Board of Adjustment

Top 2

Allow zoning exceptions that fit within the broader city-wide plan of walkable centers and compact, mixed-use development.
Allow zoning exceptions that encourage active and public transportation.

Allow zoning exceptions that fit within the broader city-wide plan of walkable centers and mixed-use development.

Centers bring destinations closer to people, making it convenient to walk, bike, take public transportation, or drive short distances. Doing so improves air quality.

Tool: Allow the rezoning of underutilized commercial property between active centers for alternative uses.

Economic development can be fostered by rezoning underutilized commercial properties. Rezoning encourages the revitalization of centers by capitalizing on market trends in the shift from traditional brick-and-mortar stores to online retail and warehouses. As former store spaces become available, they can be repurposed for other uses and thereby preserved as economic and social centers for the neighborhoods they serve. Available sites can be used for a mix of commercial and residential spaces, together with schools, churches, and civic sites.

Tool: Encourage transit-oriented development (TOD).

TOD's encourage moderate- and high-density housing near a transit station. TOD's create an environment conducive to walking, biking, and using public transit. TOD's reduce traffic congestion and accidents, while expanding mobility for cyclists and pedestrians.


Tool: Allow accessory dwelling units in all residential areas.

Accessory dwelling units are often referred to as backyard cottages, mother-in-law apartments, upstairs apartments, or basement apartments. They are often rented and thus provide alternatives to the development of new housing by increasing affordable-housing options and density in existing neighborhoods.


Pictured above are three different types of Accessory Dwelling Units (in blue).


Encourage smaller block sizes and higher density of intersections.

People are more likely to use non-motorized and public transportation if there are small blocks, a high number of street intersections, and higher residential densities. These improvements to the urban environment influence travel behavior and reduce vehicle emissions by decreasing trip distances and frequencies.

Tool: Permit block lengths to be less than 400 feet.

Allowing new developments to have block lengths less than 400 feet increases pedestrian connectivity and more mobility for pedestrians and cyclists. Traffic capacity also increases as street networks become more connected. 


Tool: Permit mid-block crossings on longer blocks.

Introducing mid-block crossings allows people to travel to places that are otherwise underserved by the existing pedestrian and bicycle network. If formal crossings are too far apart, pedestrians are more likely to cross the street illegally rather than walk to the next intersection. Thus, mid-block crossings may increase the comfort and safety of pedestrians and bicyclists.


Pictured above is an diagram of a mid-block crossing.


Allow zoning exceptions that encourage active transportation.

Commuters do not use active transportation (i.e. non-motorized, like bicycling or walking) to get to work or school is because they feel it is unsafe, and the sidewalk and bike-lane networks are not continuous or well-maintained. It is important to allow variances that contribute to the development of connected and attractive alternative transportation networks.

Tool: Permit pedestrian connectivity through the end of cul-de-sacs.

Cul-de-sacs often force people to take an unnecessarily long route to their destination. For example, a child’s school may be within 100 yards of his or her home (as the crow flies), but, instead of walking to school, a parent drives the child a half mile because the walking distance is too long.

Case Study

  • Cul-de-sac connections, California. The City of Davis (California) requires that cul-de-sacs connect bicycle and pedestrian corridors. “Davis streets shall be connected with multiple route options for bike and pedestrian travel in new and developed areas. Cul-de-sacs are allowed provided they connect to bicycle/pedestrian corridors.” (from the Davis General Plan)

Tool: Allow decreased minimum parking requirements.

By decreasing minimum parking requirements, both land and money can be made available for better uses. The construction, maintenance, and other costs associated with free or subsidized parking can be used to fund more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly forms of transportation than driving - for example, public transportation or the construction of bicycle and pedestrian corridors.

Case Studies

Tool: Encourage buildings and their front doors to face the street.

A building’s street-facing façade defines the type of environment the street presents. Blank walls (without windows or doors) are uninviting to pedestrians, as though they are not meant to walk there. Buildings with inviting entrances that allow passersby to detect active uses inside the building encourage walking.


Develop a Board of Adjustments Sustainability Plan with an emphasis on clean air.

The Board of Adjustments has a key role to play in cleaning the air, and it has the expertise to make an impact. The Board should carefully consider its role, then develop a plan for encouraging sustainable clean air. Ideally, the plan will provide realistic means for tracking and measuring progress, as well as a process for annual review.

[i] From the city of Minneapolis.

[ii] From the NACTO Street Design Guide.

[iii] Pedestrian and bicyclist connectivity from City of Davis, California.