A Specific Plan is a planning tool for refining a community’s vision for a particular area. Usually, communities use Specific Plans for areas that are to be master planned for new neighborhoods and services, or, as is the case with Sonoma Boulevard, in existing areas that need clarity about their direction for the future. The community can use a Specific Plan to guide land use activity, development and reinvestment in the planning area. Per State Law, the Specific Plan must be consistent with the General Plan. The Sonoma Boulevard Specific Plan is being coordinated with the concurrent Vallejo General Plan update.
Per State Law, a Specific Plan must include the following information:
- Text and diagrams showing the distribution, location and extent of all land uses, including open space;
- Proposed distribution, location, extent and intensity of major components of public and private transportation, sewage, water, drainage, solid waste disposal, energy and other essential facilities needed to support the land uses;
- Standards and guidelines for development, and standards for the conservation, development and utilization of natural resources, where applicable;
- Program of implementation measures including regulations, programs, public works projects and financing measures; and
- Statement of the Specific Plan’s relationship to the General Plan.
Where will the Specific Plan apply?
The Specific Plan will apply to the parcels along Sonoma Boulevard from Redwood Street on the north to Curtola Parkway on the south. The Specific Plan will identify how those parcels will enable development and land use activity that makes sense along Sonoma Boulevard while also being compatible with the adjacent neighborhoods.
Why is a Specific Plan necessary when we have the Sonoma Corridor Design Plan?
The 2013 Corridor Design Plan made specific recommendations to make the corridor more accessible for bicyclists and pedestrians, including new bicycle lanes, street trees, improved sidewalks, and other pedestrian amenities. It also established a broad foundation for understanding what general types of land use activity the community might expect and prioritize along Sonoma Boulevard. However, the Plan did not go into the same amount of detail about the parcels along Sonoma Boulevard. It recognized that subsequent planning activities – including a Specific Plan and amendments to the Zoning Ordinance – would need to be undertaken in order to overcome existing regulatory and policy barriers to better development patterns and to properly address development potential as it relates to the Boulevard and to adjacent neighborhoods. The Specific Plan is a comprehensive way of moving those recommendations forward by identifying programs and development standards that animate the recommendations and general ideas found in the Corridor Plan.
Will my zoning change?
The existing zoning is being analyzed to understand all that it allows or does not allow, with regards to both land use and physical form, and how this compares to the Corridor Plan’s direction. At this early point in the process, it is known that the existing zoning does not easily or clearly accommodate the types of changes recommended by the Corridor Design Plan. The two public design charrettes for the Boulevard, to be held this summer (2014), will provide an opportunity to discuss these challenges and ways that zoning can be changed to better integrate new development and land use activity. It’s anticipated that Sonoma Boulevard is an appropriate place within Vallejo to apply a Form-Based Code, an innovative and effective implementation tool.
What is a Form-Based Code (FBC)?
Form-Based Codes (FBCs) provide an alternative approach to Euclidean/Conventional zoning that emphasizes physical form, rather than separation of uses. They have been utilized to reinforce walkable, sustainable, mixed-use environments that build upon the existing character of places. The nonprofit Form-Based Codes Institute defines FBCs as follows:
“Form-Based Codes foster predictable built results and a high-quality public realm by using physical form (rather than separation of use) as the organizing principle for the code. These codes are adopted into city or county law as regulations, not mere guidelines. Form-Based Codes are an alternative to conventional zoning.”
The parcels along Sonoma Boulevard are currently regulated by Conventional Zoning Standards found in Title 16 of the Vallejo Municipal Code. These regulations focus primarily on allowed (and prohibited) land uses. While this approach helps to ensure land use compatibility with adjacent neighborhoods, it provides little to no information addressing the variety of other, equally important issues beyond land use, such as building frontage, mass, height, and scale.
Form-Based Zoning is all about identifying what the community wants and then allowing those buildings and activities to occur as it makes sense for each area of the community. This type of system lets each different area of a community adjust the standards to its needs and priorities, while retaining some level of clarity and continuity throughout the areas of application. The Sonoma Boulevard process will be utilized to “beta test” Form-Based Coding in Vallejo that might apply to other parts of the city informed by the Citywide Zoning Update process and community input.
Who will decide what happens to the Sonoma Boulevard Corridor?
The Sonoma Boulevard Specific Plan is a community-driven effort that will rely on community input in order to be effective. Central to the public process will be two Design Charrettes. These important public sessions will last 4 days each, one from June 24-27 and one from July 22-25. Ideas will be tested and discussed for community direction at each charrette through a series of presentations, workshops and meetings, eliciting comment and feedback. The 5-member Specific Plan Working Group, an ad hoc committee of the General Plan Working Group (a 15-member citizen’s advisory group appointed by the City Council and City Commissions), will oversee the process and review the work of the consultant team. You can participate throughout this process by attending any of the Specific Plan Working Group’s meetings or by contacting either the Working Group members or Planning staff with your input or questions. You can contact Working Group members by contacting Mark Hoffheimer, Senior Planner and Project Manager of the Sonoma Boulevard Specific Plan, at Mark.Hoffheimer@cityofvallejo.net or 707-645-2610. The Specific Plan Working Group Members are Marian Swanson, Jim Scoggin, Pearl Jones Tranter, Candace Holmes, and Sarah Nichols.
After the community and the SPWG have had the opportunity to review the draft Specific Plan, it will go to the City Council for adoption.
How will the Specific Plan be prepared?
The Specific Plan will be prepared by Opticos Design Inc. and its team of sub-consultants to deliver the vision, programs and standards as directed by the community and the Specific Plan Working Group, and ultimately the City Council. The work will follow a schedule that features the two design charrettes this summer and six Specific Plan Working Group meetings. The Public Draft Specific Plan is expected to be ready for community review and comment in late 2015.
How can the community be kept informed and participate in the process?
The Specific Plan Working Group meetings are open to the public and are scheduled for April 17, May 14, June 27 (at the design charrette), July 25 (at the design charrette), November 2014, and December 2015. In addition, the Design Charrettes are open to the public and are scheduled for June 24-27 and July 22-25. At any time, you can communicate with Specific Plan Working Group members, via Mark Hoffheimer in the Planning Division, and the City Council to communicate your ideas, questions, or concerns. You can contact Mark Hoffheimer, Senior Planner and Project Manager for the Sonoma Boulevard Specific Plan, at email@example.com or 707-645-2610.
The Sonoma Boulevard Specific Plan is part of a series of planning initiatives, collectively called Propel Vallejo, now underway in the City. Regularly updated, information about the Specific Plan project, progress, and meetings may be found at here.