.

The guidelines will define a hierarchy among the menu of design features that provides performance standards and a corresponding “point system” that will enable prospective developers and County staff to assign values to various design features to clearly show how projects meet the intended outcome of the design guidelines.  In this way, proposed developments will have flexibility in meeting the County’s expectations.  Greater certainty in the development review process will also help facilitate mixed use development in El Dorado County.  The Design Manual will be published as a set of highly illustrated guidelines that incorporate concepts and principles from, and ultimately replace, the County-adopted guidelines.