Frequently Asked Questions

Objective Design and Development Standards – Frequently Asked Questions

What are Objective Standards? 

Housing legislation defines an "objective" standard as one that involves no personal or subjective judgment by a public official and uniformly verifiable by reference to an external and uniform benchmark or criterion available and knowable by both the development applicant and the public official prior to submittal.

“Structured parking shall not be visible from the street. The public-facing elevations of parking structures shall be lined with residential or commercial uses on all levels.”
“For each personal outdoor space provided, a minimum dimension of 5 feet is required in any one direction.”

What are Non-Objective Standards? 

A standard that cannot be measured or requires interpretation. 

“Produce high quality design.”
“Use high quality, durable materials that age well.”
“Consistent with the character of neighborhood.” 

Why does Corte Madera need to adopt Objective Design & Development Standards? 

Increasingly State laws are aimed at reducing the extent of discretionary review for multi-family housing projects. The last several legislative sessions have included an abundance of bills aimed at increasing the supply of housing in the State. It is anticipated that future housing bills will continue this trend of increasing “by-right” housing. The Town is undertaking this process to develop standards that encourage well designed multi-family housing while accommodating current and future legislation requirements.  

How is this work funded? 

The work is funded by the State through the Building Homes and Jobs act of 2017 (known as SB 2). SB 2 was passed to provide funding and technical assistance to help cities and counties respond to the new streamlined review process by preparing and implementing plans for multi-family housing projects. The Town was awarded a $160,000 SB 2 Grant in 2019 to work on a collaborative effort with other Marin County jurisdictions on several projects, including the development of Objective Design and Development Standards. 

Why are we working with other Marin County jurisdictions on this project? 

Working collaboratively with the County and other Marin cities allows for a larger budget and for the sharing of expertise, data, and information. This is an effective approach, particularly when the overall objective for each jurisdiction is the same – to ensure that multi-family and mixed use development projects are well designed and context sensitive. 

What are the outcomes of the project? 

A suite of tools (toolkit) has been developed that includes design and development standards that range from amending zoning standards, supplementing standards, architectural style standards, and updated review procedures. The toolkit provides standards in a way that enables each participating community to apply as few or as many elements of the standards. As part of the toolkit customization, each participating agency will determine which standards to adopt. 

How will each community address their individual unique issues and needs? 

The toolkit includes a range of zoning standards that reflect the variety of building types and physical site conditions throughout Marin County. Each community has the ability to revise and tailor the toolkit to meet their specific needs. This task of customizing the toolkit is being undertaken in Corte Madera with feedback from the Technical Advisory Working Group, Planning Commission, Town Council, and residents. 

Does the Toolkit Replace Existing Zoning Standards? 

The Objective Design and Development Standards Toolkit will not replace the Town’s existing Zoning Ordinance. The toolkit will serve as a supplement to the zoning code and will be applied to qualifying multi-family and mixed-use housing projects. 

Who will review housing projects in Corte Madera? 

Corte Madera Planning staff will review qualifying multi-family and mixed-use projects to verify that the project conforms to the various development standards included in the toolkit. 

Design Review will continue to apply to multi-family and mixed use housing projects that do not require a ministerial, streamlined review. The Planning Commission will review these Design Review projects.  

What if Corte Madera doesn’t adopt Objective Design and Development Standards? 

If the Town doesn’t adopt Objective Design and Development Standards, then the Town is still required to review and act on an eligible housing projects without any local guidance on design and standards. The development standards in the Zoning Ordinance would be used to review qualifying housing projects; however, these standards are very limited.

Senate Bill 35 and 330 FAQs