Writing a new zoning code is time-consuming, politically fraught with landmines, and therefore unlikely to happen in most places. But with a limited number of strategic adjustments, many zoning codes can be repaired to allow Lean Urbanism and improve or create walkable, livable environments.
The purpose of the Lean Code Tool is to repair zoning codes by removing barriers to small-scale, incremental development. Rather than rewriting entire codes, it focuses on strategic improvements, instructing experts and non-experts to identify the most common barriers and to repair the broken parts of the codes.
“If we have learned nothing else from the 20th century, we should at least have grasped that the more perfect the answer, the more terrifying its consequences. Incremental improvements upon unsatisfactory circumstances are the best that we can hope for, and probably all we should seek. “
~ Tony Judt
The Lean Code Tool includes a collection of strategies, organized into categories, and begins with a focus on local capacity for change. It includes a Capacity Assessment Tool, which helps to determine whether the locality has political and staff capacity for minimal changes (S), moderate changes (M), significant changes (L), or progressive changes (XL).
1. Procedural Strategies
Improving bureaucratic processes can remove some of the greatest barriers to small-scale development.
2. Urban Form
Small steps can improve urban form while building local capacity for more substantial code reform over time.
3. Site Development
Site-plan requirements can prohibit or place disproportionate burdens on small-scale development. This section addresses the most critical issues and the most attainable repairs.
4. Parking Strategies
Conventional parking requirements are tremendous economic burdens, as well as barriers to walkability.
5. Use Strategies
Overly restrictive use and density regulations are common barriers to small-scale development. This section offers strategies to lighten these regulations to encourage economic development.
6. Sign Strategies
Sign regulations can be some of the most complex standards in a zoning ordinance. This short section focuses on the simplification of permit requirements and physical standards.
7. Transportation Strategies
Transportation strategies address barriers to development in more categories than any other single topic.