A form-based code is a land development regulation that fosters predictable built results and a high-quality public realm by using physical form (rather than separation of uses) as the organizing principle. A form-based code is a regulation, not a mere guideline, adopted into city, town, or county law. A form-based code offers a powerful alternative to conventional zoning regulation. (Definition from the Form-Based Codes Institute.)

LWC is a national leader in writing form-based codes, and has worked in more than 21 jurisdictions, including the Cities of Austin, Las Vegas, Cincinnati, and Flagstaff. By using physical form rather than separation of uses as the organizing principle, a form-based code is able to protect traditional, historic neighborhoods, while leaving intact newer, drivable suburban neighborhoods that are not anticipated to change during the life of the codes. LWC also writes hybrid codes that incorporate both conventional and form-based standards. 

In 2015, LWC President Lisa Wise was named chairperson of the Form-Based Codes Institute, a non-profit organization that advances the knowledge and use of, and development standards for, form-based codes. Lisa speaks nationally about form-based codes, and recently co-authored a Planetizen online lecture series on the topic.

Austin_Texas_Sunset_Skyline_2011_CC Search.jpg


AUSTIN, TX |  2013 - present

LWC was hired as part of a team led by Opticos Design, Inc. (ODI) to update the City of Austin’s Land Development Code. Dubbed CodeNEXT, the code update is one of eight priority projects identified in the City’s Comprehensive Plan (adopted June 2012) designed to promote a more compact, connected, and complete community.

The Code Update process began with a listening and understanding outreach effort, including one-on-one interviews conducted by LWC, intended to paint the full picture of Austin’s neighborhood character and vision for development. With ODI, LWC produced a code diagnosis that illuminated the existing code’s opportunities and constraints toward accomplishing the City’s vision.

LWC is primarily responsible for developing the administrations and procedures as well as the conventional (use-based) zones--part of the team’s hybrid approach that applies both form-based and conventional zones. 

View the project website here.


Zoning CoDe Update

Flagstaff, AZ  |  2009 - 2011

LWC, as part of a consultant team led by Opticos Design, Inc., was hired by the City of Flagstaff to conduct a comprehensive Citywide Zoning Code Update. In addition to the incorporation of form-based coding, Smart Growth principles, and sustainability, the Update placed emphasis on the integration of conventional and performance-based zoning techniques. The final updated Zoning Code won two Arizona Planning Association awards and is a user-friendly, internally consistent, and concise hybrid code that successfully blended conventional and form-based coding techniques.

The community engagement process relied heavily on the community’s vision and goals as outlined in the Regional Plan. Outreach was structured to engage the public in a meaningful and effective way, using multiple participation techniques, such as focus groups, workshops, a charrette, extensive personal interviews, and web-based media.
One of LWC’s lead roles on the Code update was preparing the Affordable Housing Incentives. LWC worked closely with City staff to craft incentives including density bonus regulations and reductions in development standards such as parking, landscaping and tree preservation requirements which were feasible and attractive to those interested in developing affordable housing in Flagstaff. 

View the updated zoning code here.

Opticos bus alliance 100709.JPG


Liveable Corridors Plan & Form Based Code

Richmond, CA  |  MARCH 2012 - OCTOBER 2014

LWC, as part of a consultant team led by Opticos Design, Inc., was hired by the City of Richmond to develop a Liveable Corridors Plan to guide development along the City's main thoroughfares. The Plan addresses economic vitality, environmental quality and public health, and incorporates a form-based code to encourage the development of a high quality public realm and to allow for a range of appropriate building uses.

The planning process included significant outreach to community groups, residents, and businesses through stakeholder interviews, regular advisory committee meetings, three multi-day design charrettes, and several public hearings.  

In 2014, the Livable Corridors Plan and Form-Based Code was awarded an Honorable Mention at the Congress of New Urbanism (CNU) in Salt Lake City.

View the report here.


LWC Projects with Form-Based Code Components, 2006 - Present:

  • Alameda County, CA, Ashland and Cherryland Business District Specific Plan and Code Update
  • Austin, TX, Land Development Code Update
  • Benicia, CA, Downtown Mixed-Use Master Plan and Form-Based Development Code
  • Benicia, CA, Lower Arsenal Mixed-Use Specific Plan and Form-Based Code
  • Cincinnati, OH, Zoning Code, Comprehensive Plan, and Economic Element
  • Flagstaff, AZ, Zoning Code Update
  • Grover Beach, CA, West Grand Ave. Master Plan and Form Based Code
  • King, CA, Historic Corridor Revitalization Plan and Form-Based Code
  • Kingsburg, CA, Development Code Update, Form-Based Code, and Economic Study
  • Livermore, CA, Development Code Update, Including Form-Based Code
  • Mesa, AZ, Form-Based Zoning Code and Regulating Plan
  • Moraga, CA, Moraga Downtown Specific Plan Implementation
  • Pasadena, CA, Form-Based Street Guidelines
  • Petaluma, CA, SMART Rail Station Areas: TOD Master Plan
  • Richmond, CA, Richmond Bay Specific Plan
  • Richmond, CA, Liveable Corridors Plan and Code
  • Soledad, CA, Downtown Vision Program, Specific Plan and Code
  • Tehachapi, CA, Zoning Ordinance Update
  • Vallejo, CA, Zoning Ordinance Update